14, April 2014
Social Studies Project
Many people went to the Oregon Territory to get free farm land. Some went hoping to find better health or better living conditions. Some went to escape problems. Others went for adventure and to seek new experiences. The Oregon Trail migration, also known as the Oregon-California Trail migration, is one of the most important events in American History. The Oregon-California trail was a 2,170 mile route from Missouri to Oregon and California that enabled the migration of the early pioneers to the western United States. The first emigrants to make the trip were Marcus and Narcissa Whitman who made the trip in 1836. However, the first mass migration did not occur until 1843 when approximately 1,000 pioneers made the journey at one time. This trail was the only feasible land route for settlers to get to the West Coast. From 1843 until 1869 when the first transcontinental railroad was completed, there were over 500,000 people who made the trip in covered wagons pulled by mule and oxen. Some went all the way to Oregon to farm and others went to California to search for gold. The trip usually took 4-6 months by wagon traveling 15 miles a day. The only other route to the west, by sea, took a full year. In the early Spring, the pioneers would wait in Missouri and set up camp, waiting for the grass to grow along the Oregon Trail. While waiting, the emigrants would stock up on supplies, try to locate friends, and make other preparations for their journey. If they left too early, there would be no grass for their animals to eat which could be a fatal mistake. If they left too late, they would get caught by the winter snows. Most settlers traveled in farm wagons, four feet by ten feet, with a thousand pounds of food. These wagons had cotton covers treated with linseed oil to keep the rain out. Many were equipped with tool boxes, water containers, and spare axles as breaking an axle without a spare meant abandoning the wagon. When the time finally came to leave, the settlers would all try to leave at once creating a massive traffic jam further hindered by the inexperience of some of the green east coast teams. As their traveling progressed, most realized they had over packed and were forced to lighten their loads by throwing things overboard. Because of the heavy loads, many were forced to walk the 2,170 mile journey instead of ride in the wagon. There were many accidents along the way including being run over by the wagons which meant certain death. Another common accident was accidental gun shots from people fooling around with guns or from half-cocked pistols in the wagons. Another problem for the travelers was Cholera. Some wagon trains lost two-thirds of their people to this quick killing disease. People called watchers were forced to stay with the diseased people until they pasted but some even buried them alive to catch up with the others. One common misconception about the traveler’s journey is that the biggest danger was the Indians or Native Americans. Many movies show the pioneers circling their wagons each night to protect themselves from the threat of the Native Americans. In reality, the wagons were circled to provide a convenient corral for livestock. The Native Americans were actually friendly more often than not. Encounters most often involved simple trades and there were very few of the pioneers that actually died because of the Native Americans. The only real disagreement between them was the Gratten Massacre. A cow wandered from an emigrant wagon train and a nearby Sioux village found it and ate it. Twenty-eight men lead by Lt. Gratten set out to make the Sioux Indians pay for their mistake. When the troops got to the Sioux village, the Indians realized their mistake and offered a horse in return. Gratten ordered his men to fire on the tribe. The Indians were ordered by their chief not to fight back, but Gratten turned and shot the...
Bibliography: Oregon trail: http://www.historyglobe.com/ot/otmap1.htm
Texas Independence: http://www.txindependence.org/washington_game.php
Louisiana Territory: http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2003/spring/louisiana-purchase.html
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