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. The journey west on the Oregon Trail was exceptionally difficult by today's standards. One in 10 died along the way; many walked the entire two-thousand miles barefoot. The common misperception is that Native Americans were the emigrant's biggest problem en route. Quite the contrary, most native tribes were quite helpful to the emigrants. The real enemies of the pioneers were cholera, poor sanitation and--surprisingly--accidental gunshots. The first emigrants to go to Oregon in a covered wagon were Marcus and Narcissa Whitman who made the trip in 1836. But the big wave of western migration did not start until 1843, when about a thousand pioneers made the journey. That 1843 wagon train, dubbed "the great migration" kicked off a massive move west on the Oregon Trail. Over the next 25 years more than a half million people went west on the Trail. Some went all the way to Oregon's Willamette Valley in search of farmland--many more split off for California in search of gold. The glory years of the Oregon Trail finally ended in 1869, when the transcontinental railroad was completed. Actual wagon ruts from the Oregon Trail still exist today in many parts of the American West; and many groups are working hard to preserve this national historic treasure.
JOURNEY OF THE MISSIONARY PARTY
The following is an abstract of the journal kept by Asahel Munger during the emigration to the Oregon country in 1839: May 4, 1839--This day after finishing all our arrangements we started from the states, from our country; went about 3 hours to Saplin (Sapling) grove--a place where the company camp for the first time..... May 8--After traveling Tuesday and part of today we came in sight of the Conzas (Kansas) village, camped within 2 1/2 miles of it... May 9--Exchanged 3 horses and obtained two horses and two mules of Brother Johnson who had the care of the Methodist mission at this place. He gave us a good bargain in the horses, and they gave us many things which we needed for the journey. May 12--...Camped on the Black Vermillion river.
May 14--Mr. Richardson shot 7 large fish that would weigh 2 to 3 lbs each. May 17--Found a beautiful place for encamping--steep bank on two sides--pleasant stream. Eliza's health not as good as usual--though she has endured the journey much better than we could have expected. The horse she rides is not an easy traveler. May 19--This morning E. rose early and prepared breakfast as usual-- I slept later on account of having watcher last night. I am not very well myself--E tired out--rode 18 or 19 miles without stopping. One of the company shot an Antelope--which is a species of Deer--very good meat-- E. so much exhausted that she could not take her supper with us--though after resting awhile she could eat..... May 23--Evening the storm came up from two directions--clouds above appeared to move in the opposite direction from those below, after sunset it commenced raining and blowing, most of the tents were blown down. I stood outside of our tent and held it by the help of E. & Mrs. G. who were inside holding with all their might. Storm continued about an hour. May 31--Moved on to the Forks of the Platt, to the usual crossing place--found the water too deep to ford--pitched our tents and commenced making preparations for building our boat--Several hunters went out for skins to build it of--it requires 4 large skins to make one large enough... We discovered a very large encampment of Indians, but a short distance from us on the opposite side of the river..... Jun 1--Not molested at all by the...