The Oregon Trail. By Elizabeth Stevens Pacific Northwest History 151 4 November 2010. The Oregon Trail.
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By Elizabeth Stevens
Pacific Northwest History 151
4 November 2010
The Oregon Trail, the longest of the overland routes used in the westward expansion of the United States, was first traced by explorers and fur traders. Settlers began following the trail in 1841. The first large group of about 900 immigrants used the trail in the "Great Migration" of 1843. In that year, a provisional government was organized in Oregon. The Oregon Country's northern boundary was set in 1846, and the Territory of Oregon was formed in 1848 as over 12,000 people made the journey in that decade.
During the Oregon Trail transportation consisted of Wheelbarrows, Mormon Handcarts, Prairie Schooner (another name for a white canvas-covered farm wagon), Horses and Mules.
Saddles, bridles, hobbles, and ropes were needed if the party had a horse or riding mule, and many men did. Extra harnesses and spare wagon parts were often carried. Most carried steel shoes for oxen, mules or horses. Tar was carried to help repair an injured ox's hoof.
Wagons: They used standard wagons called Conestoga Wagons. These were commonly used in the Eastern United States on the Santa Fe Trail. Their 6,000 pounds freight was larger then needed, while the large teams (8-10 animals) these wagons required could not navigate the tight corners often found on the Oregon Trail.
Per grown adult it was recommended they took 150 pounds of flour, 20 pounds of or corn meal, 50 pounds of bacon, 40 pounds of sugar, 10 pounds of coffee, 15 pounds of dried fruits, 5 pounds of salt, ½ pound of baking soda, 2 pounds of tea, 5 pounds of rice, and 15 pounds of beans. These ingredients were kept in “water-tight” containers or barrels to reduce spoilage. The typical cost of food for four people for six months was about $150.
Tobacco was used for personal use and for trading with Indians and other pioneers. Most wagons carried tents for sleeping, though in good weather most would sleep outside. A thin fold-up mattress, blankets, pillows, canvas or rubber guttapercha ground covers were used for sleeping. Sometimes an unfolded feather bed mattress was brought for the wagon if there were pregnant women or very young children along. Belts and folding knives were carried by virtually all men and boys. Scissors, pins, needles and thread for mending were required.
The Oregon Trail consists of many states. Theses states include Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, and Oregon,
Crossing a river was a source of distress for the pioneers. Trying to cross the Kansas, North Platte, and the Columbia River among others hundreds died. In 1850 alone, 37 people drowned trying to cross the Green River. Since the wagons were overloaded, most had to walk the entire journey on foot. Accidents were uncommon. If someone fell under the wagon wheels, death would be instant. Many lost their lives, more often then none, this would be children. Weather played a big factor in deaths. Lighting strikes from thunderstorms, and sickness from being in the rain.
Disease: 6,000 – 12,500
Indian Attack: 3000-4500
Run Over: 200-500
Total Deaths: 9,400-21000
Cholera was perhaps the biggest problem on the Trail was a mysterious and deadly disease killing many people over time.