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What is MDS? LibraryThing's MDS system is based on the classification work of libraries around the world, whose assignments are not copyrightable. MDS "scheduldes" the words that describe the numbers are user-added, and based on public domain editions of the system. Wordings, which are entered by members, can only come from public domain sources. Where useful or necessary, wording comes from the edition of the Dewey Decimal System. These descriptions were mainly based on the relative lack of timber and surface water. The images of sandy wastelands conjured up by terms like "desert" were tempered by the many reports of vast herds of millions of Plains Bison that somehow managed to live in this "desert".

The next available land for general settlement, Oregon, appeared to be free for the taking and had fertile lands, disease free climate yellow fever and malaria were then prevalent in much of the Missouri and Mississippi River drainage , extensive uncut, unclaimed forests, big rivers, potential seaports, and only a few nominally British settlers. Fur trappers, often working for fur traders, followed nearly all possible streams looking for beaver in the years —40 the fur trade was active.

Besides discovering and naming many of the rivers and mountains in the Intermountain West and Pacific Northwest, they often kept diaries of their travels and were available as guides and consultants when the trail started to become open for general travel. The fur trade business wound down to a very low level just as the Oregon trail traffic seriously began around They were looking for a safe location to spend the winter. Smith reasoned since the Sweetwater flowed east it must eventually run into the Missouri River. Trying to transport their extensive fur collection down the Sweetwater and North Platte River, they found after a near disastrous canoe crash that the rivers were too swift and rough for water passage.

On July 4, , they cached their furs under a dome of rock they named Independence Rock and started their long trek on foot to the Missouri River. Upon arriving back in a settled area they bought pack horses on credit and retrieved their furs.


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They had re-discovered the route that Robert Stuart had taken in —eleven years before. Thomas Fitzpatrick was often hired as a guide when the fur trade dwindled in Smith was killed by Comanche natives around Up to 3, mountain men were trappers and explorers , employed by various British and United States fur companies or working as free trappers, who roamed the North American Rocky Mountains from about to the early s. They usually traveled in small groups for mutual support and protection.

Trapping took place in the fall when the fur became prime. Mountain men primarily trapped beaver and sold the skins. Some were more interested in exploring the West. The trading supplies were brought in by a large party using pack trains originating on the Missouri River. These pack trains were then used to haul out the fur bales. They normally used the north side of the Platte River—the same route used 20 years later by the Mormon Trail.

For the next 15 years the American rendezvous was an annual event moving to different locations, usually somewhere on the Green River in the future state of Wyoming. Each rendezvous, occurring during the slack summer period, allowed the fur traders to trade for and collect the furs from the trappers and their Native American allies without having the expense of building or maintaining a fort or wintering over in the cold Rockies.

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In only a few weeks at a rendezvous a year's worth of trading and celebrating would take place as the traders took their furs and remaining supplies back east for the winter and the trappers faced another fall and winter with new supplies. Trapper Jim Beckwourth described the scene as one of "Mirth, songs, dancing, shouting, trading, running, jumping, singing, racing, target-shooting, yarns, frolic, with all sorts of extravagances that white men or Indians could invent.

He had a crew that dug out the gullies and river crossings and cleared the brush where needed. This established that the eastern part of most of the Oregon Trail was passable by wagons. In the late s the HBC instituted a policy intended to destroy or weaken the American fur trade companies. Beginning in , it visited the American Rendezvous to undersell the American traders—losing money but undercutting the American fur traders.

By the fashion in Europe and Britain shifted away from the formerly very popular beaver felt hats and prices for furs rapidly declined and the trapping almost ceased. Fur traders tried to use the Platte River, the main route of the eastern Oregon Trail, for transport but soon gave up in frustration as its many channels and islands combined with its muddy waters were too shallow, crooked and unpredictable to use for water transport. The Platte proved to be unnavigable.

The Platte River and North Platte River Valley, however, became an easy roadway for wagons, with its nearly flat plain sloping easily up and heading almost due west. There were several U. He explored most of Idaho and the Oregon Trail to the Columbia. The account of his explorations in the west was published by Washington Irving in Army's Corps of Topographical Engineers and his guide Kit Carson led three expeditions from to over parts of California and Oregon.

In , Henry H. The group was the first to travel in wagons all the way to Fort Hall, where the wagons were abandoned at the urging of their guides. They used pack animals for the rest of the trip to Fort Walla Walla and then floated by boat to Fort Vancouver to get supplies before returning to start their missions. Other missionaries, mostly husband and wife teams using wagon and pack trains, established missions in the Willamette Valley, as well as various locations in the future states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. On May 1, , a group of eighteen men from Peoria, Illinois , set out with the intention of colonizing the Oregon country on behalf of the United States of America and drive out the HBC operating there.

The men of the Peoria Party were among the first pioneers to traverse most of the Oregon Trail. The men were initially led by Thomas J. Farnham and called themselves the Oregon Dragoons. They carried a large flag emblazoned with their motto " Oregon Or The Grave ". Although the group split up near Bent's Fort on the South Platte and Farnham was deposed as leader, nine of their members eventually did reach Oregon. Meek , and their families reached Fort Walla Walla with three wagons that they had driven from Fort Hall.

Their wagons were the first to reach the Columbia River over land, and they opened the final leg of Oregon Trail to wagon traffic. In , the Bartleson-Bidwell Party was the first emigrant group credited with using the Oregon Trail to emigrate west. The group set out for California, but about half the party left the original group at Soda Springs , Idaho, and proceeded to the Willamette Valley in Oregon, leaving their wagons at Fort Hall.

On May 16, , the second organized wagon train set out from Elm Grove, Missouri, with more than pioneers. The group broke up after passing Fort Hall with most of the single men hurrying ahead and the families following later. In what was dubbed "The Great Migration of " or the "Wagon Train of ", an estimated to 1, emigrants left for Oregon. The winter before, Marcus Whitman had made a brutal mid-winter trip from Oregon to St.

Louis to appeal a decision by his mission backers to abandon several of the Oregon missions. He joined the wagon train at the Platte River for the return trip. When the pioneers were told at Fort Hall by agents from the Hudson's Bay Company that they should abandon their wagons there and use pack animals the rest of the way, Whitman disagreed and volunteered to lead the wagons to Oregon.

He believed the wagon trains were large enough that they could build whatever road improvements they needed to make the trip with their wagons. The biggest obstacle they faced was in the Blue Mountains of Oregon where they had to cut and clear a trail through heavy timber. The wagons had to be disassembled and floated down the treacherous Columbia River and the animals herded over the rough Lolo trail to get by Mt. Nearly all of the settlers in the wagon trains arrived in the Willamette Valley by early October.

A passable wagon trail now existed from the Missouri River to The Dalles. Married couples were granted at no cost except for the requirement to work and improve the land up to acres 2. As the group was a provisional government with no authority, these claims were not valid under United States or British law, but they were eventually honored by the United States in the Donation Land Act of The Donation Land Act provided for married settlers to be granted acres 1.

Consensus interpretations, as found in John Faragher's book, Women and Men on the Overland Trail , held that men and women's power within marriage was uneven. This meant that women did not experience the trail as liberating, but instead only found harder work than they had handled back east. However, feminist scholarship, by historians such as Lillian Schlissel, [23] Sandra Myres, [24] and Glenda Riley, [25] suggests men and women did not view the West and western migration in the same way. Whereas men might deem the dangers of the trail acceptable if there was a strong economic reward at the end, women viewed those dangers as threatening to the stability and survival of the family.

Once they arrived at their new western home, women's public role in building western communities and participating in the western economy gave them a greater authority than they had known back East. There was a "female frontier" that was distinct and different from that experienced by men. Women's diaries kept during their travels or the letters they wrote home once they arrived at their destination supports these contentions.

Women wrote with sadness and concern of the numerous deaths along the trail. Anna Maria King wrote to her family in about her trip to the Luckiamute Valley Oregon and of the multiple deaths experienced by her traveling group:. But listen to the deaths: Sally Chambers, John King and his wife, their little daughter Electa and their babe, a son 9 months old, and Dulancy C. Norton's sister are gone. Fuller lost his wife and daughter Tabitha. Eight of our two families have gone to their long home.

Similarly, emigrant Martha Gay Masterson , who traveled the trail with her family at the age of 13, mentioned the fascination she and other children felt for the graves and loose skulls they would find near their camps.

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Anna Maria King, like many other women, also advised family and friends back home of the realities of the trip and offered advice on how to prepare for the trip. Women also reacted and responded, often enthusiastically, to the landscape of the West. Betsey Bayley in a letter to her sister, Lucy P.

Griffith described how travelers responded to the new environment they encountered:. The mountains looked like volcanoes and the appearance that one day there had been an awful thundering of volcanoes and a burning world. The valleys were all covered with a white crust and looked like salaratus. Some of the company used it to raise their bread. Following persecution and mob action in Missouri , Illinois , and other states, and the assassination of their prophet Joseph Smith in , Mormon leader Brigham Young was chosen by the leaders of the Latter Day Saints LDS church to lead the Mormon settlers west.

He chose to lead his people to the Salt Lake Valley in present-day Utah. In Young led a small, especially picked fast-moving group of men and women from their Winter Quarters encampments near Omaha , Nebraska, and their approximately 50 temporary settlements on the Missouri River in Iowa including Council Bluffs. The initial pioneers were charged with establishing farms, growing crops, building fences and herds, and establishing preliminary settlements to feed and support the many thousands of emigrants expected in the coming years. After ferrying across the Missouri River and establishing wagon trains near what became Omaha, the Mormons followed the northern bank of the Platte River in Nebraska to Fort Laramie in present-day Wyoming.

They initially started out in with trains of several thousand emigrants, which were rapidly split into smaller groups to be more easily accommodated at the limited springs and acceptable camping places on the trail. Organized as a complete evacuation from their previous homes, farms, and cities in Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa, this group consisted of entire families with no one left behind. The much larger presence of women and children meant these wagon trains did not try to cover as much ground in a single day as Oregon and California bound emigrants. Between and , over 43, Mormon settlers and tens of thousands of travelers on the California Trail and Oregon Trail followed Young to Utah.

Starting in , many of the poorer Mormon travelers made the trek with hand built handcarts and fewer wagons. Accompanying wagons carried more food and supplies. Upon arrival in Utah, the handcart pioneers were given or found jobs and accommodations by individual Mormon families for the winter until they could become established. About 3, out of over 60, Mormon pioneers came across with handcarts. Along the Mormon Trail, the Mormon pioneers established a number of ferries and made trail improvements to help later travelers and earn much needed money.

One of the better known ferries was the Mormon Ferry across the North Platte near the future site of Fort Caspar in Wyoming which operated between and and the Green River ferry near Fort Bridger which operated from to To get there, they helped build the Lassen Branch of the Applegate-Lassen Trail by cutting a wagon road through extensive forests.

Many returned with significant gold which helped jump-start the Oregon economy. The "adjusted" [33] U. Census of California showed this rush was overwhelmingly male with about , males to 8, females with about 5, women over age The relative scarcity of women gave them many opportunities to do many more things that were not "normally" considered "women's work" of this era.

The trail was still in use during the Civil War , but traffic declined after when the Panama Railroad across the Isthmus of Panama was completed. Paddle wheel steamships and sailing ships, often heavily subsidized to carry the mail, provided rapid transport to and from the east coast and New Orleans , Louisiana, to and from Panama to ports in California and Oregon. Over the years many ferries were established to help get across the many rivers on the path of the Oregon Trail. During peak immigration periods several ferries on any given river often competed for pioneer dollars.

These ferries significantly increased speed and safety for Oregon Trail travelers. Ferries also helped prevent death by drowning at river crossings. In April , an expedition of U. Simpson left Camp Floyd, Utah , to establish an army supply route across the Great Basin to the eastern slope of the Sierras. This route went through central Nevada roughly where U. The Army improved the trail for use by wagons and stagecoaches in and Joseph, Missouri , to Sacramento, California.

In , John Butterfield , who since had been using the Butterfield Overland Mail, also switched to the Central Route to avoid traveling through hostile territories during the American Civil War. George Chorpenning immediately realized the value of this more direct route, and shifted his existing mail and passenger line along with their stations from the "Northern Route" California Trail along the Humboldt River.

Several stage lines were set up carrying mail and passengers that traversed much of the route of the original Oregon Trail to Fort Bridger and from there over the Central Overland Route to California. By traveling day and night with many stations and changes of teams and extensive mail subsidies , these stages could get passengers and mail from the midwest to California in about 25 to 28 days.

The Pony Express folded in as they failed to receive an expected mail contract from the U. After the First Transcontinental Railroad was completed in , telegraph lines usually followed the railroad tracks as the required relay stations and telegraph lines were much easier to maintain alongside the tracks. Telegraph lines to unpopulated areas were largely abandoned. Offshoots of the trail continued to grow as gold and silver discoveries, farming, lumbering, ranching, and business opportunities resulted in much more traffic to many areas.

Traffic became two-directional as towns were established along the trail. By the population in the states served by the Oregon Trail and its offshoots increased by about , over their census levels. With the exception of most of the , population increase in California, most of these people living away from the coast traveled over parts of the Oregon Trail and its many extensions and cutoffs to get to their new residences. Even before the famous Texas cattle drives after the Civil War, the trail was being used to drive herds of thousands of cattle, horses, sheep, and goats from the midwest to various towns and cities along the trails.

According to studies by trail historian John Unruh the livestock may have been as plentiful or more plentiful than the immigrants in many years. Large losses could occur and the drovers would still make significant profit. As the emigrant travel on the trail declined in later years and after livestock ranches were established at many places along the trail large herds of animals often were driven along part of the trail to get to and from markets. Contemporary interest in the overland trek has prompted the states and federal government to preserve landmarks on the trail including wagon ruts, buildings, and "registers" where emigrants carved their names.

Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries there have been a number of re-enactments of the trek with participants wearing period garments and traveling by wagon. As the trail developed it became marked by many cutoffs and shortcuts from Missouri to Oregon. The basic route follows river valleys as grass and water were absolutely necessary. While the first few parties organized and departed from Elm Grove, the Oregon Trail's primary starting point was Independence, Missouri , or Westport , which was annexed into modern day Kansas City , on the Missouri River.

Later, several feeder trails led across Kansas, and some towns became starting points, including Weston , Fort Leavenworth , Atchison , St.

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Joseph, and Omaha. The Oregon Trail's nominal termination point was Oregon City , at the time the proposed capital of the Oregon Territory. However, many settlers branched off or stopped short of this goal and settled at convenient or promising locations along the trail. Commerce with pioneers going further west helped establish these early settlements and launched local economies critical to their prosperity. At dangerous or difficult river crossings, ferries or toll bridges were set up and bad places on the trail were either repaired or bypassed. Several toll roads were constructed. Gradually the trail became easier with the average trip as recorded in numerous diaries dropping from about days in to days 10 years later.

Because it was more a network of trails than a single trail, there were numerous variations with other trails eventually established on both sides of the Platte, North Platte, Snake, and Columbia rivers. With literally thousands of people and thousands of livestock traveling in a fairly small time slot the travelers had to spread out to find clean water, wood, good campsites, and grass.

The dust kicked up by the many travelers was a constant complaint, and where the terrain would allow it there may have been between 20 and 50 wagons traveling abreast.

Travelers starting in Independence had to ferry across the Missouri River. After following the Santa Fe trail to near present-day Topeka , they ferried across the Kansas River to start the trek across Kansas and points west. Another busy "jumping off point" was St. Joseph —established in Joseph was a bustling outpost and rough frontier town, serving as one of the last supply points before heading over the Missouri River to the frontier.

Joseph had good steamboat connections to St. Louis and other ports on the combined Ohio , Missouri , and Mississippi River systems.

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During the busy season there were several ferry boats and steamboats available to transport travelers to the Kansas shore where they started their travels westward. Before the Union Pacific Railroad was started in , St. Joseph was the westernmost point in the United States accessible by rail. The future states of Iowa and Missouri, located west of the Mississippi River and east of Missouri River, were part of this purchase.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition stopped several times in the future state of Iowa on their — expedition to the west coast. As punishment for the uprising, and as part of a larger settlement strategy, treaties were subsequently designed to remove all Native Americans from Iowa Territory. Some settlers started drifting into Iowa in Congress laws establishing the Territory of Iowa. Iowa was located opposite the junction of the Platte and Missouri rivers and was used by some of the fur trapper rendezvous traders as a starting point for their supply expeditions.

In the Mormons , expelled from Nauvoo, Illinois , traversed Iowa on part of the Mormon Trail and settled temporarily in significant numbers on the Missouri River in Iowa and the future state of Nebraska at their Winter Quarters near the future city of Omaha, Nebraska. See: Missouri River settlements — [45] The Mormons established about 50 temporary towns including the town of Kanesville, Iowa renamed Council Bluffs in on the east bank of the Missouri River opposite the mouth of the Platte River. For those travelers to Oregon, California, and Utah who were bringing their teams to the Platte River junction Kanesville and other towns became major "jumping off places" and supply points.

In the Mormons established three ferries across the Missouri River and others established even more ferries for the spring start on the trail. In the census there were about 8, mostly Mormons tabulated in the large Pottawattamie County, Iowa District The original Pottawattamie County was subsequently made into five counties and parts of several more. By most of the Mormon towns, farms and villages were largely taken over by non-Mormons as they abandoned them or sold them for not much and continued their migration to Utah.

After the towns of Council Bluffs, Iowa, Omaha est. After crossing Mount Oread at Lawrence , the trail crosses the Kansas River by ferry or boats near Topeka and crossed the Wakarusa and Black Vermillion rivers by ferries. Travel by wagon over the gently rolling Kansas countryside was usually unimpeded except where streams had cut steep banks.

There a passage could be made with a lot of shovel work to cut down the banks or the travelers could find an already established crossing. Those emigrants on the eastern side of the Missouri River in Missouri or Iowa used ferries and steamboats fitted out for ferry duty to cross into towns in Nebraska.


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Several towns in Nebraska were used as jumping off places with Omaha eventually becoming a favorite after about Fort Kearny est. The army maintained fort was the first chance on the trail to buy emergency supplies, do repairs, get medical aid, or mail a letter. Those on the north side of the Platte could usually wade the shallow river if they needed to visit the fort.

The Platte River and the North Platte River in the future states of Nebraska and Wyoming typically had many channels and islands and were too shallow, crooked, muddy and unpredictable for travel even by canoe. The Platte as it pursued its braided paths to the Missouri River was "too thin to plow and too thick to drink". While unusable for transportation, the Platte River and North Platte River valleys provided an easily passable wagon corridor going almost due west with access to water, grass, buffalo, and buffalo chips for fuel.

There were trails on both sides of the muddy rivers. The Platte was about 1 mile 1. The water was silty and bad tasting but it could be used if no other water was available. In the spring in Nebraska and Wyoming the travelers often encountered fierce wind, rain and lightning storms. Until about travelers encountered hundreds of thousands of bison migrating through Nebraska on both sides of the Platte River, and most travelers killed several for fresh meat and to build up their supplies of dried jerky for the rest of the journey.

The prairie grass in many places was several feet high with only the hat of a traveler on horseback showing as they passed through the prairie grass. In many years the Native Americans fired much of the dry grass on the prairie every fall so the only trees or bushes available for firewood were on islands in the Platte River. Travelers gathered and ignited dried cow dung to cook their meals. These burned fast in a breeze, and it could take two or more bushels of chips to get one meal prepared.

Those traveling south of the Platte crossed the South Platte fork at one of about three ferries in dry years it could be forded without a ferry before continuing up the North Platte River Valley into present-day Wyoming heading to Fort Laramie. Before those on the north side of the Platte crossed the North Platte to the south side at Fort Laramie. After they used Child's Cutoff to stay on the north side to about the present day town of Casper , Wyoming, where they crossed over to the south side.

From there U. Highway 30 which follows the Platte River is a better approximate path for those traveling the north side of the Platte. Because of the Platte's brackish water, the preferred camping spots were along one of the many fresh water streams draining into the Platte or the occasional fresh water spring found along the way. These preferred camping spots became sources of cholera in the epidemic years — as many thousands of people used the same camping spots with essentially no sewage facilities or adequate sewage treatment.

The cause of cholera ingesting the Vibrio cholerae bacterium from contaminated water and the best treatment for cholera infections were unknown in this era. Thousands of travelers on the combined California, Oregon, and Mormon trails succumbed to cholera between and Most were buried in unmarked graves in Kansas, Nebraska and Wyoming. Light soiling to covers and small sticker mark to front cover, otherwise good.

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