The Oregon Trail. The Oregon Trail was the only practical route to the western United States between 1843 and the early 1870’s. Why did people want to go west?.
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The Oregon Trail was the only practical route to the western United States between 1843 and the early 1870’s.
There were many reasons that people wanted to go west. Life was hard in the east, but in the 1840’s married settlers could claim 640 acres of Oregon territory for free. Also, this country was believed to have good farming soil. Best of all, Oregon territory was believed to be free of diseases that plagued people in the East.
Many emigrants traveled by steamship up the Missouri River to Independence, Westport, and a few other small frontier towns along the river. The pioneers “jumped off” at any one of these frontier cities to begin their journey westward.
The wagons were not large. As a matter of fact, they were small farm wagons. They measured 4 feet by 10 feet. Most of the emigrants overloaded them with food, farm equipment and furniture.
After the wagon trail left Independence the emigrants realized they had packed too much and they started throwing things out of their wagons. The trail was so littered that people from the “jumping off” towns would go out and collect wagon loads of food, and furniture.
For years, the trail was littered with nonessential items such as, pianos, grandfather clocks, books, fancy dishes, and other items.
Emigrants chose to use teams of four to six oxen to pull their wagons.
Oxen were slow movers but they were incredibly strong, and could survive on a poor diet. In other words, they were low maintenance animals. In addition, they were not sought after by thieves.
LIFE ON THE TRAIL
Life on the trail was difficult. Many of the emigrants walked almost 2000 miles to Oregon.
Many emigrants did not ride in the wagons because the paths were rough and they were jostled about. Generally they rode in the wagons when the weather was bad or if they were sick.
The emigrants traveled through plains and deserts, and the trails would get very dusty. The unfortunate emigrants who were last in the train were literally “eating the dust” of those in front of them. Ezra Meeker, a pioneer in 1852 wrote in his diary, “’The dust got deeper and deeper every day. Going through it was like wading in water...Often it would lie in the road fully six inches deep, so fine that a person wading through it would scarcely leave a track. And when disturbed, such clouds! No words can describe it.’”
Day begins at 4:00 a.m.
Men yoke and harness the oxen and horses
Women cook breakfast.
Coffee, biscuits, bacon, and boiled beans
Everyone put away their blankets and repacked their wagons
By 7:00 a.m. the wagon train was on the move
Captain would give the signal for everyone to stop for lunch.
The pioneers called it “nooning”
The pioneers ate a cold lunch and rested for about an hour
At 1:00 the pioneers were back on the trail and traveled until 5:00.
Tended to the animals and repaired the wagons
Cooked, mended clothes, and taught their children their lessons
Gathered wood, if none was available, they would gather buffalo chips to be used to build a fire.
After the chores
The pioneers would gather around the campfire to tell stories, read the Bible, and sing and dance. Some of the pioneers would write in their journals.
The men would take turn as guards protecting the wagon train from thieves. People would curl up in blankets and sleep in tents or in the wagon.
The Native Americans had lived on the land for many years before the emigrants began moving west. Many of the emigrants were afraid of the Native Americans. Mostly, the Native Americans were very helpful to the emigrants.
There were times that the Native Americans attacked the wagon trains. They attacked them because they were trying to protect their land.
After months of traveling the pioneers arrived at Willamette Valley. The pioneers staked their claim to the new land.
The winters in Oregon was very hard. The pioneers had to work quickly to clear the land and build their cabins.