Forty-nine of us, forty-eight men and one woman, lay on the green waiting for the spike to open.
The 2,mile east-west trail served as a critical transportation route for emigrants traveling from Missouri to Oregon and other points west during the mids. Travelers were inspired by dreams of gold and rich farmlands, but they were also motivated by difficult economic times in the east and the diseases like yellow fever and malaria that were decimating the Midwest around It could only be traveled by horseback or on foot.
By the yearthe first of the migrant train of wagons was put together. Work was done to clear more and more of the trail stretching farther West and it eventually reached Willamette Valley, Oregon.
There were several starting points in Nebraska Territory, Iowa and Missouri. The many offshoots of the trail and the main trail itself were used by an estimatedsettlers from the s through When the first railroad was completed, allowing faster and more convenient travel, use of the trail quickly declined.
It ran beside waterways, stretched across tall-grass and short-grass prairies, wound through mountain passes, and then spanned the Pacific Slope to the promised lands of Oregon and California.
One in 17 never made it. This road to the Far West soon became known by another name—the Oregon Trail. Even today, ruts from the wagon wheels remain etched indelibly in the fragile topsoil of the Western landscape.
The Oregon Trail opened at a time when the westward settlement and development of the trans-Mississippi West had stalled at the Missouri River; Mexico still claimed all of California, and Alaska remained Russian territory. They came from all directions, by steamboat and over primitive roads that a day or two of heavy rain turned into quagmires.
For the most part they were farmers—family men, with wives and children—who had a common goal of seeking a promised land of milk and honey in far-off Oregon, about which they knew as little as they did about how to get there.
They did know that the back country of Iowa, Missouri and Arkansas had not proved to be a shining paradise. The doldrums that followed the depression of shriveled the value of land and the price of crops, and malaria ravaged the bottomlands that once had promised so much.
Ignorance allowed travelers to advance where fuller knowledge might have rooted them with apprehension. But they were farm folk and had pioneered before. They were adept with wagons, livestock, rifles and axes. The women were used to walking beside the men as wilderness equals.
Above all, they were restless—once a farm had been tamed, the narrow horizons of the backwoods communities closed around them. Vast and unclaimed riches far to the west, across the Great Plains, beckoned.
It was as if the land itself were pulling the people westward. Meek and Newell managed to get the first wheeled vehicles over the Blue Mountains.
The next year, John Bidwell and John Bartleson traveled what would later be christened the Oregon Trail on the first planned overland emigration west to California. At Soda Springs in what is now southwest Idaho one contingent split off for Oregon. Elijah White, the newly appointed Indian agent in Oregon, successfully led men, women and children there.
But the real thrust westward came the following year, when the Oregon Trail took on a new significance thanks to the so-called Great Emigration. Peter Burnett was chosen captain, and a so-called cow column for slower wagons and herds of livestock was formed with Jesse Applegate as its leader.
Applegate would later provide descriptions of life on the Oregon Trail in his memoir, A Day with the Cow Column in Mountain man John Gant was to be chief guide as far as Fort Hall. They would follow the trail left by Meek and Newell.
Marcus Whitman, a Protestant missionary and physician who had established a mission in Oregon inwould join the Applegate train on his return west after an eastern visit. Doctors came to be a welcome rarity along the trail.
Along with his uncle, Jess traveled with his parents, four brothers, one sister and numerous other relatives. Years later, when he was in his 70s, he wrote Recollections of My Boyhood, in which he largely succeeds in portraying events and personalities from the western crossing through the eyes of a young boy.
As the Applegate party journeyed across the prairies and over the Rockies, the trek had mostly seemed like grand fun to the boy. At first his recollections bubble with the thrill of adventure.
He had traded nails and bits of metal with Indian children and thrown buffalo chips at other white children. Later, though, the recollections become more somber.
Applegate had also experiened the suffering that almost no early traveler on the Oregon Trail could avoid. Food supplies would inevitably become low and water scarce. A bone-wrenching weariness would set in as the miseries mounted.
But as the emigrants pushed overland, many lost sight of the vision that had set them going.Kate Messner, author of Breakout and the Ranger in Time series.
I look for small things when I write. Often, the tiniest detail is the best detail when it comes to grounding a scene in a particular time and place or bringing a huge, sweeping moment back to the personal.
AFAM Intro to African American Studies This course provides an overview of African American history and culture. Topics include major events, persons, and issues spanning the period from the African heritage to contemporary times. Camp Walt Whitman has been a huge part of my life for more than 30 years.
In the 80s and 90s, I was a camper, CIT, counselor, and senior staff member. Now, my daughter attends and I’m a proud Whitman parent. A Good Social Studies Teacher - A “good social studies teacher” is an educator has an understanding of the necessity of social studies in education and enacting on this notion throughout the curriculum by utilizing wholesome and meaningful learning activities and assignments.
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