Am Good as Common: Thomas E. Seerley's Journey to the Montana Goldfields in 1864

Seerley journal front cover

This page serves as a directory for a series of pages dealing with the journal written by Thomas E. Seerley during his journey to the Montana goldfields in 1864.  The Seerley journal is valuable as a source of historical information about travel on the Overland Trail and especially the Bridger Trail.  It is also important as a personal and biographical document. 

The two pages listed below concentrate solely on the text of the journal itself.  The first page provides a scan of the entire journal, with a literal transcription.  The second page provides a transcription edited slightly for greater readability.  The handwriting in the journal is quite clear.  Most readers will be able to read the scanned version without much difficulty.  However, the transcriptions can help readers over rough spots.

Scanned Version of the Journal with Full Transcription.  This page offers an enlarged, scanned image of each page of the journal as well as a line-by-line transcription of all decipherable information on each page.  Each page is linked to the corresponding entry in the edited transcription noted below.

Edited transcription of the Journal.  This slightly edited transcription of the journal relies heavily on the literal transcription noted above.  This edited transcription has been moved into a day-by-day paragraph format from the literal line-by-line format noted above in order to make the journal easier to read.  Each daily entry in this edited transcription is linked to the corresponding full page scan and transcription noted above.

This page provides provenance and describes the journal itself.  It also offers speculation on why Thomas Seerley kept a journal during his journey to the West.

Provenance, Physical Description, and Intent of the Journal.  This page tells how the journal came into the possession of the Rod Library of the University of Northern Iowa.  The page also offers a physical description of the journal, a broad outline of its contents, and a consideration of Thomas Seerley's intent in writing it.


This page provides biographical information about Thomas Seerley and his wife, Louisa Ann Smith Seerley.

Biographical Sketches of Thomas E. Seerley and his wife, Louisa Ann Smith Seerley, by their son, Homer H. Seerley.  Homer Horatio Seerley was the eldest son of Thomas and Louisa Seerley.  He served from 1886 through 1928 as the second chief executive officer of what is now the University of Northern Iowa.  This page also offers obituaries of Thomas and Louisa Seerley provided by Stan Culley, their great-great-grandson.


The page noted below offers commentaries and notes on the journal.  These brief essays do not presume to rise to the level of a scholarly exploration of the emigrant experience on either the Overland Trail or the Bridger Trail.  Many scholars have already written extensively about the Overland Trail experience.  In addition, the Bridger Trail has been covered exhaustively by James A. Lowe in his The Bridger Trail a viable alternative route to the gold fields of Montana Territory in 1864 (Arthur H. Clark Company, Spokane, 1999). 

The commentaries noted below concentrate closely on Thomas Seerley and his journal.  They attempt to draw together threads and trends that run through the journal.  They also offer speculation on Seerley's personality, actions, beliefs, and achievements.  Readers who wish to get an overview of the entire journal, or who wish to understand more about its author, might want to look at some of the commentary pages.

Commentaries on the Journal.  This is a series of essays based on the contents of the Seerley journal.  These essays rely heavily on entries in the journal itself.  However, the essays also make some limited attempt to put Thomas Seerley, his journal, and his journey into a broader historical context.


Historical Background

Route of Travel

Dangers of the Trip

A Typical Day on the Road

Thomas Seerley's Health and State of Mind

Organization and Business of the Wagon Train

Communication and Social Relationships Along the Trail

Thomas Seerley's Beliefs, Character, and Personality

Thomas Seerley's Observations

Montana and Afterward

Summary and Conclusion

Page created by University Archivist Gerald L. Peterson, November 7, 2011; last updated February 23, 2012 (GP).

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