Oregon Country: The Story of the 1843 Oregon Trail Migration


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Fort Victoria was erected in and became the headquarters of operations in British Columbia, eventually growing into modern-day Victoria , the capital city of British Columbia. By the Hudson's Bay Company had three forts: With minor exceptions they all gave substantial and often desperately needed aid to the early Oregon Trail pioneers. When the fur trade slowed in because of fashion changes in men's hats, the value of the Pacific Northwest to the British was seriously diminished. Canada had very few potential settlers who were willing to move over 2, miles to the Pacific Northwest, although several hundred ex-trappers, British and American, and their families did start settling in Oregon, Washington and California.

They used most of the York Express route through northern Canada. In the Oregon Treaty ending the Oregon boundary dispute was signed with Britain. The British lost the land north of the Columbia River they had so long controlled. The new Canada—United States border was established much further north at the 49th parallel. The treaty granted the Hudson's Bay Company navigation rights on the Columbia River for supplying their fur posts, clear titles to their trading post properties allowing them to be sold later if they wanted, and left the British with good anchorages at Vancouver and Victoria , British Columbia.

It gave the United States what it mostly wanted, a 'reasonable' boundary and a good anchorage on the West Coast in Puget Sound. While there were almost no United States settlers in the future state of Washington in , the United States had already demonstrated it could induce thousands of settlers to go to the Oregon Territory, and it would be only a short time before they would vastly outnumber the few hundred Hudson's Bay Company employees and retirees living in Washington. By overland travel, American missionaries and early settlers initially mostly ex-trappers started showing up in Oregon around Although officially the Hudson's Bay Company discouraged settlement because it interfered with their lucrative fur trade, their Chief Factor at Fort Vancouver, Dr.

John McLoughlin , gave substantial help including employment until they could get established. By , when —1, settlers arrived, the American settlers greatly outnumbered the nominally British settlers in Oregon. McLoughlin, despite working for the British-based Hudson's Bay Company, gave help in the form of loans, medical care, shelter, clothing, food, supplies and seed to United States emigrants. These new emigrants often arrived in Oregon tired, worn out, nearly penniless, with insufficient food or supplies just as winter was coming on. McLoughlin would later be hailed as the Father of Oregon.

These descriptions were mainly based on the relative lack of timber and surface water. The images of sandy wastelands conjured up by terms like "desert" were tempered by the many reports of vast herds of millions of Plains Bison that somehow managed to live in this "desert". The next available land for general settlement, Oregon, appeared to be free for the taking and had fertile lands, disease free climate yellow fever and malaria were prevalent in much of the Missouri and Mississippi River drainage then , extensive uncut, unclaimed forests, big rivers, potential seaports, and only a few nominally British settlers.

Fur trappers, often working for fur traders, followed nearly all possible streams looking for beaver in the years — the fur trade was active. Besides discovering and naming many of the rivers and mountains in the Intermountain West and Pacific Northwest they often kept diaries of their travels and were available as guides and consultants when the trail started to become open for general travel. The fur trade business wound down to a very low level just as the Oregon trail traffic seriously began around They were looking for a safe location to spend the winter.

Smith reasoned since the Sweetwater flowed east it must eventually run into the Missouri River. Trying to transport their extensive fur collection down the Sweetwater and North Platte River, they found after a near disastrous canoe crash that the rivers were too swift and rough for water passage. On July 4, , they cached their furs under a dome of rock they named Independence Rock and started their long trek on foot to the Missouri River. Upon arriving back in a settled area they bought pack horses on credit and retrieved their furs. They had re-discovered the route that Robert Stuart had taken in —eleven years before.


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Thomas Fitzpatrick was often hired as a guide when the fur trade dwindled in Jedediah Smith was killed by Indians about Up to 3, Mountain men were trappers and explorers , employed by various British and United States fur companies or working as free trappers, who roamed the North American Rocky Mountains from about to the early s. They usually traveled in small groups for mutual support and protection. Mountain men primarily trapped beaver and sold the skins.

Some were more interested in exploring the West. The trading supplies were brought in by a large party using pack trains originating on the Missouri River. These pack trains were then used to haul out the fur bales. They normally used the north side of the Platte River—the same route used 20 years later by the Mormon Trail.

For the next 15 years the American rendezvous was an annual event moving to different locations, usually somewhere on the Green River in the future state of Wyoming.

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A thousand pioneers head West on the Oregon Trail

Each rendezvous, occurring during the slack summer period, allowed the fur traders to trade for and collect the furs from the trappers and their Indian allies without having the expense of building or maintaining a fort or wintering over in the cold Rockies. In only a few weeks at a rendezvous a year's worth of trading and celebrating would take place as the traders took their furs and remaining supplies back east for the winter and the trappers faced another fall and winter with new supplies. He had a crew that dug out the gullies and river crossings and cleared the brush where needed.

This established that the eastern part of most of the Oregon Trail was passable by wagons. In the late s the Hudson's Bay Company instituted a policy intended to destroy or weaken the American fur trade companies. The Hudson's Bay Company's annual collection and re-supply Snake River Expedition was transformed to a trading enterprise. Beginning in , it visited the American Rendezvous to undersell the American traders—losing money but undercutting the American fur traders. By the fashion in Europe and Britain shifted away from the formerly very popular beaver felt hats and prices for furs rapidly declined and the trapping almost ceased.

Fur traders tried to use the Platte River, the main route of the eastern Oregon Trail, for transport but soon gave up in frustration as its many channels and islands combined with its muddy waters were too shallow, crooked and unpredictable to use for water transport. The Platte proved to be unnavigable.

The Platte River and North Platte River Valley, however, became an easy roadway for wagons, with its nearly flat plain sloping easily up and heading almost due west. There were several U. He explored most of Idaho and the Oregon Trail to the Columbia. The account of his explorations in the west was published by Washington Irving in Army's Corps of Topographical Engineers and his guide Kit Carson led three expeditions from to over parts of California and Oregon.

In , Henry H. The group was the first to travel in wagons all the way to Fort Hall, Idaho , where the wagons were abandoned at the urging of their guides. They used pack animals for the rest of the trip to Fort Walla Walla and then floated by boat to Fort Vancouver to get supplies before returning to start their missions. Other missionaries, mostly husband and wife teams using wagon and pack trains, established missions in the Willamette Valley , as well as various locations in the future states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

Married couples were granted at no cost except for the requirement to work and improve the land up to acres 2.

Oregon Trail

As the group was a provisional government with no authority, these claims were not valid under United States or British law, but they were eventually honored by the United States in the Donation Land Act of The Donation Land Act provided for married settlers to be granted acres 1. On May 1, , a group of eighteen men from Peoria , Illinois, set out with the intention of colonizing the Oregon country on behalf of the United States of America and drive out the Hudson's Bay Company operating there. Paddle wheel steamships and sailing ships, often heavily subsidized to carry the mail, provided rapid transport to and from the east coast and New Orleans , Louisiana, to and from Panama to ports in California and Oregon.

Over the years many ferries were established to help get across the many rivers on the path of the Oregon Trail. During peak immigration periods several ferries on any given river often competed for pioneer dollars. These ferries significantly increased speed and safety for Oregon Trail travelers.

Ferries also helped prevent death by drowning at river crossings. In April , an expedition of U. Simpson left Camp Floyd, Utah , to establish an army supply route across the Great Basin to the eastern slope of the Sierras. This route went through central Nevada roughly where U. The Army improved the trail for use by wagons and stagecoaches in and Joseph, Missouri , to Sacramento, California. In , John Butterfield , who since had been using the Butterfield Overland Mail, also switched to the Central Route to avoid traveling through hostile territories during the American Civil War.

George Chorpenning immediately realized the value of this more direct route, and shifted his existing mail and passenger line along with their stations from the "Northern Route" California Trail along the Humboldt River. Several stage lines were set up carrying mail and passengers that traversed much of the route of the original Oregon Trail to Fort Bridger and from there over the Central Overland Route to California.

By traveling day and night with many stations and changes of teams and extensive mail subsidies , these stages could get passengers and mail from the midwest to California in about 25 to 28 days. The Pony Express folded in as they failed to receive an expected mail contract from the U. After the First Transcontinental Railroad was completed in , telegraph lines usually followed the railroad tracks as the required relay stations and telegraph lines were much easier to maintain alongside the tracks.

Telegraph lines to unpopulated areas were largely abandoned. Offshoots of the trail continued to grow as gold and silver discoveries, farming, lumbering, ranching, and business opportunities resulted in much more traffic to many areas. Traffic became two-directional as towns were established along the trail. By the population in the states served by the Oregon Trail and its offshoots increased by about , over their census levels.

With the exception of most of the , population increase in California, most of these people living away from the coast traveled over parts of the Oregon Trail and its many extensions and cutoffs to get to their new residences. Even before the famous Texas cattle drives after the Civil War, the trail was being used to drive herds of thousands of cattle, horses, sheep, and goats from the midwest to various towns and cities along the trails. According to studies by trail historian John Unruh the livestock may have been as plentiful or more plentiful than the immigrants in many years.

Large losses could occur and the drovers would still make significant profit. As the emigrant travel on the trail declined in later years and after livestock ranches were established at many places along the trail large herds of animals often were driven along part of the trail to get to and from markets. Contemporary interest in the overland trek has prompted the states and federal government to preserve landmarks on the trail including wagon ruts, buildings, and "registers" where emigrants carved their names. Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries there have been a number of re-enactments of the trek with participants wearing period garments and traveling by wagon.

As the trail developed it became marked by many cutoffs and shortcuts from Missouri to Oregon. The basic route follows river valleys as grass and water were absolutely necessary.

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While the first few parties organized and departed from Elm Grove, the Oregon Trail's primary starting point was Independence, Missouri , or Westport , which was annexed into modern day Kansas City , on the Missouri River. Later, several feeder trails led across Kansas, and some towns became starting points, including Weston , Fort Leavenworth , Atchison , St.

The Oregon Trail's nominal termination point was Oregon City , at the time the proposed capital of the Oregon Territory. However, many settlers branched off or stopped short of this goal and settled at convenient or promising locations along the trail. Commerce with pioneers going further west helped establish these early settlements and launched local economies critical to their prosperity. At dangerous or difficult river crossings, ferries or toll bridges were set up and bad places on the trail were either repaired or bypassed.

Several toll roads were constructed. Gradually the trail became easier with the average trip as recorded in numerous diaries dropping from about days in to days 10 years later. Because it was more a network of trails than a single trail, there were numerous variations with other trails eventually established on both sides of the Platte, North Platte, Snake, and Columbia rivers. With literally thousands of people and thousands of livestock traveling in a fairly small time slot the travelers had to spread out to find clean water, wood, good campsites, and grass.

The dust kicked up by the many travelers was a constant complaint, and where the terrain would allow it there may have been between 20 and 50 wagons traveling abreast. Travelers starting in Independence had to ferry across the Missouri River. After following the Santa Fe trail to near present-day Topeka , they ferried across the Kansas River to start the trek across Kansas and points west.

Another busy "jumping off point" was St. Joseph —established in Joseph was a bustling outpost and rough frontier town, serving as one of the last supply points before heading over the Missouri River to the frontier. Joseph had good steamboat connections to St. Louis and other ports on the combined Ohio , Missouri , and Mississippi River systems. During the busy season there were several ferry boats and steamboats available to transport travelers to the Kansas shore where they started their travels westward. Before the Union Pacific Railroad was started in , St.

Joseph was the westernmost point in the United States accessible by rail. The future states of Iowa and Missouri, located west of the Mississippi River and east of Missouri River, were part of this purchase. The Lewis and Clark Expedition stopped several times in the future state of Iowa on their — expedition to the west coast. As punishment for the uprising, and as part of a larger settlement strategy, treaties were subsequently designed to remove all Indians from Iowa Territory. Some settlers started drifting into Iowa in Congress laws establishing the Territory of Iowa. Iowa was located opposite the junction of the Platte and Missouri rivers and was used by some of the fur trapper rendezvous traders as a starting point for their supply expeditions.

In the Mormons , expelled from Nauvoo, Illinois , traversed Iowa on part of the Mormon Trail and settled temporarily in significant numbers on the Missouri River in Iowa and the future state of Nebraska at their Winter Quarters near the future city of Omaha, Nebraska. Missouri River settlements — [45] The Mormons established about 50 temporary towns including the town of Kanesville, Iowa renamed Council Bluffs in on the east bank of the Missouri River opposite the mouth of the Platte River.

For those travelers to Oregon, California, and Utah who were bringing their teams to the Platte River junction Kanesville and other towns became major "jumping off places" and supply points. In the Mormons established three ferries across the Missouri River and others established even more ferries for the spring start on the trail. In the census there were about 8, mostly Mormons tabulated in the large Pottawattamie County, Iowa District The original Pottawattamie County was subsequently made into five counties and parts of several more.

By most of the Mormon towns, farms and villages were largely taken over by non-Mormons as they abandoned them or sold them for not much and continued their migration to Utah. After the towns of Council Bluffs, Iowa, Omaha est. After crossing Mount Oread at Lawrence , the trail crosses the Kansas River by ferry or boats near Topeka and crossed the Wakarusa and Black Vermillion rivers by ferries. Travel by wagon over the gently rolling Kansas countryside was usually unimpeded except where streams had cut steep banks.

There a passage could be made with a lot of shovel work to cut down the banks or the travelers could find an already established crossing. Those emigrants on the eastern side of the Missouri River in Missouri or Iowa used ferries and steamboats fitted out for ferry duty to cross into towns in Nebraska. Several towns in Nebraska were used as jumping off places with Omaha eventually becoming a favorite after about The army maintained fort was the first chance on the trail to buy emergency supplies, do repairs, get medical aid, or mail a letter.


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Those on the north side of the Platte could usually wade the shallow river if they needed to visit the fort. The Platte River and the North Platte River in the future states of Nebraska and Wyoming typically had many channels and islands and were too shallow, crooked, muddy and unpredictable for travel even by canoe.

The Platte as it pursued its braided paths to the Missouri River was "too thin to plow and too thick to drink". While unusable for transportation, the Platte River and North Platte River valleys provided an easily passable wagon corridor going almost due west with access to water, grass, buffalo, and buffalo chips for fuel. There were trails on both sides of the muddy rivers. The Platte was about 1 mile 1. The water was silty and bad tasting but it could be used if no other water was available.

In the spring in Nebraska and Wyoming the travelers often encountered fierce wind, rain and lightning storms. Until about travelers encountered hundreds of thousands of bison migrating through Nebraska on both sides of the Platte River, and most travelers killed several for fresh meat and to build up their supplies of dried jerky for the rest of the journey.


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  8. The prairie grass in many places was several feet high with only the hat of a traveler on horseback showing as they passed through the prairie grass. In many years the Indians fired much of the dry grass on the prairie every fall so the only trees or bushes available for firewood were on islands in the Platte River. Travelers gathered and ignited dried cow dung to cook their meals. These burned fast in a breeze, and it could take two or more bushels of chips to get one meal prepared. Those traveling south of the Platte crossed the South Platte fork at one of about three ferries in dry years it could be forded without a ferry before continuing up the North Platte River Valley into present-day Wyoming heading to Fort Laramie.

    Before those on the north side of the Platte crossed the North Platte to the south side at Fort Laramie. After they used Child's Cutoff to stay on the north side to about the present day town of Casper , Wyoming, where they crossed over to the south side. Highway 30 which follows the Platte River is a better approximate path for those traveling the north side of the Platte. Because of the Platte's brackish water, the preferred camping spots were along one of the many fresh water streams draining into the Platte or the occasional fresh water spring found along the way.

    These preferred camping spots became sources of cholera in the epidemic years — as many thousands of people used the same camping spots with essentially no sewage facilities or adequate sewage treatment. The cause of cholera, ingesting the Vibrio cholerae bacterium from contaminated water, and the best treatment for cholera infections were unknown in this era.

    Thousands of travelers on the combined California, Oregon, and Mormon trails succumbed to cholera between and Most were buried in unmarked graves in Kansas, Nebraska and Wyoming. Although also considered part of the Mormon Trail , the grave of Rebecca Winters is one of the few marked ones left. There are many cases cited involving people who were alive and apparently healthy in the morning and dead by nightfall.

    A branch of the Oregon trail crossed the very northeast corner of Colorado if they followed the South Platte River to one of its last crossings. This branch of the trail passed through present day Julesburg before entering Wyoming. Later settlers followed the Platte and South Platte Rivers into their settlements there much of which became the state of Colorado. Fort Laramie , at the confluence of the Laramie and North Platte rivers, was a major stopping point. Fort Laramie was a former fur trading outpost originally named Fort John that was purchased in by the U.

    Army to protect travelers on the trails. Fort Laramie was the end of most cholera outbreaks which killed thousands along the lower Platte and North Platte from to Spread by cholera bacteria in fecal contaminated water, cholera caused massive diarrhea, leading to dehydration and death. It is believed that the swifter flowing rivers in Wyoming helped prevent the germs from spreading. After crossing the South Platte the trail continues up the North Platte River, crossing many small swift-flowing creeks. As the North Platte veers to the south, the trail crosses the North Platte to the Sweetwater River Valley, which heads almost due west.

    Independence Rock is on the Sweetwater River. The Sweetwater would have to be crossed up to nine times before the trail crosses over the Continental Divide at South Pass, Wyoming. Three to five ferries were in use on the Green during peak travel periods. The deep, wide, swift, and treacherous Green River which eventually empties into the Colorado River, was usually at high water in July and August, and it was a dangerous crossing.

    Over time, two major heavily used cutoffs were established in Wyoming. Ferries here transferred them across the Green River. From there the Sublette-Greenwood Cutoff trail had to cross a mountain range to connect with the main trail near Cokeville in the Bear River Valley. In , 13, [56] of the 19, [57] emigrants traveling to California and Oregon used the Lander Road.

    The traffic in later years is undocumented. It exited the mountains near the present Smith Fork road about 6 miles 9. The road continued almost due north along the present day Wyoming—Idaho western border through Star Valley. In Idaho, it followed the Stump Creek valley northwest until it crossed the Caribou Mountains and proceeded past the south end of Grays Lake. The trail then proceeded almost due west to meet the main trail at Fort Hall; alternatively, a branch trail headed almost due south to meet the main trail near the present town of Soda Springs.

    This cutoff rejoined the Oregon and California Trails near the City of Rocks near the Utah—Idaho border and could be used by both California and Oregon bound travelers. Located about half way on both the California and Oregon trails many thousands of later travelers used Salt Lake City and other Utah cities as an intermediate stop for selling or trading excess goods or tired livestock for fresh livestock, repairs, supplies or fresh vegetables.

    The Mormons looked on these travelers as a welcome bonanza as setting up new communities from scratch required nearly everything the travelers could afford to part with. The overall distance to California or Oregon was very close to the same whether one "detoured" to Salt Lake City or not.

    To raise much needed money and facilitate travel on the Salt Lake Cutoff they set up several ferries across the Weber , Bear, and Malad rivers, which were used mostly by travelers bound for Oregon or California. Big Hill was a detour caused by a then-impassable cut the Bear River made through the mountains and had a tough ascent often requiring doubling up of teams and a very steep and dangerous descent. About 5 miles 8. The springs here were a favorite attraction of the pioneers who marveled at the hot carbonated water and chugging "steamboat" springs.

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    Many stopped and did their laundry in the hot water as there was usually plenty of good grass and fresh water available. Fort Hall was an old fur trading post located on the Snake River. At Fort Hall nearly all travelers were given some aid and supplies if they were available and needed. Mosquitoes were constant pests, and travelers often mention that their animals were covered with blood from the bites.

    At Soda Springs was one branch of Lander Road established and built with government contractors in , which had gone west from near South Pass, over the Salt River Mountains and down Star Valley before turning west near present-day Auburn, Wyoming, and entering Idaho. One branch turned almost 90 degrees and proceeded southwest to Soda Springs. On the main trail about 5 miles 8. Its main advantage was that it helped spread out the traffic during peak periods, making more grass available.

    There were only a few places where the Snake River was not buried deep in a canyon, and few spots where the river slowed down enough to make a crossing possible. Two of these fords were near Fort Hall, where travelers on the Oregon Trail North Side Alternate established about and Goodale's Cutoff established crossed the Snake to travel on the north side.

    Nathaniel Wyeth, the original founder of Fort Hall in , writes in his diary that they found a ford across the Snake River 4 miles 6. Another possible crossing was a few miles upstream of Salmon Falls where some intrepid travelers floated their wagons and swam their stock across to join the north side trail.

    Some lost their wagons and teams over the falls. Goodale's Cutoff , established in on the north side of the Snake River, formed a spur of the Oregon Trail. This cutoff had been used as a pack trail by Indians and fur traders, and emigrant wagons traversed parts of the eastern section as early as It passed near the present-day town of Arco, Idaho , and wound through the northern part of what is now Craters of the Moon National Monument.

    This journey typically took two to three weeks and was noted for its very rough lava terrain and extremely dry climate, which tended to dry the wooden wheels on the wagons, causing the iron rims to fall off the wheels. Loss of wheels caused many wagons to be abandoned along the route. It rejoined the main trail east of Boise. At Salmon Falls there were often a hundred or more Indians fishing who would trade for their salmon, a welcome treat.

    The crossings were doubly treacherous because there were often hidden holes in the river bottom which could overturn the wagon or entangle the team, sometimes with fatal consequences. Before ferries were established there were several drownings here nearly every year. The north side of the Snake had better water and grass than the south. The usually lush Boise River Valley was a welcome relief. This last crossing of the Snake could be done on bull boats while swimming the stock across. Others would chain a large string of wagons and teams together. The theory was that the front teams, usually oxen, would get out of water first and with good footing help pull the whole string of wagons and teams across.

    How well this worked in practice is not stated. Often young Indian boys were hired to drive and ride the stock across the river—they knew how to swim, unlike many pioneers. Starting in about the South Alternate of Oregon Trail also called the Snake River Cutoff was developed as a spur off the main trail.

    It bypassed the Three Island Crossing and continued traveling down the south side of the Snake River. It rejoined the trail near present-day Ontario, Oregon. It hugged the southern edge of the Snake River canyon and was a much rougher trail with poorer water and grass, requiring occasional steep descents and ascents with the animals down into the Snake River canyon to get water. Travellers on this route avoided two dangerous crossings of the Snake River. In , the Central Pacific established Kelton, Utah as a railhead and the terminus of the western mail was moved from Salt Lake City.

    The Kelton Road became important as a communication and transportation road to the Boise Basin. Boise has 21 monuments in the shape of obelisks along its portion of the Oregon Trail. Once across the Snake River ford near Old Fort Boise the weary travelers traveled across what would become the state of Oregon.

    In settlers cut a wagon road over these mountains making them passable for the first time to wagons. At Fort Nez Perce some built rafts or hired boats and started down the Columbia; others continued west in their wagons until they reached The Dalles. After the trail bypassed the closed mission and headed almost due west to present day Pendleton , Oregon, crossing the Umatilla River , John Day River, and Deschutes River before arriving at The Dalles.

    Arriving at the Columbia at The Dalles and stopped by the Cascade Mountains and Mount Hood, some gave up their wagons or disassembled them and put them on boats or rafts for a trip down the Columbia River. Once they transited the Cascade's Columbia River Gorge with its multiple rapids and treacherous winds they would have to make the 1.

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    The pioneer's livestock could be driven around Mount Hood on the narrow, crooked and rough Lolo Pass. Several Oregon Trail branches and route variations led to the Willamette Valley. It was rough and steep with poor grass but still cheaper and safer than floating goods, wagons and family down the dangerous Columbia River.

    The Applegate Trail established , cutting off the California Trail from the Humboldt River in Nevada, crossed part of California before cutting north to the south end of the Willamette Valley. Route 99 and Interstate 5 through Oregon roughly follow the original Applegate Trail. Three types of draft and pack animals were used by Oregon Trail pioneers: By , many emigrants favored oxen—castrated bulls males of the genus Bos cattle , generally over four years old—as the best animal to pull wagons, because they were docile, generally healthy, and able to continue moving in difficult conditions such as mud and snow.

    Moreover, oxen were less expensive to purchase and maintain than horses. Oxen typically traveled at a steady pace up to two miles an hour. One drawback of oxen was the difficulty of shoeing. Oxen hooves are cloven split , and they had to be shod with two curved pieces of metal, one on each side of the hoof. While horses and mules allowed themselves to be shod relatively easily, the process was more difficult with oxen, which would lie down and tuck their feet under themselves.

    Mules were used by some emigrants. Food and water were key concerns for migrants. Wagons typically carried at least one large water keg, [82] [83] and guidebooks available from the s and later gave similar advice to migrants on what food to take. Jefferson, in his Brief Practice Advice guidebook for migrants, recommended that each adult take pounds of flour: Food often took the form of crackers or hardtack ; Southerners sometimes chose cornmeal or pinole rather than wheat flour.

    Marcy , an Army officer who wrote an guide, advised taking less bacon than the earlier guides had recommended. He advised emigrants to drive cattle instead as a source of fresh beef. Canning technology had just begun to be developed, and it gained in popularity through the period of westward expansion. Initially, only upper-class migrants typically used canned goods.

    Canning also added weight to a wagon. Rather than canned vegetables, Marcy suggested that travelers take dried vegetables which had been used in the Crimean War and by the U. Some pioneers took eggs and butter packed in barrels of flour, and some took dairy cows along the trail. At the time, scurvy was well-recognized, but there was a lack of clear understanding of how to prevent the disease. Emigrant families, who were mostly middle-class, prided themselves on preparing a good table.

    Although operating Dutch ovens and kneading dough was difficult on the trail, many baked good bread and even pies. For fuel to heat food, travelers would collect cedar wood , cottonwood , or willow wood, when available, and sometimes dry prairie grass. Tobacco was popular, both for personal use, and for trading with Indians and other pioneers. Each person brought at least two changes of clothes and multiple pairs of boots two to three pairs often wore out on the trip. About 25 pounds of soap was recommended for a party of four, for bathing and washing clothes.

    They followed a route blazed by fur traders, which took them west along the Platte River through the Rocky Mountains via the easy South Pass in Wyoming and then northwest to the Columbia River. In the years to come, pioneers came to call the route the Oregon Trail. In , a slightly larger group of pioneers made the 2,mile journey to Oregon. The next year, however, the number of emigrants skyrocketed to 1, The sudden increase was a product of a severe depression in the Midwest combined with a flood of propaganda from fur traders, missionaries, and government officials extolling the virtues of the land.

    Farmers dissatisfied with their prospects in Ohio , Illinois , Kentucky , and Tennessee , hoped to find better lives in the supposed paradise of Oregon. On this day in , some 1, men, women, and children climbed aboard their wagons and steered their horses west out of the small town of Elm Grove, Missouri.

    The train comprised more than wagons with a herd of 5, oxen and cattle trailing behind. Elijah White, a Presbyterian missionary who had made the trip the year before, served as guide. The first section of the Oregon Trail ran through the relatively flat country of the Great Plains. Obstacles were few, though the river crossings could be dangerous for wagons. The danger of Indian attacks was a small but genuine risk. To be on the safe side, the pioneers drew their wagons into a circle at night to create a makeshift stockade. If they feared Indians might raid their livestock—the Plains tribes valued the horses, though generally ignored the oxen—they would drive the animals into the enclosure.

    Although many neophyte pioneers believed Indians were their greatest threat, they quickly learned that they were more likely to be injured or killed by a host of more mundane causes. Obstacles included accidental discharge of firearms, falling off mules or horses, drowning in river crossings, and disease.

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