The Oregon Trail

This Day in History

On this day in 1843, the first major wagon train with over 1,000 men, women, and children begin the journey to on the Oregon Trail towards the Pacific Ocean from Elm Grove, Missouri. 

Although missionaries, farmers, and fur traders had been traveling on the Oregon trail for decades, it wasn’t until the early 1840s that a mass immigration of pioneers brought a great influx of travelers by blazing a path large enough for wagons to travel. 

Two years prior, in 1841, a small band of 70 farmers left Independence, Missouri to break-in the Oregon Trail for further wagon travelers. Traveling west along the Platte River through the Rocky Mountains, the new pioneers plowed through the harsh western soil to reach their destination. 

Life on the trail was not for the faint of heart. 

The 2,170 miles of excruciating summer prairie heat followed by months of bitter cold in the winter were extremely difficult to navigate. Not only were the temperatures uncomfortable, but a number of ailments and other dangers along the route troubled the intrepid souls as well. 

Although many pioneers feared Native American attacks, they soon discovered that they were more likely to die from other unrelated causes. Drowning in rivers, disease, accidental discharge of firearms, hunger, heat stroke, poison, falling off horses, and steep ascents of rocky terrain were all risks associated with the treacherous trail.

Thanks to the courageous pioneers who mapped out and blazed the trail for millions to follow, we now are connected from sea to shining sea.

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