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.
Oregon Trail Route
Thousands of pioneers traveled thousands of miles along the Oregon Trail, crossing the Great Plains, following the Platte River, and ascending the Rocky Mountains. Summer thunderstorms made travel slow and dangerous, so leaving in April or May was critical for the best chance of survival.
The “Great Register of the Desert” was named after the rock. Settlers climbed the Rocky Mountains to the South Pass, then navigated the Snake River Canyon and the Blue Mountains, with some continuing south into California.
Dangers on the Oregon Trail
The Oregon Trail became a well-worn path and an abandoned junkyard of surrendered belongings, as well as a graveyard for tens of thousands of pioneer men, women, and children who died of diseases like dysentery, cholera, smallpox, and flu.
How did the pioneers suffer on their journey?
Many pioneers faced real dangers such as disease, drowning, runaway covered wagons on steep hillsides, accidental weapon discharge, and hostile encounters.
What was the hardest part of your Oregon Trail journey?
Accidents, exhaustion, and disease were all major threats to pioneer life and limb. Crossing rivers was probably the most dangerous thing they did because swollen rivers could tip over and drown both people and oxen, resulting in the loss of life and most or all of their valuable supplies.
What was so special about the Oregon Trail?
From the early 1840s to the 1860s, the Oregon Trail, which spanned about 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers), served as the primary route for hundreds of thousands of emigrants seeking to reach the Northwest. It traversed varied and often difficult terrain, including large Native American lands.
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.
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 causes the most deaths on the Oregon Trail?
Shootings, drownings, wagon mishaps, and injuries from cattle handling were the most common causes of death on the trail. Every death suffered along the trail was a heartbreak, but the deaths of mothers in childbirth and young children took the most emotional toll.
How many 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.
Why is the Oregon Trail so important?
Between 1840 and 1860, between 300,000 and 400,000 people used the 2,000-mile overland route to reach destinations in the Willamette Valley, Puget Sound, Utah, and California.
Why didn’t most pioneers ride in their wagons?
The wagons were pulled along the dusty trail by teams of oxen or mules. People didn’t ride in the wagons very often because they didn’t want to wear out their animals; instead, they walked alongside them, becoming just as dusty as the animals.
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 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.
How did they treat cholera on the Oregon Trail?
Painkillers like camphor, the oil of the Asian camphor tree, and laudanum, a bitter-tasting, addictive tincture made from opium, were used to treat the sick, but victims often died in a matter of hoursu2014 healthy in the morning and dead by noon.
What diseases did the people get on the Oregon Trail?
Among the diseases mentioned in diaries and journals were dysentery, smallpox, measles, mumps, and influenza, but cholera, mountain fever, and scurvy were probably the most deadly.