Throughout her childhood the one thing Carrie Adell wanted to avoid was becoming a pioneer. The daughter of a surgeon, Carrie lived a comfortable life in Illinois. She received a degree from the University of Michigan and studied abroad.
But Carrie did, in fact, become a pioneer, and she wrote about her adventures in her 1911 book Fifteen Thousand Miles by Stage.
Carrie Adell married Robert Strahorn in 1877. Strahorn was a reporter, hired by the Union Pacific Railroad to write guidebooks for travelers. After their marriage, Strahorn insisted that his wife be allowed to accompany him on his travels. The couple headed west by train, stagecoach and horseback, and as Robert did his work, Carrie recorded her observations as well.
As the Strahorns traveled throughout the West, they encountered every kind of discomfort, mishap and peril — Carrie wrote about it all with humor. The food at some remote stations was inedible, so they carried raisins. They slept under leaky roofs, 14 to a room, maybe sharing the ground with rattlesnakes. Fellow travelers included children with whooping cough, singers of bawdy songs, complainers and snorers. In some remote places, Carrie was treated as royalty by men starved for the sight of a woman.
While checking out scenery in Colorado for a guidebook, the Strahorns lost their horses in the wilderness! Another trek on foot and on horseback to climb Grays Peak took them many hours. But the grandeur of the view inspired Carrie to write — but just then an electrical storm hit, and they barely made it out alive!
After that 14,341-foot climb, they descended another 155 feet into a Utah mine. If that wasn’t enough, Carrie had to ride on the cowcatcher on the front end of a Union Pacific engine, to get through tunnels and cross bridges between Cheyenne, Wyoming and Ogden, Utah!
Sometimes as many as seventeen people crowded into and on top of Concord stagecoaches. Bodies swayed to and fro, and elbows jabbed as the stagecoaches bounced along corduroy roads, leaned over mountain ledges and cliffs, and occasionally took a spill. But it was a reasonable price to pay to get from place to place. For people waiting for news, visitors and the delivery of the mail, the arrival of the stagecoach was a big event.
Many times, she had to assert herself. In the fall of 1880, the Superintendent of Yellowstone National Park would not allow her to accompany the men into the park, due to early snowstorms. Carrie was persistent, and he relented. She joined the men and became the first woman to tour the park.
Through all the difficulties, she wrote of the magnificence and beauty of the West, and her wonderful descriptions helped pave the way for new communities. For someone with no interest in becoming a pioneer, Carrie Adell Strahorn was one of the finest.