The Oregon Trail AP Us History 12/11/2012 RISHON LOPER | Rishon Loper December 11, 2012 Mr. Petter Ap US History The Oregon Trail The Oregon Trail was a wagon route and emigrant trail that connected the Missouri Valley to valleys in Oregon. It opened new ways of life in the west coast. The Oregon Trail was the beginning of an increased expansionism west, resurfacing the issues of slavery and sectionalism and forever changing the economy of America. “The Oregon Trail was a pathway to the west” (Think Quest).
The expansion to the west started around 1843 when pioneers moved towards the west coast. These Missouri valley people left their homes because of hearing of an untouched paradise to start a better life. They heard of this fertile land that was theirs for taking” (Crossing the Oregon Trail). Nearly 10,000 Americans roamed this trail. The trail lasted about 2,000 miles with the Oregon Trail and California trail being the same route for half of the distance. “It took six or seven months (give or take one) to travel the whole trail” (The Far Western Frontier, 1830-1860).
The goal was to depart at the end of April and arrive just before November: that meant beating the heavy snow fall. The Expansionism and traveling of the Oregon Trail took its toll on many. “The trail was filled with hardships, and dangers proved numerous and discouraging” (The far Western Frontier, 1830-1860). Drowning, friendly fires, and trampling by livestock and wagons were all so common. Sickness also ravished the travelers. Cholera was most common. It was a diarrhea illness caused an infection in the intestines.
Spread by water and food it killed many. Another prevalent sickness was malaria. It was transmitted my infected mosquitoes which caused chills, sweats, and fevers. Amongst the disease and infection the weather played a major role on the trail. The travelers who decided to journey on the trail during summer proved costly for many. During the summer, the pioneers dealt with hail, thunder, and lightning storms. “One in 10 people did not survive the trip” (Oregon Trail History). “One common misconception about the raveler’s journey is that the biggest danger was the Indians or Native Americans” (Oregon Trail History). A lot of Native Americans were actually friendly. Many run offs with the Natives were mainly trades. “In reality, few Americans died in the hands of the Indians in the “numerous” massacres that went on between them” (Oregon Trail History). In fact, there was only one “real massacre” that took place. It involved the Sioux Indian tribe, lieutenant Gratten, and twenty eight of his soldiers. One of the Cows belonging to Lt. Gratten wandered off in the Sioux village.
The Indians came across the cow, then killed and ate it. “Lt. Gratten ordered his men into the Sioux village to have the Indians pay for their mistake” (Oregon Trail History). The Indians had no idea the cow belonged to Lt. Gratten and respectively offered a horse in return. Lt. Gratten didn’t want any negotiating. He told his men to fire at the Sioux Indians. “The Sioux Chief on the contrary warned his people not to retaliate. The Chief was killed in the end result of the confrontation, sparking a decade long war” (Oregon Trail History). Despite the troubles, the journey was still completed for the reason of a better life” (The Far Western Frontier, 1830-1860). A better life for the people who traveled the Oregon Trail meant expanding the lands of America coast to coast. Many viewed it as helping with our national Defense. “They didn’t want European or Mexican influence in America” (The Oregon Trail: Westward Migration to the Pacific Ocean). By occupying land on the West Coast it also helped economically. “The Expansion helped to expand the reach and influence of slavery into new places” (The Oregon Trail: Westward Migration to the Pacific Ocean).
When American settlers set their sights on the Oregon Territory over 500k followed the trail to the west coast: many jumping-off points along the way. “Many Americans wanted the United States to annex the Oregon Territory. In defense of this idea, journalist John O’Sullivan said that America had a god given right to expand America” (The Oregon Trail: Westward Migration to the Pacific Ocean). Presidents like John Quincy Adams and James Monroe also thought this was true. The fur trade that took place in Oregon gave growth and chance to the hundred dozen who participated (Westward Migration to the Pacific Ocean). Fur Traders tried to use the main eastern route of the Oregon Trail (Platte River) but was unsuccessful due to the many frustrations (unpredictable shallow muddy waters)” (The Far Western Frontier, 1830-1860). “The Platte was even said to be unnavigable. It later became an easy path for wagons having flat plains going west” (The Far Western Frontier, 1830-1860). The expansion of America was an exciting time in the 1840’s, and most of the excitement came from the economic advantages made from the Oregon Trail. In 1848, a man by the name of James Marshal located small amounts of gold in the American River starting the California Gold Rush” (The Far Western Frontier, 1830-1860). After the discovery mining became very popular. Around 2/3 of Oregon’s male population went to try their luck with the early discoveries. There were four types of mining techniques used to seek the gold. The first was Sand Banking. It was the most common at first. In order to sand bank you would sort through raw minerals placed in sand or water streams.
Second was Hydraulic mining which used water to dislodge raw materials to bring the up forth to the surface. The last two are Handwork and Open Pit mining. “In order to have a chance at the gold, the men were forced to build the Lassen Branch of the Applegate Lassen Trail” (The Far Western Frontier, 1830-1860). The trail was cut through large amounts of forests. The ones, who went, found themselves carrying back a lot of gold which eventually started the Oregon economy. After hearing of this, the amount of gold seekers suddenly increased, flooding the Oregon and California Trails.
As more interest grew in the Oregon Territory, slavery became a very important topic. The North wanted it free, but the south didn’t. In 1843, Thousands of slaves were escaping and heading North causing controversy with Border States. “The earlier Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 was a Federal law which was written with the intention of enforcing Article 4, Section 2 of the United States Constitution, which required the return of runaway slaves. It sought to force the authorities in Free states to return fugitive slaves to their masters” (Fugitive Slave Act of 1850).
The Oregon Trail opened offered a new beginning and life for those who chose to go west. Its was the initial settling on the West Coast after the Lewis and Clarke expedition. It provided means of a transportation route to the west. With out the Oregon trail, and the thousands of travelers it is believed that the expansion west would have never happened. The trail started to decline in 1869 when the first transcontinental railroad was built. The railroad provided faster, cheaper, and efficient ways of traveling. Work Cited “Home. ” ThinkQuest. Oracle Foundation, n. d. Web. 11 Dec. 012 “Idaho Public Television NTTI Lesson Plan: Crossing the Oregon Trail. ” Idaho Public Television NTTI Lesson Plan: Crossing the Oregon Trail. N. p. , n. d. Web. 11 Dec. 2012. “The Oregon Trail: Westward Migration to the Pacific Ocean. ” – Free U. S. History I Video. N. p. , n. d. Web. 12 Dec. 2012. “Native & African Americans on the Oregon Trail. ” : Story, Pictures and Information. N. p. , n. d. Web. 14 Dec. 2012. “Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. ” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 13 Dec. 2012. Web. 14 Dec. 2012. “Oregon Trail History. ” Oregon Trail History. N. p. , n. d. Web. 14 Dec. 2012.
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