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Oregon Trail Essay Research Paper Oregon TrailThe

Oregon Trail Essay, Research Paper Oregon TrailThe Oregon Trail was a route followed by American emigrants as they moved westward during the middle nineteenth century. Along this route, the settlers would face many challenges such as Indian attacks, fierce weather, difficult terrain features, and many diseases.

Oregon Trail Essay, Research Paper

Oregon TrailThe Oregon Trail was a route followed by American emigrants as they moved westward during the middle nineteenth century. Along this route, the settlers would face many challenges such as Indian attacks, fierce weather, difficult terrain features, and many diseases. Although these tasks proved to be formidable, nearly four hundred thousand people would eventually travel along the trail. This paper will relate some of the settlers’ thoughts of the land and describe some of the dominant land features most settlers encountered along the trail. The origin of the Oregon Trail can be traced back to the Native Americans and early trappers. Roaming the frontier, both groups frequently crossed sections of the trail. In seventeen forty-two a Canadian explorer named Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, ventured upon sections of the trail in Wyoming. Sixty-two years later, the Lewis and Clark Expedition would return with accounts of the trail, making it more known. Finally, in eighteen-twelve Robert Stuart and a party of explorers traveled along the trail, backwards. Stuart’s party discovered South Pass, which would provide a route of travel through the Rocky Mountains. This discovery opened the door to the West for thousands of settlers. Stuart’s discovery of the South Pass did not immediately cause a massive migration west. The first group to travel west were the missionaries. Sent by churches in the East, missionaries moved west in order to introduce and convert the Native Americans into Christianity. In nineteen thirty-six Marcus Whitman and his wife, accompanied by Henry and Eliza Spalding headed toward Oregon Country. These missionaries would send back letters explaining the vast opportunities of Oregon. The Depressions of eighteen thirty-seven and eighteen forty-one would be the driving force behind a massive movement west. Many farmers and businesspersons were hard hit by depression and headed west with nothing to lose. Another factor that caused a western migration concerned the claim in which Britain had on the Northwest. The government was concerned with British expansion and encouraged Americans to emigrate west. The great migration began in nineteen forty-three. Large groups of emigrants assembled near the Missouri River and traveled west in caravans. Over one thousand people reached Oregon in nineteen forty-three alone. In the years following, the trail became more popular and within the next twenty-five years more than a half million people travelled west on the Oregon Trail. Some travelled to Oregon’s Willamette Valley for rich farmland and others headed to California with dreams of finding gold. The Oregon Trail was about two thousand miles long (thirty-two hundred kilometers). Beginning in Independence, Missouri, and ending near the Colombia River, the trail passed through several states (in this time period only three states existed west of the Mississippi River) including Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon. Along the route settlers were forced to cross many rivers including the Platte, Bear, and Umatilla Rivers. Settlers also had to prepare themselves to cross several mountain ranges. The Rocky Mountains and the Blue Mountains proved to be difficult tasks to cross. Long stretches of prairie and desert had to be crossed before reaching Oregon Country. The journey would take five or six months and would usually begin in the Spring. The settlers would usually begin their long journey in St. Louis, Missouri. Here, they would load their wagons onto steamships that would take them up the Missouri River. Stuart commented that the Missouri River was about one-fourth mile wide and it had a very rapid current. The water was extremely muddy and the large number of dead trees floating in the water made navigation difficult. Other pioneers remarked about the strong current on the Missouri. Upon reaching their destination, the settlers would unload their wagons at one of several small towns, many chose Independence, Missouri. At Independence, the settlers would make camp on a prairie just outside of town. This area would eventually become cramped with hundreds of people waiting to move west. Settlers camped at this area waiting for the grass to grow. One settler commented that if one was to head west too early the grass would be too short for the animals to graze upon. This mistake could be fatal. Sometimes the settlers would wait three to four weeks for it to rain so the grass would grow on the plains. In the down time most settlers bought supplies and double-checked their wagons. Beginning their voyage, the settlers headed west across the great plains. Many settlers commented that the soil initially seemed to be fertile, later saying this fertility was not equal throughout the area. Members of Stuart’s party reported that the rugged hills were bad for farming but made excellent grazing for cattle. In this area timber was rather abundant as Stuart mentioned the presence of several trees including the Cotton-wood, Sycamore, and the Ash. Others mentioned the game in which the land supported, specifically mentioning Elk, Deer, and Turkeys. The pioneers continued west, traveling six days a week and averaging fifteen miles per day. Shortly into the journey the settlers were forced to cross the Kansas River. Rivers were extremely difficult to cross with a fully loaded wagon. In many cases, people or wagons were lost to the rivers. One diarist described an incident in which the water pushed a wagon downstream. The people inside panicked and jumped into the water all swimming to safety. However, this was not always the case. Common at river crossings were tollman who charged fees for using their bridge or ferry. After crossing the Kansas River the settlers continued to travel northwest. The land was noted as being fertile with an abundant supply of water. Most settlers were just getting used to the trip by the time they reached Alcove Spring. This campsite quickly became a trail landmark. One pioneer described Alcove Spring as a large water spring, with clear cold water. Another described his desire to end his journey and begin farming in this area. Most settlers camped in this area for a night and continued westward. Shortly after departing from Alcove Spring, the settlers had to cross the Big Blue River. After crossing the river, they traveled out of Kansas and into Nebraska. It was at this point that many settlers began noticing a change in terrain. Some described the soft rolling hills, while others described the smooth burnt prairies. Stuart described the soil as being good, the grass was shorter than previously, and the livestock seemed to enjoy it better. There were small bodies of timber present that helped conceal the Elk, Deer, and Beaver that roamed the land. Travelling further west the terrain gradually began to change. The soft rolling hills disappeared, the timber in the area amounted to nothing more than a few scattered trees, and the soil lost its fertility and became sandy. One settler writes about the problem with fuel. Buffalo dung quickly became the dominant source of fuel for most settlers. Many settlers were seen out gathering dung for the purpose of cooking. Although the land was dry and barren the Platte River provided a water source. The Platte River was described as “a very muddy stream” and the water was not considered to be too pure. It was near this river that settlers would encounter few trees and small amounts of fertile soil. Stuart described the river banks as being lime stone with a few Cedar trees present. Travelling away from the river the land once again became extremely dry and barren. The monotony of plains travel would be broken up as the settlers entered the North Platte River Valley. Ash Hollow was located in this area and quickly became a popular landmark for the pioneers. It was here that settlers could find fresh, clean water. In this area settlers encountered trees, the first seen in over a hundred miles. Pioneers describe this area as having flowers, grape vines, and bushes. Another writes about the cold water, said to come from a spring. Shortly after departing Ash Hollow the settlers would encounter another historic landmark. Chimney Rock was considered to be the most spectacular landmark on the trail. This was a large hill with a long, skinny pointing peak. One pioneer described it as being the eighth wonder of the world. The settlers would encounter another wonder thirty-five miles west at Scotts Bluffs. This bluff stood above the rest of the land and the settlers would sometimes find it difficult to pass. Accounts of Scotts Bluff are much like Chimney Rock, pure amazement. This landmark also was significant because it indicated that the settlers had progressed through one-third of their journey. Leaving Scotts Bluff and Chimney Rock behind, the settlers could look forward to camping at Fort Laramie. This was the settlers last chance to resupply and repair their wagons before heading into the mountains. Departing from Fort Laramie the settlers encountered barren landscapes with hills rising in the south. After travelling for several days the settlers would have to cross the Great Platte River. This difficult task was responsible for many drownings along the trail. Stuart described the Platte River as being very swift and difficult to cross. Later he mentioned the fact that his party had lost supplies while crossing the river. Shortly after crossing the Platte River the pioneers would venture upon a large rock, called Independence Rock. This rock became a landmark to the settlers because it marked the beginning of the ascent to the Continental Divide and the settlers often camped here and chiseled messages in the rock. As the caravans continued to travel west the land began to change. Rather than a flat plain, the terrain shifted to large mountains. Stuart described the Rocky mountains as having jagged peaks at some points and others having almost flat tops. The base of the mountains were covered by grasslands giving way to Pine trees upon higher grounds. After passing the lower grasslands, water, buffalo, and grass all became scarce. The South Pass became another important landmark along the Oregon Trail. Many settlers failed to realize they had cleared the Continental Divide. One settler noted that he perceived the South Pass as being very narrow and difficult to travel. In fact, it was almost twenty miles wide. The South Pass was essential for the pioneers to successfully cross the Rocky Mountains. Leaving the Rocky Mountains behind the settlers continued west and were forced to make a crucial decision. Those travellers that took Sublette Cutoff travelled across another stretch of dry, barren country lacking water and grass. This short-cut, if successful, would save the settlers eighty-five miles and about a week of travel. Many chose to stay on the trail and take the longer, safer route. When Sublette Cutoff and the Oregon Trail re-joined the settlers followed Bear River into Idaho. Stuart described this area as having a soil composed of mainly gravel. The bottom of the mountains were made from a hard black rock. Scattered about the ground were many large rocks and dead trees. One settler described that he saw mountains on the left and mountains on the right, but the path in which they were travelling contained only short hills. After several days of travel the pioneers would come to a decisive point. Hudspeth Cutoff led to the southwest and would take settlers to the California Road. It was at this point the settlers would have to choose between California and Oregon. One settler described the scene in which many wagons went south and the rest continued west. The settlers continuing west along the Oregon Trail would shortly run into the Snake River and follow this river west. Stuart described this area as being a smooth plain, possessing a parched, sandy soil with dust and gravel. Livestock were able to feed on clumps of grass and the foliage of trees. The land supported trees such as the Worm Wood and the Salt Wood and a few species of berries. The pioneers continued to follow the Snake River west, enduring the sandy plains and the poor vegetation. Stuart noted that in this area it was difficult to walk because the ground was full of grass clumps. Eventually, the settlers were forced to make an important decision. They could cross the Snake River here or stay south of the river and follow it around the bend. The settlers that chose to cross did so at Three Island Crossing. This river crossing was very dangerous. One pioneer explains that two men lost a mule while trying to cross. Both men tried saving the mule and drowned themselves. The bodies were never recovered. Many chose to travel out of their way south, rather than cross the dangerous Snake River. The land west of the Snake River remained to be dry and desolate. The pioneers were now reaching the two-thirds point in their journey. Most were exhausted and wanted to stop, but the final third portion of the journey was the most difficult. The settlers knew they had to cross the Oregon mountain ranges before the winter snows arrived. Heading into Oregon the land began to change. Stuart describes the soil as being sandy and full of large brown gravel, sufficient enough to grow trees and vegetation. The prairie was accompanied by low sandy hills with the mountains visible to the north. The first range of mountains to be crossed was the Blue Mountains. Settlers describe the Blue Mountains as rough travelling. The rocks were all disordered and it was hard to keep ones footing. Loose rocks made it common for settlers to fall or create small rock slides. Stuart described the Blue Mountains as having a large number of Pine trees. He mentioned that at some points trees became so thick a person could barely see ahead of themselves. Also mentioned was the abundance of animals including Deer, Elk, and Beaver. Many settlers noted that travel through the Blue Mountains was one of the most difficult tasks along the journey. Descending from the treacherous Blue Mountains the settlers would see the Cascade Mountains to the west. The Cascades represented the final obstacle on the Oregon Trail. The settlers now travelled along the Columbia River. Stuart noted that this land had an abundant amount of timber specifically mentioning Pines trees and Oak trees. Travelling across the short plain between mountain ridges provided most settlers with the energy to cross the Cascade Mountains. Most settlers describe these mountains as similar to the Blue Mountains. Many loose rocks and downed trees existed, which made travelling more difficult. A great number of Pine trees covered most of the mountain. Settlers continued to travel at a fast pace fearing a snow, while in the mountains. Finally, clearing the Cascade Mountain Range most settlers looked south to the Willamette Valley as their future homes.

In conclusion, the settlers who travelled the Oregon Trail did not know they were making history. By simply using their instincts and enduring the hardships of the land, they decided the fate of the Western United States. Many of the landmarks in which they first passed are still quite popular today. The settlers who kept records have made it possible for historians to analyze these records. Historians can now write about the thoughts and feelings of the settlers as they headed West. The Oregon Trail was a route followed by American emigrants as they moved westward during the middle nineteenth century. Along this route, the settlers would face many challenges such as Indian attacks, fierce weather, difficult terrain features, and many diseases. Although these tasks proved to be formidable, nearly four hundred thousand people would eventually travel along the trail. This paper will relate some of the settlers’ thoughts of the land and describe some of the dominant land features most settlers encountered along the trail. The origin of the Oregon Trail can be traced back to the Native Americans and early trappers. Roaming the frontier, both groups frequently crossed sections of the trail. In seventeen forty-two a Canadian explorer named Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, ventured upon sections of the trail in Wyoming. Sixty-two years later, the Lewis and Clark Expedition would return with accounts of the trail, making it more known. Finally, in eighteen-twelve Robert Stuart and a party of explorers traveled along the trail, backwards. Stuart’s party discovered South Pass, which would provide a route of travel through the Rocky Mountains. This discovery opened the door to the West for thousands of settlers. Stuart’s discovery of the South Pass did not immediately cause a massive migration west. The first group to travel west were the missionaries. Sent by churches in the East, missionaries moved west in order to introduce and convert the Native Americans into Christianity. In nineteen thirty-six Marcus Whitman and his wife, accompanied by Henry and Eliza Spalding headed toward Oregon Country. These missionaries would send back letters explaining the vast opportunities of Oregon. The Depressions of eighteen thirty-seven and eighteen forty-one would be the driving force behind a massive movement west. Many farmers and businesspersons were hard hit by depression and headed west with nothing to lose. Another factor that caused a western migration concerned the claim in which Britain had on the Northwest. The government was concerned with British expansion and encouraged Americans to emigrate west. The great migration began in nineteen forty-three. Large groups of emigrants assembled near the Missouri River and traveled west in caravans. Over one thousand people reached Oregon in nineteen forty-three alone. In the years following, the trail became more popular and within the next twenty-five years more than a half million people travelled west on the Oregon Trail. Some travelled to Oregon’s Willamette Valley for rich farmland and others headed to California with dreams of finding gold. The Oregon Trail was about two thousand miles long (thirty-two hundred kilometers). Beginning in Independence, Missouri, and ending near the Colombia River, the trail passed through several states (in this time period only three states existed west of the Mississippi River) including Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon. Along the route settlers were forced to cross many rivers including the Platte, Bear, and Umatilla Rivers. Settlers also had to prepare themselves to cross several mountain ranges. The Rocky Mountains and the Blue Mountains proved to be difficult tasks to cross. Long stretches of prairie and desert had to be crossed before reaching Oregon Country. The journey would take five or six months and would usually begin in the Spring. The settlers would usually begin their long journey in St. Louis, Missouri. Here, they would load their wagons onto steamships that would take them up the Missouri River. Stuart commented that the Missouri River was about one-fourth mile wide and it had a very rapid current. The water was extremely muddy and the large number of dead trees floating in the water made navigation difficult. Other pioneers remarked about the strong current on the Missouri. Upon reaching their destination, the settlers would unload their wagons at one of several small towns, many chose Independence, Missouri. At Independence, the settlers would make camp on a prairie just outside of town. This area would eventually become cramped with hundreds of people waiting to move west. Settlers camped at this area waiting for the grass to grow. One settler commented that if one was to head west too early the grass would be too short for the animals to graze upon. This mistake could be fatal. Sometimes the settlers would wait three to four weeks for it to rain so the grass would grow on the plains. In the down time most settlers bought supplies and double-checked their wagons. Beginning their voyage, the settlers headed west across the great plains. Many settlers commented that the soil initially seemed to be fertile, later saying this fertility was not equal throughout the area. Members of Stuart’s party reported that the rugged hills were bad for farming but made excellent grazing for cattle. In this area timber was rather abundant as Stuart mentioned the presence of several trees including the Cotton-wood, Sycamore, and the Ash. Others mentioned the game in which the land supported, specifically mentioning Elk, Deer, and Turkeys. The pioneers continued west, traveling six days a week and averaging fifteen miles per day. Shortly into the journey the settlers were forced to cross the Kansas River. Rivers were extremely difficult to cross with a fully loaded wagon. In many cases, people or wagons were lost to the rivers. One diarist described an incident in which the water pushed a wagon downstream. The people inside panicked and jumped into the water all swimming to safety. However, this was not always the case. Common at river crossings were tollman who charged fees for using their bridge or ferry. After crossing the Kansas River the settlers continued to travel northwest. The land was noted as being fertile with an abundant supply of water. Most settlers were just getting used to the trip by the time they reached Alcove Spring. This campsite quickly became a trail landmark. One pioneer described Alcove Spring as a large water spring, with clear cold water. Another described his desire to end his journey and begin farming in this area. Most settlers camped in this area for a night and continued westward. Shortly after departing from Alcove Spring, the settlers had to cross the Big Blue River. After crossing the river, they traveled out of Kansas and into Nebraska. It was at this point that many settlers began noticing a change in terrain. Some described the soft rolling hills, while others described the smooth burnt prairies. Stuart described the soil as being good, the grass was shorter than previously, and the livestock seemed to enjoy it better. There were small bodies of timber present that helped conceal the Elk, Deer, and Beaver that roamed the land. Travelling further west the terrain gradually began to change. The soft rolling hills disappeared, the timber in the area amounted to nothing more than a few scattered trees, and the soil lost its fertility and became sandy. One settler writes about the problem with fuel. Buffalo dung quickly became the dominant source of fuel for most settlers. Many settlers were seen out gathering dung for the purpose of cooking. Although the land was dry and barren the Platte River provided a water source. The Platte River was described as “a very muddy stream” and the water was not considered to be too pure. It was near this river that settlers would encounter few trees and small amounts of fertile soil. Stuart described the river banks as being lime stone with a few Cedar trees present. Travelling away from the river the land once again became extremely dry and barren. The monotony of plains travel would be broken up as the settlers entered the North Platte River Valley. Ash Hollow was located in this area and quickly became a popular landmark for the pioneers. It was here that settlers could find fresh, clean water. In this area settlers encountered trees, the first seen in over a hundred miles. Pioneers describe this area as having flowers, grape vines, and bushes. Another writes about the cold water, said to come from a spring. Shortly after departing Ash Hollow the settlers would encounter another historic landmark. Chimney Rock was considered to be the most spectacular landmark on the trail. This was a large hill with a long, skinny pointing peak. One pioneer described it as being the eighth wonder of the world. The settlers would encounter another wonder thirty-five miles west at Scotts Bluffs. This bluff stood above the rest of the land and the settlers would sometimes find it difficult to pass. Accounts of Scotts Bluff are much like Chimney Rock, pure amazement. This landmark also was significant because it indicated that the settlers had progressed through one-third of their journey. Leaving Scotts Bluff and Chimney Rock behind, the settlers could look forward to camping at Fort Laramie. This was the settlers last chance to resupply and repair their wagons before heading into the mountains. Departing from Fort Laramie the settlers encountered barren landscapes with hills rising in the south. After travelling for several days the settlers would have to cross the Great Platte River. This difficult task was responsible for many drownings along the trail. Stuart described the Platte River as being very swift and difficult to cross. Later he mentioned the fact that his party had lost supplies while crossing the river. Shortly after crossing the Platte River the pioneers would venture upon a large rock, called Independence Rock. This rock became a landmark to the settlers because it marked the beginning of the ascent to the Continental Divide and the settlers often camped here and chiseled messages in the rock. As the caravans continued to travel west the land began to change. Rather than a flat plain, the terrain shifted to large mountains. Stuart described the Rocky mountains as having jagged peaks at some points and others having almost flat tops. The base of the mountains were covered by grasslands giving way to Pine trees upon higher grounds. After passing the lower grasslands, water, buffalo, and grass all became scarce. The South Pass became another important landmark along the Oregon Trail. Many settlers failed to realize they had cleared the Continental Divide. One settler noted that he perceived the South Pass as being very narrow and difficult to travel. In fact, it was almost twenty miles wide. The South Pass was essential for the pioneers to successfully cross the Rocky Mountains. Leaving the Rocky Mountains behind the settlers continued west and were forced to make a crucial decision. Those travellers that took Sublette Cutoff travelled across another stretch of dry, barren country lacking water and grass. This short-cut, if successful, would save the settlers eighty-five miles and about a week of travel. Many chose to stay on the trail and take the longer, safer route. When Sublette Cutoff and the Oregon Trail re-joined the settlers followed Bear River into Idaho. Stuart described this area as having a soil composed of mainly gravel. The bottom of the mountains were made from a hard black rock. Scattered about the ground were many large rocks and dead trees. One settler described that he saw mountains on the left and mountains on the right, but the path in which they were travelling contained only short hills. After several days of travel the pioneers would come to a decisive point. Hudspeth Cutoff led to the southwest and would take settlers to the California Road. It was at this point the settlers would have to choose between California and Oregon. One settler described the scene in which many wagons went south and the rest continued west. The settlers continuing west along the Oregon Trail would shortly run into the Snake River and follow this river west. Stuart described this area as being a smooth plain, possessing a parched, sandy soil with dust and gravel. Livestock were able to feed on clumps of grass and the foliage of trees. The land supported trees such as the Worm Wood and the Salt Wood and a few species of berries. The pioneers continued to follow the Snake River west, enduring the sandy plains and the poor vegetation. Stuart noted that in this area it was difficult to walk because the ground was full of grass clumps. Eventually, the settlers were forced to make an important decision. They could cross the Snake River here or stay south of the river and follow it around the bend. The settlers that chose to cross did so at Three Island Crossing. This river crossing was very dangerous. One pioneer explains that two men lost a mule while trying to cross. Both men tried saving the mule and drowned themselves. The bodies were never recovered. Many chose to travel out of their way south, rather than cross the dangerous Snake River. The land west of the Snake River remained to be dry and desolate. The pioneers were now reaching the two-thirds point in their journey. Most were exhausted and wanted to stop, but the final third portion of the journey was the most difficult. The settlers knew they had to cross the Oregon mountain ranges before the winter snows arrived. Heading into Oregon the land began to change. Stuart describes the soil as being sandy and full of large brown gravel, sufficient enough to grow trees and vegetation. The prairie was accompanied by low sandy hills with the mountains visible to the north. The first range of mountains to be crossed was the Blue Mountains. Settlers describe the Blue Mountains as rough travelling. The rocks were all disordered and it was hard to keep ones footing. Loose rocks made it common for settlers to fall or create small rock slides. Stuart described the Blue Mountains as having a large number of Pine trees. He mentioned that at some points trees became so thick a person could barely see ahead of themselves. Also mentioned was the abundance of animals including Deer, Elk, and Beaver. Many settlers

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