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The Oregon Trail and Westward Expansion. Ms. Duncan 1 February 2011. What was the Oregon Trail?. Trail that led from mid-United States into the Oregon territory Left from “jumping-off points” Independence, Missouri = prominent “jumping-off point”

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The oregon trail and westward expansion

The Oregon Trail and Westward Expansion

Ms. Duncan

1 February 2011


What was the oregon trail
What was the Oregon Trail?

  • Trail that led from mid-United States into the Oregon territory

  • Left from “jumping-off points”

  • Independence, Missouri = prominent “jumping-off point”

  • Led from MO, across N Kansas and into Nebraska; from NE to Wyoming; across Rocky Mountains into Idaho; NW into Oregon




Who went on the oregon trail
Who went on the Oregon Trail?

  • First Americans were soldiers in 1832

  • Nathaniel J. Wyeth led first settler party; interested in fishing

  • Wyeth built Fort Hall in 1834

  • Missionaries were prominent in wagon trains (Manifest Destiny)

  • Strong and able-bodied: Emigrants did not ride in the wagons; they walked all 2,000 miles


How long did the journey take
How long did the journey take?

  • The journey took six months across 2,000 miles

  • Started in the Spring in order to arrive in early fall

  • The journey could be delayed due to bad weather conditions; the wagon trains had to maintain a schedule and would only give one day for birthing, sickness, death and fixing broken wagons


What did the trail look like
What did the trail look like?

  • The trail started in the Great Plains

    • Tall prairie grasses; grasses grew as tall as a man

    • Grasses made it difficult for wagons to pass; scouts had a difficult time seeing over the tall grasses; children could be lost if they wandered too far

    • This was for 200 miles


What did the trail look like1
What did the trail look like?

  • Platte River or “Big Muddy”

    • Water very sandy; not the best for drinking, washing

  • Followed for 450 miles into what is now WY


What did the trail look like2
What did the trail look like?

  • Landscape became drier and more open-”a barren trackless waste”

  • Emigrants saw prairie dogs and buffalo herds as far as the eye could see

    • Buffalo were dangerous but useful-provided meat and “buffalo chips” for fires


What did the trail look like3
What did the trail look like?

  • Emigrants begin to see large rock outcroppings

  • Chimney Rock becomes an important landmark along the trail


What did the trail look like4
What did the trail look like?

  • Crossed Rocky Mtns at South Pass in WY

  • Followed the Snake River NW into Idaho

  • River was fast-moving and dangerous; trail was steep and treacherous


What did the trail look like5
What did the trail look like?

  • Crossed the Blue Mtns into NE corner of Oregon

    • Though not as tall as the Rockies or Sierra Nevadas, they were extremely rugged

    • So steep in places the emigrants had to unload their wagons and carry their goods to the top by hand-the oxen could not carry the load

    • The men had to lower the wagons with ropes on the other side


What to take
What to take:

  • Wagons MOST important piece

  • Most wagons were 10 ft. long and 4 ft. wide with canvas around bands for the “cover”

    • Wagons could carry a load of 2500 pounds

    • Emigrants had to carry spare wheels, buckets of axle grease and barrels of tar (to waterproof the wagons)


What to take1
What to take:

  • Most wagons were pulled by oxen, not horses

  • Oxen can pull more weight and are better equipped to pull a wagon over tough terrain

  • Wagon needed 8-10 oxen; whenever possible more were brought to replace those that died on the trip

  • Many also brought horses, cattle, chickens, pigs and dogs for when they arrived in the new territory


What to take2
What to take:

  • They would need at least:

    • 200 pounds of flour

    • 150 pounds of bacon

    • 20 pounds of sugar

    • 10 pounds of salt

    • 10 pounds of coffee


What to take3
What to take:

  • Other items:

    • Seeds and a plow

    • Tools to fell trees

    • Spinning wheels and looms

    • Blankets

    • Shoes

    • Lanterns

    • Needles and thread

    • Mirrors

    • Matches

    • Writing paper and ink

    • Medicines


What to take4
What to take:

A family of 8 with 2 wagons took for the trip and the new homestead:

  • 1,000 pounds of flour

  • A large box of cornmeal

  • 7 bags of beans

  • Several hundred pounds each of bacon and sugar

  • 1 bag each of dried apples and peaches

  • A keg of honey

  • Clothing, bedding, a tent, cooking utensils, the iron parts of a plow, several types of seeds, spinning wheel and 4 rifles


What to take5
What to take:

  • Many emigrants started the trip with furniture and family heirlooms, but as the trip progressed, many of those were thrown out of the wagons to lighten the load for the oxen

  • The prairie was dotted with old dressers; rocking chairs; trunks of books, dishes and other non-essential household goods


The end
The end:

  • The first trans-continental railroad was completed in 1869; this marked the beginning of the end for wagon trains west

  • By the 1880’s, nearly all Westward Expansion tapered off: the country was settled from “sea to shining sea”


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