The Oregon Trail An Epic Migration
SUPPLIESThus equipped for adventure, anticipating a new home on the far frontier, the emigrants were ready for days, weeks and months on the trail. LUXURIES: Canned foods Dolls Silverware Musical instruments China Furniture Plant cuttings Family albums Fine linens Schoolbooks Jewelry Iron stoves FOOD: Flour, Rice, Hardtack Bacon, Dried beef Coffee, Tea Baking Soda Molasses Dried beans, Dried fruit Salt, Pepper Vinegar Eggs, Sugar Corn Meal HANDY ITEMS: Liniments Chamber pot Tallow Bandages Washbowl Spyglasses Campstool Lantern Scissors, Surgical instruments Candle molds Needles, pins, thread TOOLS AND MISCELLANEOUS: Set of augers Ax, Hoe, Shovel Whetstone Oxbows Kingbolts Ox shoes Wagon tongue Chains, Heavy ropes Gimlet, Hammer Plow Spade Axles Linchpins Spikes
SUPPLIES CONTINUED WEAPONRY: Rifle, Gunpowder Bullet pouch Pistol Lead Holster Knife Bullet mold Hatchet Powder horn COOKING UTENSILS: Dutch oven Skillet Coffee pot Ladle Butcher knife Reflector oven Water kettle Tin tableware Kettle Coffee Grinder Teapot Matches CLOTHING: Wool sack coats Cotton shirts Palm-leaf sun hat Buckskin pants Felt hat Wool pantaloons Brogans Boots Cotton dresses Cotton socks Sunbonnet, Rubber coats Flannel shirts Green goggles BEDDING AND TENT SUPPLIES: Feather beds Pillows Tent Stakes Poles Ropes Blankets Ground cloths
The Covered Wagon • Provided the necessities of life & a degree of shelter • Strong enough to carry up to2,500 lbs, yet light enough not to strain the draft animals • To reduce strain on the oxen or mules, most emigrants walked alongside • the added weight of even one passenger was often too much for the weary oxen • bone-jarring jolts of the rutted road meant that travelers preferred the day’s distance on foot to the experience in the wagon box • As oxen tired, the load would have to be lightened even more • Countless pieces of unnecessary furniture, many ofthem family heirlooms, were discarded along the trail
The Many Trails West There's the Lewis and Clark Trail, the Oregon Trail, the California Trail, the Mormon Trail, the Santa Fe Trail, the Bozeman Trail, the Southern Route, the Free Emigrant Road, the Cherokee Trail, the Pony Express Trails, the Nez Perce Trail, and too many shortcuts & military roads to even try to list TheCALIFORNIA TRAIL • it followed the Oregon Trail across the Great Plains and over the Continental Divide, and then cut off from the Oregon Trail near Fort Hall to follow two or three major routes to the gold fields. • Tens of thousands of prospectors, miners, and carpetbaggers followed the California Trail west after gold was found at Sutter's Mill in 1848. However, this Web site belongs to the Oregon Trail Foundation...
The Many Trails West THESANTA FE TRAIL • led 780 miles west from Independence, MO to Santa Fe, NM • Every spring covered wagons full of trading goods set off for Santa Fe for trading • On the journey, traders banded together in groups of up to 100 wagons, fearing attack by native tribes • Once arrived in Santa Fe, traders split off to trade goods for silver, gold, and furs THEOREGON TRAIL • 1836, two Methodist Missionaries proved that wagons could travel on the • Marcus and Narcissa Whitman set up mission schools • They reported fertile soil and abundant rainfall through letters east • Oregon Trail started in Independence, MO, and ended in Portland, OR • Following the Whitmans’ lead, many more headed for Oregon • By 1844, approximately 5000 American settlers had arrived and were farming the fertile Willamet Valley in Oregon
What was the trip like? Exhausting because most emigrants had to walk almost the entire way. Even without the extra weight of people in the wagons, the trip was so long that even the sturdiest ox could die from exhaustion or go mad from thirst. Boredom came from the daily routine of breaking camp, walking, making camp again in the evening, and eating the same thing day after day, all in the midst of a cloud of dust and grit thrown up by the wagons and animals. Dangerousbecause every once in a while, the boredom was broken up by treacherous river crossings or steep ravines and mountainsides. Historians estimate that one in every ten people on the Oregon Trail died on the way to Oregon. Disease was the single biggest killer on the Trail, especially during a cholera epidemic around 1850. Frighteningbecause most anticipated attacks by Indians, even though in reality this was usually the last thing they had to worry about. Excitingbecause of the dreams that lay ahead on the trail. -- probably in that order. Still, it wasn't all bad: there were marriages, births, and holidays (especially the Fourth of July) to celebrate along the way, and it was always a big day when a major landmark like Chimney Rock came into view for the first time.
Buried Alive!? At least some of the emigrants who died en route to Oregon were probably buried alive. Why? The survivors were in a hurry. For many years, cholera ravaged emigrants along the Oregon Trail. Whoever caught it was dead (usually within 24 hours)--no cure existed. If an entire wagon train stopped for an elaborate funeral, it would slow their progress. The Donner Party tragedy emphasized the urgency of traveling quickly. Too many delays meant the pioneers might not get to Oregon before winter--and then everyone might perish. So on most wagon trains, the burials got shorter and shorter as more people died. Some even abandoned the terminally sick by the side of the Trail, where they would eventually die alone. The more humane wagon companies elected a "watcher" to wait with the dying person while the wagons forged ahead. It wouldn't take long for the watcher to catch up; a quick death, after all, was imminent. Many watchers were in such a hurry that they started digging the grave long before their infected companion was dead. Needless to say, watching your own grave being dug was probably quite disturbing. And if you lingered too long? No one is sure, but evidence strongly suggests that some were accidentally buried before they took their final breath.
START: Independence, MO • Founded in 1827, a rapidly growing trading post • Located near where the Missouri River meets the Mississippi • Became the most popular "jumping off" point for pioneers to stock their wagons with supplies for the journey westward, to Oregon or California.
Chimney Rock Chimney Rock was one of the most picturesque landmarks along the Oregon Trail. It signaled the end of the prairies as the trail became more steep and rugged heading west towards the Rocky Mountains. Many drawings of it were made by surveyors and artists, and most pioneers mentioned it in their diaries. Travelers reported that it was visible forty miles away. General Joel Palmer, leading a surveying party in 1845, said it had the "appearance of a haystack with a pole running far above its top."
Fort Laramie The fort was begun by fur traders as Fort William in 1834 where the North Platte and Laramie rivers meet. In 1849, the U.S. Military purchased the fort and named it in honor of Jacques La Ramie, a local French fur trapper. One of the most important forts in the settlement of the American West, it served many functions. • It protected and supplied emigrant wagon trains. • It later became a major link in the Pony Express, Overland Stage and transcontinental telegraph systems. • It also served as a base of operations for the High Plains Indian Wars.
Independence Rock Named for a fur trader's Fourth of July celebration in 1830, this huge rock became one of the most famous of all Oregon Trail landmarks. The giant piece of granite is 1,900 feet long, 700 feet wide, and 128 feet high. The landmark was a favorite resting place for travelers along the trail. Called the "Great Register of the Desert", more than 5,000 names of early emigrant were carved on this boulder. Starting the trail in the early spring, emigrants along the Oregon Trail hoped to reach Independence Rock by July 4, Independence Day. If they had not arrived by then, they knew they were behind schedule.
Devil’s Gate In a geological oddity, the Sweetwater River has carved a narrow gorge through the rock of the Granite Mountains when an almost level route around the mountain is just a short distance south. The trail took the easy way, but some travelers would wade the river through Devil's Gate for amusement, meeting their wagons on the other side.
Martin’s Cove In early November 1856 the struggling Martin handcart company, with assistance from the rescue party from Salt Lake City, passed Devil's Gate and sought shelter at a small stockade. It was inadequate for the large group, and with snow over a foot deep, temperatures below zero, and a strong wind they were assisted over the freezing river and a few miles north into a sheltered cove. Here, a large sand dune blocking the cove entrance provided shelter from the winds and there was firewood available. The company spent five days here waiting for the weather to break and more help to arrive. They would eventually reach Salt Lake City on November 30, having lost between 150 and 167 members, about one-fourth of the company.
South Pass An area known as the Crows Nest affords one more look over the upper reaches of the Sweetwater drainage towards the Continental Divide.
Soda Springs Natural bubbling pools of carbonated water, caused by ancient volcanic activity, have long made Soda Springs an attraction. Local Indians, fur traders and trappers visited the springs prior to the days of the Oregon Trail emigrations. Soda Springs was located along a shortcut in the trail off of the main route to Fort Hall.
Fort Hall The British flag flew over Fort Hall briefly when it was purchased by an English company, until a treaty placed it and the rest of the Oregon Country in United States territory. Early emigrants on the Oregon Trail usually abandoned their wagons at the fort and continued on foot with their animals. But in 1843, Dr. Marcus Whitman, who had established a mission near Walla Walla, Washington, led a wagon train westward from the fort. From then on, migrations along the trail increased as the pioneers could now travel all the way to Oregon with their wagons and possessions.
Fort Boise The fort served as a supply point along the Oregon Trail until 1854, when it was abandoned due to flooding and Indian attacks. In 1863, the military constructed a new Fort Boise near the present town of Boise, Idaho.
Whitman Mission Founded in 1836 by Dr. Marcus Whitman and his wife, Narcissa, the Whitman Mission was the site of one of the worst tragedies along the Oregon Trail. The Whitmans, Methodist missionaries, offered religious instruction and medical services to the local Cayuse Indians. They also gave care and supplies to wagon parties traveling along the Oregon Trail. Measles epidemic broke out at the mission (Nov. 1847) • many Indians killed while the white newcomers survived • Cayuse suspected that the Whitmans and their foreign religion were the cause of the fatal disease. • Killed the Whitmans and 11 other whites, and the mission was burned down in retaliation.
The Dalles The Dalles, named by fur trappers (French word for gutter). Emigrants floated down the Columbia River in rafts through this stony river gorge. The passage was perilous, with emigrants and their wagons crowded onto a small wooden raft in rough waters. As N.M. Bogart described in 1843, "When trying to pass some of the Cascades their frail craft would get caught in one of the many whirlpools, the water dashing over them, & drenching them through & through." OTHER OPTION: The Barlow Toll Road Opened in 1845, offering emigrants an alternative to the Columbia River route to Oregon City. The wagon ride along the toll road took a long route around Mount Hood, but it was a much safer method than rafting.
THE END: Oregon City Founded 1842, it was the first territorial capital of Oregon. Always a natural place of commerce between Indians and whites, the town also utilized the nearby river as a dependable source of power for mills for its economic development. Due to the great migrations along the trail, Oregon City grew rapidly as an economic center of the territory. Emigrants arrived here at the end of the trail to establish their land claims in the region. Local industries sprung up to resupply emigrants planning to start their farms. Today, the city is a suburb of the much larger city of Portland, Oregon.