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Oregon Trail Exercise

Oregon Trail Exercise

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    Oregon trail exercise Oregon trail exercise Presentation Transcript

    • Oregon Trail ExerciseOregon Trail Exercise • Over the next few classes, please read through this, in order, and answer the related questions. Also, for fun, open maps.google.com and follow along the Oregon Trail by typing in the names of the different stops and locations along the trail and finding them on current-day maps.
    • Hudson Bay Company (EDIT)Hudson Bay Company (EDIT) Throughout the 1820s and 1830s, England’s Hudson BayThroughout the 1820s and 1830s, England’s Hudson Bay Company controlled nearly all trading operations in theCompany controlled nearly all trading operations in the Pacific NorthwestPacific Northwest, based at the company headquarters at, based at the company headquarters at Fort VancouverFort Vancouver on theon the Columbia RiverColumbia River. Commercial. Commercial operating rights were shared by the United States andoperating rights were shared by the United States and Britain through theBritain through the Anglo-American Convention of 1818Anglo-American Convention of 1818.. Company policy, enforced through the Oregon headCompany policy, enforced through the Oregon head John McLoughlinJohn McLoughlin, leader of the company's, leader of the company's Columbia DistrictColumbia District, was to discourage United States, was to discourage United States settlement of the territory. The company's effectivesettlement of the territory. The company's effective monopoly on trade virtually forbade any settlement in themonopoly on trade virtually forbade any settlement in the region. It establishedregion. It established Fort BoiseFort Boise in 1834 (in present-dayin 1834 (in present-day southwestern Idaho) to compete with the American Fortsouthwestern Idaho) to compete with the American Fort Hall, 483 km (300 mi) to the east. In 1837, it purchasedHall, 483 km (300 mi) to the east. In 1837, it purchased Fort Hall, also along the route of the Oregon Trail, whereFort Hall, also along the route of the Oregon Trail, where the outpost director displayed the abandoned wagons ofthe outpost director displayed the abandoned wagons of discouraged settlers to those seeking to move west alongdiscouraged settlers to those seeking to move west along the trail.the trail.
    • • Hudson Bay Company’s stranglehold on the region was broken by the first successful large wagon train to reach Oregon in 1843, led by Marcus and Narcissa Whitman. In the years that followed, thousands of emigrants poured into the Willamette Valley. In 1846, the United States acquired full authority south of the 49th parallel (line of latitude); the most settled areas of the Oregon Country were south of the Columbia River in what is now Oregon. John McLoughlin, who had once turned away new settlers as company director, then welcomed them from his general store at Oregon City and was later proclaimed the "Father of Oregon". The company retains no presence today in what is now the United States portion of the Pacific Northwest.
    • • For many years, Independence, MO was the most popular "jumping off" point on the Oregon Trail. Here the emigrants stocked up on supplies and prepared their wagons. There was generally a festive air in Independence in the spring. The newcomers collected information and misinformation, made friends and enemies, changed proposed destinations, and behaved in general as though they were on a picnic. • Because of the fear of Indian attacks (which was largely unfounded), emigrants often tried organize a traveling party here, because no one wanted to head west alone. When a wagon "train" had been assembled, a quasi-military organization was often formed.
    • • For many pioneers who left from Independence, Missouri, the first night's camp would be at the Shawnee Mission. This Methodist outpost was built in 1839 for the purpose of teaching English and agriculture to the children of the Shawnee tribe. Here, the Oregon-bound emigrants might encounter a Native American for the first time. But the Shawnee were not native to this area; they had been moved to the mission from the eastern states. For centuries, they had been great hunters, but here they were taught to farm.
    • • A week or so after crossing the Kansas River, the emigrants were rewarded by the beauty of a popular campsite known as Alcove Spring. • Emigrant Edwin Bryant: "About three-fourths of a mile from our camp, we found a large spring of water, as cold and pure as if it had just been melted from ice. We named this Alcove Spring." • Many pioneers were impressed with the pastoral beauty of the area. Some were tempted to end the journey and begin farming. • Emigrant James Pritchard: "The scenery was so inviting that it induced us to take a stroll. We found beautiful spots and romantic situations." • But James Pritchard kept moving, as did everyone else. It wasn't until the late 1850s that that the first settlement came to this region
    • • Rock Creek Station was built primarily to serve the stagecoach and Pony Express. But the Oregon-bound emigrants did stop here to purchase supplies or camp. • Rock Creek Station owner David McCanless eventually built a toll bridge here. The charge: between 10 and 50 cents, depending on how well-off the emigrant family looked that day. • Emigrant Matthew Field, while camping at Rock Creek Station: "We are all very well and growing fat; not on buffalo however; for the lords of the prairie are far in advance of us. We had turtle soup last night for supper and that ain't bad; even when eaten out of tin plates and squatting on the grass."
    • • Ft. Kearny was the first military post built to protect the Oregon Trail emigrants. The fort remained an important wayside throughout the emigration period. Many pioneers purchased food at the fort, and nearly everyone took advantage of the fort's reliable mail service. In late May as many as 2,000 emigrants and 10,000 oxen might pass through in a single day. • Ft. Kearny was not the walled fortification that many pioneers expected. It was instead a collection of ramshackle buildings, most made of sod. The construction was so crude that snakes often slithered through the walls and into the beds of the soldiers stationed there. But the enlisted men were not overly refined anyway.
    • • Ash Hollow • Most emigrants had been following the south side of the Platte River for hundreds of miles--this was the best place to cross. Unlike many other crossings, this river crossing was not difficult most years. That’s because the Platte here was often no more than one or two feet deep--although it was typically more than a mile wide. Some years, the Platte River would actually be two miles wide at this point. • The reason for the crossing was simple: for hundreds of miles, the pioneers had followed the south side of the Platte River, but the river was about to split in two. If they stayed on the south side of the river (now the South Platte), the pioneers would have reached a dead end in Colorado. So they had to cross the river to connect with the north branch--called the North Platte. • A few miles further along the trail was Ash Hollow. Here was fresh, clean water--a luxury the emigrants had not tasted for weeks. But getting to Ash Hollow was tricky. The pioneers had to negotiate a very steep hill. Sometimes they would let the wagons down with ropes--or get a dozen men to hold on as "human brakes." Occasionally, the brakesmen would lose control of a wagon and a severe crash would result. • Once they reached the bottom, Ash Hollow was a welcome site. The trees were the first the pioneers had seen for 100 miles. Most of the wagon trains would rest at Ash Hollow for a day or two.
    • • To an emigrant who had never seen a mountain, or even a bluff, Courthouse Rock and its companion, Jail Rock were quite stunning. Many pioneers were so enraptured by these bizarre geologic features, they took a side trip of several miles--on foot--just to get a closer look.
    • • Today, the spire stands 325 feet above the plain, but during the time of the migration, Chimney Rock was substantially higher. It was the most spectacular landmark on the entire trail. Many considered it the eighth wonder of the world. In their enthusiasm, some tried to climb the massive rock but none got higher than the base.
    • • FORT LARAMIE • This military post was a welcome site for the pioneers--the first sign of civilization in six weeks. It was a unique respite from the endless wilderness. • Ft. Laramie marked the gateway to the Rocky Mountains. The emigrants were now one-third of the way to the Willamette. Here, they rested and regrouped. Some would give up the dream, turn around and go home. But most made the decision to push ahead.
    • • There was only one building at Ft. Laramie that required a visit by the Oregon-bound emigrants--the post trader's store. It was the only reliable post office within 300 miles. Supplies could be purchased here too although prices were outrageously high. Tobacco, for instance, that could be had for a nickel in St. Louis, cost a dollar here.
    • • South Pass was the most important landmark on the Oregon Trail; the key to westward migration. Without South Pass, wagon travel across the continent would have been impossible--and Oregon and California would probably not have become a part of the United States. Yet, there's no narrow gorge here--this gap in the Rockies is miles wide. • South Pass crossed the continental divide and hence marked the boundary between the United States and Oregon Country. Even though the emigrants were now in Oregon, there was no reason to celebrate. They were still only half-way to their destination. There were a thousand miles yet to travel.
    • • Before arriving, many emigrants hoped that Ft. Bridger would be a civilized outpost; perhaps something similar to Ft. Laramie. Instead, Ft. Bridger was a crude collection of rough-hewn log buildings that greatly disappointed the travelers. • Emigrant Edwin Bryant: "The buildings are two or three miserable log cabins, rudely constructed and bearing but a faint resemblance to habitable houses.“ • The fort was built in 1843 specifically to serve the emigrant traffic. Unlike Ft. Kearny and Ft. Laramie, this fort was privately owned and operated by the legendary Jim Bridger.
    • • Ft. Hall was an important stop for the emigrants in the trail's early years. Yet few who passed through this fort knew the strange reason it was built. • Nathaniel Wyeth began with a grand moneymaking scheme. He and 70 men planned to haul supplies to the 1832 fur trappers rendezvous, reap huge profits, then push west to the Columbia River, where they hoped to set up a fishery and export salmon to Hawaii and New England. • When Ft. Hall was completed in 1834, it stood as the only American outpost in the entire Oregon country.
    • • Not all the emigrants had the opportunity to visit Shoshone Falls, but those who took the short side trip were in for a remarkable experience. The falls offered a fantastic view unlike any other in the US. Those who had been to Niagra noted the similarity, but Shoshone Falls is higher and has a greater volume of water than its New York cousin. • Today, Shoshone Falls is often just a cliff--as irrigation has stolen much of the river's water. But early in the spring (or anytime in a wet year) visitors can see the landmark just as the sightseeing pioneers did many years ago
    • • Approaching Three Island Crossing (of the Snake River) meant the emigrants had a difficult choice. They could make a dangerous river crossing here for a direct route to Ft. Boise or stay on the south side of the Snake and follow the river around the bend. About half made the decision to cross using the three islands in the Snake as stepping stones. It would not be easy. • Emigrant Samuel Hancock: "We lost 2 of our men, Ayres and Stringer. Ayres got into trouble with his mules in crossing the stream. Stringer, who was about thirty, went to his relief, and both were drowned in sight of their women folks. The bodies were never recovered."
    • • Fort Boise was originally built by the British Hudson's Bay Company to compete with American Fort Hall for fur. But by the 1840s, the fur trade was declining, and the emigrants were increasing. The fort served the wagon trains throughout the 40s but floods plagued the area--and by 1855 Ft. Boise was gone. • Eight years later a new Ft. Boise was built 50 miles to the east--and the city of Boise grew up alongside. Except for the start and finish, Boise was the largest city on the Oregon Trail. Over a century later, it still is. • By the time the emigrants struck west from Ft. Boise, it was mid- September. What if the snows came early, they worried? Would they be stranded in the mountains. Would they end up like the Donner Party-- freezing to death, or resorting to cannibalism? It was on the mind of nearly everyone as they hurried through this region--and they still had 400 miles to travel.
    • • The sight of the Grande Ronde valley brought delight to early travelers after their long journey across the dry plains. This great green bowl, encircled by mountainous walls, was more like the "Oregon" they expected to find. • Despite its lushness, the none of the pioneers settled here until many years later. While the valley could support farming, it was an unknown and unprotected place in the 1840s.
    • • At The Dalles, the Columbia River rumbled through a narrow chasm. It was here that Jason Lee set up a Methodist mission in 1838. History does not tell us how many were converted at Lee's tiny outpost, but The Dalles did become a critical stop for the emigrants. That's because it was here that the trail ruts came to a complete stop--blocked by the Cascade Mountains. Unfortunately, the Willamette Valley-- the emigrant's destination--was still 100 miles further on. In the Trail’s first years, there was only one solution--float the wagons down the Columbia River.
    • • Because of the swirling rapids, the trip down the Columbia was especially treacherous. • Emigrant Lindsey Applegate: "One of our boats, containing six persons, was caught in one of those terrible whirlpools and upset. My son, ten-years-old, my brother Jesse's son Edward, same age, were lost. It was a painful scene beyond description. We dared not go to their assistance without exposing the occupants of the other boat to certain destruction. The bodies of the drowned were never recovered." • Many emigrants soon realized they could not navigate the hazardous river themselves, so they hired experts--Native Americans. • Even with Native American help, floating the Columbia was risky. Commercial ferrymen also set up shop, but their prices were outlandishly high. Even if an emigrant was willing to pay the steep fee, there were not enough ferry boats available to handle the flood of wagons rolling in. So here at The Dalles they waited for days--or weeks. As a result, a city was born.
    • • Floating the Columbia by yourself was risky. Commercial ferrymen set up shop, but their prices were outlandishly high. One man who was particularly angry about high ferryboat prices was Sam Barlow. And so he devised a plan to build a road from The Dalles to the Willamette Valley, avoiding the Columbia altogether. Just one thing stood in his way: Mt. Hood. But Barlow was determined--and in 1845 he and a few men began hacking and cutting their way through the forests of Mt. Hood. The thick pine and steep hills proved to be difficult obstacles, but Barlow was determined. By 1846, the Barlow Road was finished, complete with toll gates. The charge: five dollars per wagon. It was an immediate success. Emigrants willingly endured the steep inclines and sheer descents because it certainly was better than the ruinous rapids of the Columbia River--or was it?
    • • Sarah Cummins: "The traveling was slow and toilsome; slopes were almost impassible for man and beast. As night was coming on, it seemed we all must perish, but weak, faint and starving we went on. I could scarcely put one foot before the another. I weighed less than eighty pounds at the time. My own party had been 14 days with only nine biscuits and four small slices of bacon. "
    • • The final stop on the Trail for many of the emigrants was Ft. Vancouver--the massive British outpost on the north bank of the Columbia. Most of the emigrants were now very low on supplies and completely exhausted. • Explorer John Fremont: "Their thin and insufficient clothing, bareheaded and barefooted children attesting to the length of the journey." • Without help here, many would not live through the winter. But help was exactly what they found--from a most unlikely source--a man named John McLoughlin.
    • • McLoughlin was head of British Ft. Vancouver and his orders were to discourage the American emigrants--but he did just the opposite. McLoughlin offered the weary travelers food and medicine, and he even organized rescue parties for emigrants in trouble along the way. They affectionately dubbed him "The Father of Oregon." • A few emigrants had the opportunity to visit McLoughlin's house at the fort; a rare dose of civility for the weary travelers.
    • • Across the river from Ft. Vancouver came the final stop in the 2000 mile long trail--Oregon City. From there the emigrants fanned out in all directions to stake their claims and begin their new lives. They had reached the promised land. • Emigrant Overton Johnson: "We were happy, after a long and tedious tour, to witness the home of civilization. To see mills, storehouses, shops. To hear the noise of the workman's hammer; to enjoy the warm welcome of countrymen and friends." From Oregon City the emigrants fanned out in all directions to stake their claims and begin their new lives. The provisional government allotted 640 acres of fertile Willamette valley farmland to every male citizen. The emigrants soon learned that the legend of Oregon was true.