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Oregon Trail

1847 Poem of Journey to Oregon
This Journey began April 11, 1847, and Abraham Miller Jr. wrote this c.1849.  (it was presented to Nancy Ann Miller Weiss on October 4, 1885.) This transcription is from a booklet presented to his only daughter, Nancy Ann Miller Weiss, who reprinted it and gave copies to other family members. This copy is from a booklet in the possession of Lee Edward Blevins.

Across the Plains in '64 by Prairie Schooner to Oregon
This is the story of my great-great-grandfather, John Kelly Vanderburgh, and his family crossing the plains from Iowa to Oregon in a covered wagon in 1864. John's daughter, Philura told these stories to her daughter, Anna Dell Clinkinbeard. I have transcribed the copy of this book which was given to our family by Anna so that others can enjoy these first-hand accounts of an important and fascinating time in United States history.

Across The Plains to Oregon, 1832
John Ball (1794-1884) was member of Nathaniel Wyeth's 1832 expedition to the Rockies and the Pacific Northwest. Ball provides an account of: Sublette's expedition across the plains to the 1832 Pierre's Hole rendezvous, the famous battle with the Blackfeet that occured there, the continuation of Wythe's remaining men to Oregon, and the first settlements in Oregon.

All About the Oregon Trail
The Oregon Trail was much more than a pathway to the state of Oregon; it was the only practical corridor to the entire western United States. The places we now know as Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Idaho and Utah would probably not be a part of the United States today were it not for the Oregon Trail. That's because the Trail was the only feasible way for settlers to get across the mountains.

Applegate Trail: Southern Route of the Oregon Trail
1996 marked the 150th anniversary of the Applegate Trail, the southern route of the Oregon Trail. It was blazed in 1846 as an alternate, and hopefully safer route to Oregon. Three brothers, Lindsay, Jesse, and Charles Applegate and their extended families came to Oregon on the original Oregon Trail during the first major migration in 1843. As the party was rafting through the rapids on the Columbia River just outside The Dalles one of their rafts capsized in the current and Lindsay's son Warren, age 9, Jesse's son Edward, also age 9, along with Alexander Mac (Uncle Mac, age 70) drowned. This tragedy made the brothers determined to save others similar grief and find a safer route to the Oregon Territory. 

Discoverers and Explorers
Who really found the Oregon Trail? In 1800, the American West was still wild country--no cities, no railroads and no cattle ranches yet existed. It was quiet and untouched. People in the eastern U.S.had heard stories about the western mountains and the desert, but no Euro-American had been there. Within a very short time that would all change. 

Exploring the Emigrant Trail
The historic emigrant trail to California and Southern Oregon traversed vast tracts of desert through Idaho, Utah and Nevada before reaching the Sierra Nevada. I have had the pleasure of exploring, at various times, several remaining sections of the old trail scattered across Nevada.

From the Atlantic to the Pacific, Overland
I had not deemed it a great undertaking for another to cross the continent overland, but when I sit here midway, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, the habits of my life changed--all connection with the accumulated interests of many years of toil suspended, social ties sundered, kind friends and loved ones far behind me, with rugged hills, parched deserts, and lonely wastes far, far ahead, I do feel it is a great undertaking for me--for any one. Many friends said they envied me my trip, would themselves like to go, etc. I do not doubt their sincerity--I have thought so myself--but I beg to undeceive them. It is not a pleasant, but it is an interesting trip.

Hardships on the Oregon Trail
River crossings were a constant source of distress for the pioneers. Hundreds drowned trying to cross the Kansas, North Platte and Columbia Rivers--among others.  In 1850 alone, 37 people drowned trying to cross one particularly difficult river--the Green. 

Historic Sites on the Oregon Trail
Historic sites in Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.

Historical Gazette:  Oregon Trail 1843
When in 1843 the frontier fever assumed an epidemic form on a small scale in Missouri, my parents determined to cross the desert plains to the far distant territory of Oregon. Such a journey in those days was no child's play, performed as it was with ox teams, plodding through the dust and heat, climbing mountains and swimming rivers, and not knowing one minute what the next would bring forth. 

Journal of a Trip to Oregon
Abigail Jane Scott is better known by her married name as Mrs. Abigail Scott Duniway, Oregon and Pacific Northwest leader in the suffrage movement for 41 years. Called Jenny by her family, she became a teacher, farmer's wife, poet, novelist, milliner, newspaper editor and lecturer. Her husband Benjamin Charles Duniway she first met near the end of the Oregon Trail, when he came out from the Willamette Valley to succor his father and family who also migrated in 1852. His support and that of her children were essential in the long fight for women's property and voting rights. It began with the publication of her newspaper, the New Northwest in Portland, 1871-1886.

Journal of Western Travel
In 1859 my great-great- grandfather, John McTurk Gibson (pictured at right), traveled on the Oregon-California Trails during the Pike's Peak gold rush. His trip began from his home in Marengo, Iowa where he left his wife and small children and set off with several friends in search of wealth and a better life. He kept a record of his trip and called it Journal of Western Travel.

Memoranda or Travel From Iowa to Oregon, 1864
Started for Idaho, May the 20th - traveled 10 miles - Camped on Wildcat Creek. May 21st - Passed Neuton - camped on Cherry Creek - 2 1/2 miles west of Neuton. May 22nd - Crossed Skunk River on bridge - camped on Squaw Creek on prairie. Here it rained on us some. This Creek is 14 miles from Neuton. May 23rd - Camped at 4 Mile Creek east of Des Moines City. There is a beautiful little creek to camp on, 17 miles. May 24th - Passed Des Moines City after staying 1/2 day for repairing - camped 3 miles Southwest of city on prairie at Bulls Run.

My Trip to Oregon
The memories of a man of eighty-seven are embraced in the account of a trip across the plains and mountains from Illinois to Oregon in the spring and summer and early autumn of the year 1847, when the Geers finally arrived in Oregon. Cal Geer, the writer of the narrative, was then a boy of ten. In presenting this, his wording is faithfully employed, believing that to change it in any way would detract from the fascinating portrayal of the story.

Oregon Trail History Library
Access articles relating to the history of the Oregon Trail and the history of the American West.

Oregon Trail Illustrations
Illustrations by Frederick Remington, N.C. Wyeth and Thomas Hart Benton

Oregon Trail Mileposts
Three days' travel out of Independence, the untried, greenhorn Oregon Trail pioneers came upon a hill rising from the flat grassland around it. Blue Mound seemed strangely out of place in the midst of the prairie. Eager emigrants climbed it to get a look at what lay ahead. Officers and guides urging the parties to move on allowed the curious only a quick glance.

Oregon's Historic Trails
Oregon's history is deeply tied to its trails. The routes followed by American explorers stretched across the Oregon Country a full 50 years before the Oregon Trail migrations of the mid-1800s. Until the late 1700s, the western regions of the continent were populated exclusively by a wide variety of tribal groups with distinct cultures and traditions. Although an occasional hunter of trapper may have moved through the country, experiences with whites were few and far between.

Reminiscences of A. H. Garrison
A copy of the original 141-page 1906 handwritten account of the 1846 migration (Oregon Historical Society manuscript 874) and a typed transcript of the Oregon Trail portion was given to Dr. Jim Tompkins by Marijane Rea, a descendant of the Garrisons. Spelling, punctuation, and grammar variations are strictly those of Henry Garrison, but the text has been divided into paragraphs, as the original was not divided, and occasional missing letters and words have been added for clarity.

Reminiscences of Crossing the Plains in 1846
From nearby Liberty, Missouri, in early April 1846, about fifty families prepared to make the journey to the far away Oregon Territory, which then included what is now the states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and part of Nevada.  My father, Benjamin Munkers, was among them.  His family was composed of an invalid wife, three married sons and one married daughter, besides five younger children, the youngest a boy of five years.  I was then ten years old and still have quite a clear memory of the journey and of conditions of the early days spent in Oregon.

Reminiscences of a Trip Across the Plains in '45
My father, Lawrence Hall, was elected captain of our train, and we started on our way with thirty wagons and about fifty men. A wedding occurred in our company. The bride's cake was made with turtle eggs found in the creek. The event was celebrated by a dance on the grass under the stars.

Samantha Jane Emmons Dillard's Story
In 1853 two young men, James H. and Wallace W. Shortridge heeded the admonition of Horace Greeley to "G0 West, young man, go West", and crossed the plains from Illinois to Oregon and settled just South of Cottage Grove. They sent glowing reports to their relatives in the East to the effect that Willamette Valley had a climate unexcelled In these United States, and that they had no snow at all during the winter; that there were homes for all who came; that there was plenty of green grass during the winter for horses and cattle and plenty of wood to burn instead of coal. After reading these letters for several years, their sister Mrs. James Whitely Emmons, and her family, packed up their belongings and started the trek across the vast plains from Mississippi to where rolls the Oregon.

Sunny Valley Applegate Trail Society
In the fall of 1846, the first emigrant wagon trail from Fort Hall, Idaho, to travel the southern route of the Oregon Trail--known as the Applegate Trail--camped just across the creek from here. Martha Leland Crowley, 16 years old, died of  Typhoid Fever during this encampment and was buried on the north side of what was to become known as "Grave Creek" Visit our Fireside Theatre to see this dramatic reenactment of the event!

The Coon Oregon Trail Diary
The original entries to this document were derived from a Transcription by Mrs. Evah (Coon) Smith. Later additions, entries, and corrections are derived from a transcription by Leslie A. Haskin who interviewed Mr. James M. Coon, Jr., the youngest son of James and Nancy Coon. At the time of the Haskin transcription, the original diary was in the possession of the interviewee, James M. Coon, Jr., who was a tailor living at 105 First Street, Albany, Oregon, and was loaned to Leslie Haskin to be transcribed.

The National Park Service's site on the Oregon National Historic Trail
As the harbinger of America's westward expansion, the Oregon Trail was the pathway to the Pacific for fur traders, gold seekers, missionaries and others. Beginning in 1841 and continuing for more than 20 years, an estimated 300,000 emigrants followed this route from Independence, Missouri to Oregon City, Oregon on a trip that took five months to complete.

The Official Web Site of the National Oregon/California Trail Center
As you enjoy this "Interactive" web site, we hope you enjoy learning more about the historical migration across America of more than a half-million people who traveled to the Willamette Valley in Oregon in search of farmland and others who left the Oregon Trail for California in search of gold.

The Oregon Trail
On to Oregon! It all began with a crude network of rutted traces across the land from the Mississippi River that was used by nearly 400,000 people. Today the 2,170 mile Oregon Trail still evokes an instant image, a ready recollection of the settlement of this continent, of the differences between American Indians and white settlers, and of new horizons. In 1840 only three states existed west of the Mississippi River. Maine's boundary with Canada was undefined. The western boundaries of the Nation lay roughly along the Continental Divide. Within 10 years the United States and Great Britain had drawn a boundary that stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The western boundary moved from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. In another 40 years successive waves of emigrants completely eliminated any sense of frontier, changed the way of life of the American Indians, and ravaged many wild animal species, especially the herds of buffalo. Plows and barbed wire subdued the prairies. Transcontinental railroads knitted the great distances together.

The Oregon-Trail
If you home school, teach elementary classes, or just enjoy history, "The Oregon Trail" is designed for you. Enjoy the adventure!

The Oregon Trail: 1792 - 1830     The Oregon Trail 1831 - 1840
On maps, the Oregon Trail starts just west of St. Louis, Missouri. In time, the beginning of the Trail is a bit harder to place. The first wagon train rolled onto the Trail in 1841 and emigrants eventually wore the road into a great highway, in some places a hundred feet wide and ten feet deep. Before then, however, many travelers had come to Oregon by a variety of routes: early explorers and traders from the west by sea; French Canadians and British emigrants overland from the north; companies of traders out of Spanish California from the south; and, following the fur trade, a small number of American trappers and missionaries from the east.

The Oregon Trail through Western Nebraska
This panoramic picture was taken on the top of Windlass Hill before entering Ash Hollow. The reddish strip of grass on the right side of the picture is the grassy ruts of the Oregon Trail as it winds it's way across the ridge; you can walk along these ruts for a few miles in either direction. While the descent down Windlass Hill was considered scary by the emigrants, due to the slope of the hill, they were willing to risk crashing their wagons, losing belongings, and breaking bones in order to take advantage of the spring, shade & beauty of Ash Hollow.

The Pioneer Road Builders
Mr. Ford said:  I was born in North Carolina on July 15th 1815. Emigrated to Missouri in 1840, and from Missouri to Oregon in 1843.  My attention was directed to Oregon by reading Lewis and Clark's journal. The scenery described in that took my fancy; and a desire to see that and to explore the country and return home to North Carolina in 3 years induced me to start.  From information from traders and trappers I was confirmed in my intentions.

 


 

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