May 16 - A Wagon Train Heads for Oregon

Posted on May 16, 2022

This is an update of my post published on May 16, 2011:

A thousand people with horses, mules, oxen, dogs, possessions piled high in wagons—and they're off!

On this day in 1843, the first large wagon train left Elm Grove, Missouri, bound for Oregon City, Oregon. About 1,000 pioneers made up the wagon train, which traveled about 2,000 miles to their new homes.

Pioneers were told to take enough food for each person for three or four months—25 pounds of bacon per person, 150 pounds of flour per person, 25 pounds of sugar per person, and a lot of other foodstuffs. Of course, bringing along a cow for milk and emergency meat was also recommended!

Check out the packing lists—including food, clothing, medicines, and camping equipment—here.

Apparently the Oregon Trail constantly improved in road quality, ferries, and bridges, so that pioneers traveling just three years after might have a significantly easier passage. Also, it got to be that Oregon Trail travelers could purchase repairs, new supplies, and new teams of animals to pull the wagons (mostly mules and oxen) at various forts and trading posts.

Find out more...

  • If you can find it, the book Moccasin Trail by Eloise Jarvis McGraw depicts a family living during the exciting transition when fur trappers traipsing the Western lands to pioneers settling them. The book is a bit rah!-rah! about the pioneers settling Native American lands, but given the fact that the main character is a white boy whose life was saved by Crow Indians, with whom he lived for years and identified with, it is an interesting book to read and discuss.

  • Here is an interactive map of the Oregon Trail. 
  • Here is the famous game about the Oregon Trail created by thinkquest. 
  • Here are some pages with activities to help you learn about pioneer life!

Also on this date:

Biographers Day

Anniversary of discontinuance of half dime and introduction of nickel

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