The Oregon Trail was a 2,000-mile route that ran from Independence, Missouri, to Oregon City, Oregon, and was used by hundreds of thousands of American pioneers to emigrate west in the 1800s. It was difficult to navigate and snaked through present-day Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon.
Missionaries Blaze the Oregon Trail
Missionaries were among the first to cross the Oregon Trail, with Nathan Wyeth leading the first missionary group west in 1834, where they established an outpost in what is now Idaho.
Marcus Whitman, a missionary, set out on horseback in 1835 to prove that the westward trail to Oregon could be traversed safely and further than ever before. His party made it to the Green River Rendezvous, then faced a grueling journey across the Rockies with the help of Hudson Bay Company trappers.
Great Emigration of 1843
The Great Emigration of 1843, which began on May 22 and lasted five months, was one of the most significant events in American history, as it effectively opened the floodgates of pioneer migration along the Oregon Trail. The group consisted of 120 wagons, about 1,000 people, and thousands of livestock.
The incident sparked a seven-year conflict between indigenous peoples and the federal government of the United States.
Life on the Oregon Trail
Emigrants had to sell their homes, businesses, and any belongings they couldn’t take with them, as well as hundreds of pounds of supplies such as flour, sugar, bacon, coffee, salt, rifles, and ammunition, in wagons that were typically six feet wide and twelve feet long.
How long was the average trip on the Oregon Trail?
This epic westward journey, which took as long as four and a half months and averaged three miles per hour, should be a storyteller’s dream, but David Dary, author of numerous books on the American West, delivers a dry, reportorial history.
How far did the Oregon Trail start and end?
From about 1843 to the 1870s, the Oregon Trail, which began in Missouri and ran for 2,000 miles before ending in Oregon City, was the most popular way to get to Oregon Country.
How many days would it take to travel the Oregon Trail?
In 1869, the first transcontinental railroad was completed, making east-west travel faster, safer, and generally cheaper (the journey took seven days and cost as little as $65, or $1,264 in 2020).
How many Americans died on the Oregon Trail?
At least 20,000 people died along the Oregon Trail due to accidents, drowning at dangerous river crossings, and other illnesses; most trailside graves are unknown because burials were quick and the wagon trains moved on.
Can you still hike the Oregon Trail?
Pioneers heading west from Missouri used the 2,000-mile Oregon Trail to find fertile lands; today, travelers can follow the trail along Route 66 or Routes 2 and 30.
What was the greatest cause of death on the Oregon Trail?
Accidental deaths on the trail included falling off or under wagons, being crushed by wagon wheels, and injuries from handling domestic animals. Wagon accidents were the most common, with both children and adults falling off or under wagons and being crushed under the wheels.
Who found the Oregon Trail?
The first white man to use the Oregon Trail was Robert Stuart of the Astorians (a group of fur traders who established Fort Astoria on the Columbia River in western Oregon). Stuart’s 2,000-mile journey from Fort Astoria to St. Joseph was the first of its kind.
Why did Pioneers go to Oregon?
Economic problems infuriated farmers and businessmen, and free land in Oregon and the prospect of finding gold in California enticed them westward. The majority of the pioneer families followed the Oregon-California Trail or the Mormon Trail.
What did pioneers sleep on?
Despite the romantic depictions of the covered wagon in movies and on television, it would not have been very comfortable to travel in or sleep in the wagon. Some pioneers did camp on the groundu2014either in the open or sheltered under the wagonu2014but many used canvas tents.
How much did it cost to join a wagon train?
The overland journey from Independence, Missouri, to Oregon or California took six months and cost up to $1,000 for a family of four, including the cost of a wagon, which was around $100.
How many miles a day on the Oregon Trail?
These vehicles typically had a four-foot-wide, ten-foot-long wooden bed that could creak its way toward Oregon Country at a rate of 15 to 20 miles per day when pulled by teams of oxen or mules.
What bad things happened on the Oregon Trail?
Death of relatives due to accidents, indian attacks, supply shortages, weather, drowning, disease, terrain, and even medicine were some of the hardships of the journey. A challenge faced by most travelers was to keep their money usage consistent along the Oregon Trail.
What was the most common problem on the Oregon Trail?
Numerous accidents were caused by negligence, exhaustion, guns, and animals throughout the trail’s existence; wagon accidents were the most common, with both children and adults falling off or under wagons and being crushed under the wheels.
How did the people survive on the Oregon Trail?
Conditions along the Oregon Trail improved over time, with the construction of bridges and ferries to make water crossings safer, as well as settlements and additional supply posts along the way to give weary travelers a place to rest and regroup.