Immigration is in the news a lot these days. No matter your opinion about today’s immigration controversy, the truth is that at one time, the U.S. government encouraged its population to leave America. Yes, that’s right. The federal government wanted people to emigrate to Oregon Country. And almost 400,000 people did.
When people first began emigrating to the West, it was not part of the country. But the United States had its eyes on the West and believed that settlement would help their case. Although people who emigrated to the West stopped and started at different locations, the Oregon Trail was most commonly used—a 2,170-mile trail from Independence, Missouri to the Willamette Valley in Oregon.
The Oregon Trail: The Journey Across the Country from Lewis and Clark to the Transcontinental Railroad (I know, a mouthful of a title, right?) shares the stories of people who made hazardous journeys to new lives. From fur trappers and traders to pioneers and railroad workers, this is the tale of generations of explorers.
Readers ages 9 to 12 also have the opportunity to learn more with the 25 projects included in the book and QR codes that lead to more information, including Primary Source information.
10 Interesting facts about the Oregon Trail:
- 180 years after the fact, you can still see some of the wagon ruts in the land where people traveled.
- Most likely, the Lewis & Clark expedition wouldn’t have succeeded without the help of a 17-year-old Shoshone woman (and mother)—Sacagawea.
- If you spread the number of deaths along the trail, you would see 10-15 deaths per mile. The majority of deaths were due to disease such as cholera and dysentery.
- It would take today’s teenager an average of 334 days of walking to make the trip
- The first African American to make the trip to the Pacific coast was York, who traveled with William Clark as a servant and companion. He was an indispensable member of the Lewis & Clark expedition—he hunted, cooked, and provided medical care. Although York was treated equally on the journey, he was still a slave denied his freedom for almost 10 years after the end of the expedition.
- The Oregon Trail was too rough for Conestoga wagons. Instead, most wagon travelers used Prairie schooners, essentially a cart on wheels (a very uncomfortable ride). Prairie schooners could carry over a ton of cargo and when properly caulked, float on rivers.
- You’ve seen graffiti marking who has been at a location, right? Did you know the pioneers who traveled west did something similar? Pioneers carved their name and where they were from on “register rocks,” such as Independence Rock along the trail.
- Westward Expansion and the Oregon Trail weren’t all good. The trail was responsible for the displacement of many Native American tribes. As far as deaths on the Oregon Trail, more Native Americans were killed than pioneers.
- One of the most popular computer games in history was made by teachers wanting to get children excited about history. More than 40 years old, the Oregon Trail game allowed players to purchase supplies and see if they could make it West (personally, I never won).
- Most of the travelers on the Oregon Trail settled somewhere besides Oregon. Only about 20% settled in Oregon. Others settled in California, Wyoming, and Idaho.
Go to Amazon to buy The Oregon Trail today.