There was a small town in Oregon named Zena. It's barely there now, among the hills outside of Salem, but you can find it if you know what you're looking for. It's a good thing we visited the spot when my grandmother was still alive because it's the kind of thing that can get lost through the years. My great-great-great Grandmother Arvazena came across the Oregon Trail as a young mother, herding her 2-yr. old daughter, little Belle, along the way. She also gave birth to her second child on the trip. She was only 18. She wrote about her account many years later. Lucky for us, we have a recorded glimpse into her journey. She and her husband, Daniel Jackson Cooper settled in the Willamette Valley where the little town of Zena was named after her, and her sister Melzena. On a lovely spring day, Mom and I got in the car for a road trip to Zena.
We were rewarded with a fine day in rural Oregon and enjoyed walking in Arvazena's footsteps, roaming the grounds of the little white church where her husband pastored, touching the gravestones of our ancestors, and imagining their joy at reaching such a beautiful spot after an arduous trip.
Her story has always been an inspiration for us, and my mother and I decided to write a children's book of her story, using clothespin dioramas to illustrate of course. It has been a fun journey for us as well! Taking direct quotes from Arvazena's account, we have brought the story to life with our clothespin dolls. Little Belle Crosses the Oregon Trail makes a perfect gift for any child studying Westward Migration and pairs nicely with the Pioneer Dolly Kit.
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