Monday, October 22, 2012

Facts on The Oregon Trail, by Charlene Raddon

Everyone’s heard of the Oregon Trail, but how many know the pertinent facts, such as its length, where it began, and where it actually ended? What sights did the pioneers see along the way? Are there any remnants left of the old trail?
Fur trapper blazed the beginnings of the route. The first wagon train heading to Oregon in 1836 followed a road as far as Fort Hall, Idaho. Gradually, cutoffs, ferries and bridges were built. From 1830 to 1869, some 400,000 settlers, gold hunters, farmers, and businessmen helped to deepen the ruts of the Oregon Trail, until you can still see them in spots today.
In 1843, 200-400 emigrants left for Oregon, beginning “The Great Migration”. On reaching the Blue Mountains, trees had to be cut to clear the way. At The Dalles, wagons were disassembled and floated down the Columbia, as no road existed past Mount Hood. In 1846 the Barlow Road was built, creating a road passable by wagons for the entire 2,000 mile trek.
At least 70% of the wagons were pulled by oxen, mules being a second choice. Oxen were easier to train, could pull more, survived better on the sparse grass along the trail, did not require oats or grain, and were generally tamer and easier to handle. They could be turned loose at night and easily rounded up in the mornings, whereas mules and horses required herding day and night and often had to be staked out or hobbled. Indians were also less interested in stealing oxen. Drivers walked along the left side of the oxen and used "gee" (right) and "haw" (left) to direct them. Mules were often guided by riding one that was hooked to the wagon (typically the left hand wheel mule) and handling the reins from there.

The recommended food per adult was 150 pounds of flour, 20 of corn meal, 50 of bacon, 40 of sugar, 10 of coffee, 15 of dried fruit, 5 of salt, half a pound of saleratus (baking soda), 2 pounds of tea, 5 pounds of rice, and 15 pounds of beans. Provisions were usually kept in water-tight containers or barrels to minimize spoilage. The usual breakfast, lunch and dinner along the trail was bacon, beans, and coffee, with biscuits or bread. Food for four people for six months typically cost about $150. Less was needed if beef cattle, calves or sheep were taken as a walking food supply, or game could be found along the way.

Non-essential items were often abandoned to lighten the load, or in case of emergency. Many travelers salvaged discarded items, picking up essentials or leaving behind their lower quality item when a better one was found abandoned along the road. Some profited by collecting discarded items and hauling them back to jumping off places and reselling them. During the 1849 gold rush, Fort Laramie was known as "Camp Sacrifice" because of the large amounts merchandise discarded nearby.

Some of the landmarks seen were Chimney Rock, Scottsbluff, Courthouse and Jailhouse Rocks, and the emigrant Register Rock.

Oregon-California-Mormon Trail Deaths
Estimated deaths
Indian attack
Run overs
Shootings (usually accidental)

How many of you would like to experience the Oregon Trail in a covered wagon? I’ve dreamed of such a trek all my life. Well, at least I did when I was younger. Now, I’m smarter, but I still wish I had done it. I like to think I would have been strong enough, mentally and physically to endure the journey. What about you?
Thank you so, so much for the fascinating post today, Charlene. I am obsessed with wagon train stories, and riding in a covered wagon while visiting the West is at the top of my bucket list of things to do one day. I'm so happy wagon train tours are still available...I don't think I could've handled the "real thing" back in the 1800s!!!

Charlene is generously giving away the cutest sunbonnet to one lucky commenter (US only). Please leave your email address so we can get your mailing information from you.


Three nightmarish years of marriage had shattered Brianna Wight's
sheltered world. Leading her husband to believe she'd been murdered, she
fled St. Louis...harboring terrible secrets that could mean her death.

The tragic loss of his Indian wife left Columbus Nigh a wanderer;
necessity made him a wilderness guide. But now he found himself drawn to
the enigmatic woman who'd hired him to lead her westward. Her gentle
strength stirred his lonely heart...her tender beauty aroused his
deepest passions.

But the perils of the Oregon Trail paled beside the murderous wrath of
the man who tracked them across the harsh frontier. Brianna knew the
only way to save herself and Columbus was to rish their tender love.
Only then could she free herself from the horrors of the past--and
embrace a rapturous future...

Buy Tender Touch from Amazon


Kemberlee said...

You're always such a font of knowledge when it comes to the American West! Great article and an amazing story. Definitely a keeper!

Cheryl St.John said...

Does anyone else remember The Oregon Trail game we played on our old AppleIIc computers in the day? My kids and I used to laugh so hard over that game. We had to pick our supplies and then we got disentary and all kinds of bad things happened on the trail.

Cher :-)

Caroline Clemmons said...

Charlene, I would NOT have been a good pioneer. I do love reading about them, though, and your story sounds exciting. Will add it to my TBR list on my Kindle. thanks for sharing.

Brandi Boddie said...

Charlene, nice to meet you, and congratulations on your book! Your information on the Oregon Trail was entertaining and insightful.

I remember playing the Oregon Trail computer game back in the third grade. If you started off as a banker, you had a lot of money, but your wagon was attacked frequently. If you started off as a farmer, you didn't have money, but you may have fared a little better. I don't know if I ever beat the game, but I do recall holding my breath every time my wagon had to ferry across the river. Fun times!

I know I wouldn't have survived as a pioneer. I'm far too much of a prissy wimp ;-)

Anonymous said...

There are still Oregon Trail games available for today's gadgets. Don't know much about them but I've seen them advertised. Sounds like a game I would have enjoyed when I was a kid. I could have worn my cowboy outfit while I played :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Caroline. I doubt I'd have been a great pioneer either, but I do believe I could have endured it.

Anonymous said...

I believe you never know how you'll do at something until you try. You may have surprised yourself. Thanks for dropping by.

Unknown said...

Fascinating stuff, Charlene. Thanks so much for sharing your research! TENDER TOUCH sounds like another must-add to my Kindle TBR mountain. :-)

HurricaneReads said...

I loved that Oregon Trail game need to find a version for my girls... I would love to try to make the journey.

Alison E. Bruce said...

I'm surprised the History Channel hasn't done a reality show reenacting a wagon train. It would be so cool. Or have they done it and I missed it?

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Kathleen.

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen one, Alison, and I agree, it would be really fun to see, not to mention educational. Thanks so much for dropping by.

Unknown said...

What interesting facts. I have been by the Columbia river a number of times and it is very windy and rough waters through there. I can't imagine trying to float a wagon in those rough waters without sinking everything.
I am in the middle of Tender Touch right now and find it an interesting story.

Tammie Gibbs said...

Awesome post! Thanks for sharing your knowledge. :) Tammie Gibbs

Toni V.S. said...

Living in Nebraska as I do. I'm familiar with all the landmarks you mentions, and have actually visited all of them. When I used to drive to visit relatives in Hemingford near Scottsbluff, I would follow the Oregon Trail most of the way. Windlass Hill always impressed me. It's a pity there's no way to preserve it because it's slowly disappearing due to weather and erosion.

Icy Snow

Anonymous said...

I'm with you, Shirl. I wouldn't want to have to float the Columbia either. Glad you're enjoying the book.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to see those site for myself, Toni. I agree it is a terrible shame to allow such landmarks to disappear. I'm sure they could find a way to protect Windlass Hill if they wanted to, but it would be costly.

Jacquie Rogers said...

And by the time those oxen reached the Snake River lava beds, their hooves wore off and no water was to be had. Then once they got through Idaho, they had to cross the Blues. I'd much rather travel in a car with a nice cushiony seat!

Kimberlee said...

Hi, nice to meet you. I am one of your newest members to your blog and I noticed that we share a love of cozy mysteries as well as other genres. I will be keeping up with your blog and hope you will join me at mine:

Hope to see you there. Happy reading.

Anonymous said...

Glad you got through,Jacquie. Thanks for stopping by. I think you're right about traveling in a car instead of a wagon.

Anonymous said...

Nice to meet you too, Kimberlee. I'll check out your blog tomorrow. Right now it's bedtime here in Utah. And I'm ready. Thanks for joining the fun.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, thank you for having me on your blog. It was a blast. Hope we can do it again sometime. I'll announce the winner of the sunbonnet later today. Thanks to everyone who stopped by.

Melissa, Mudpie and Angel Truffles (Mochas, Mysteries and Meows) said...

Thank you so much Charlene!!! I can't tell you how much I enjoyed your fascinating post.