A thousand pioneers head West on the Oregon Trail

The first overland immigrants to Oregon, intended primarily to farm. In 1841, a small band of 70 pioneers left Independence, Missouri. They followed a route blazed by fur traders, which took them west along the Platte River through the Rocky Mountains via the easy South Pass in Wyoming and then northwest to the Columbia River. In the years to come, pioneers came to call the route the Oregon Trail.

In 1842, a group of 100 pioneers made the 2,000-mile journey to Oregon. In 1843, the number of emigrants skyrocketed to 1,000. The sudden increase was due to severe depression in the Midwest combined with a flood of propaganda from fur traders, missionaries, and government officials telling the virtues of the land. Farmers hoped to find better lives in the supposed paradise of Oregon.

The first section of the Oregon Trail ran through the relatively flat country of the Great Plains. Obstacles were few, though the river crossings were dangerous for wagons. The danger of Indian attacks was a small but genuine risk. To be on the safe side, the pioneers drew their wagons into a circle at night to create a makeshift stockade

Obstacles on the Trail included accidental discharge of firearms, falling off mules or horses, drowning in river crossings, and disease. After entering the mountains, the trail also became more difficult, with steep ascents and descents over rocky terrain. The pioneers risked injury from overturned and runaway wagons.

Yet, as with the 1,000-person party that made the journey in 1843, the vast majority of pioneers on the trail survived to reach their destination to the fertile land of western Oregon. The migration of 1844 was smaller than that of the previous season, but in 1845 it jumped to nearly 3,000. Thereafter, migration on the Oregon Trail was an annual event. The trail was heavily traveled until 1884, when the Union Pacific constructed a railway along the route.

Source: A thousand pioneers head West on the Oregon Trail
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