May 16, 1842: The first major (and second overall) wagon train leaves to traverse the Oregon Trail. The wagon train was made up of over 100 pioneers led by Elijah White. They left from Elm Grove, Missouri and traveled as a group until they made their way to Fort Hall, located in Idaho. At that point along the trail, pioneers could take the northern route to Oregon or the more southern route to California. The travelers in this group continued on to Oregon with the single men hurrying on ahead while the families followed at a slower pace.
The Oregon Trail was a 2,200 mile route connecting the Missouri River to the fertile valleys of Oregon and used for east to west migration of large wheeled wagons. While it was wild territory in the days of the early settlers, today the route passes through parts of Kansas and nearly all of Nebraska, Wyoming, and Idaho and ends after crossing most of Oregon, as well. Between 1811 and 1840 the trail was mostly used by trappers and by 1836 a decent trail had been made for wagons to cross all the way to Fort Hall. Slowly, more trails were forged and reached to the Willamette Valley of Oregon and came to be known as the Oregon Trail. Eventually, improved roads, cutoffs, ferries, and bridges made the trip westward easier. Between the mid-1830s and 1869 about 400,000 settlers had used the route to move to what they hoped would be greener pastures.
Elijah White was born in 1806 in New York. He was a missionary and a physician as well as a government agent. He first made his way to the Willamette Valley by sea and while there his friend and he came to a difference of opinion about the direction of the mission they had established. Also while there, both of his sons were drowned in the river. White headed east to bring in more settlers over what was becoming an established route, although it was only a decent trail up to Idaho. He led this first large contingency of settlers west. During the trek, Osborne Russell, trapper and later politician, served as a guide. As they pulled away from Elm Grover, there were 112 people, 18 wagons, and a variety of livestock in the group.
The group eventually split into two but there were also several Canadians who joined the procession. White arrived first at Fort Vancouver ahead of the main party on September 20,1842. He brokered a code of conduct with the Nez Perce tribes and eased tensions in Walla Walla with the Cayuse tribes. Just two days after arriving at Fort Vancouver, he informed those he was traveling with that he had been made an official of the government and asked that they also select him as their leader. As such he appointed judges to deal with disputes between natives and settlers. Oregon was first a County in 1843 and became a Territory in 1848. It was the 33rd state, being admitted to the Union on February 14, 1859. Today, nearly 4 million people make their home there. The trip today is much easier to make.
The pioneers going west in the 1840s carried with them the promise of a land of milk and honey into what proved to be a desert; the 2,000 mile length of the Oregon Trail was littered with abandoned wagons and newly furnished graves. – Lewis H. Lapham
The cold-blooded game begins by asking you to name every member of your doomed party, creating an emotional connection to each character. – Benny Johnson, discussing the computer game, Oregon Trail
We came twenty two miles, traveling all day in the Bear River valley. The valley and mountains are covered with grass and the summits of the latter are adorned with splendid groves of fir making the scenery beautiful. We passed a (small) stream every few miles. The water runs very swiftly and is perfectly clear and very cold with a pleasant taste. A horse ran away today causing a train ahead of us to stampede. – Abigail Scott, Oregon Trail traveler’s diary entry for July 17, 1852
. . . a picture of home beauty that went directly to our hearts. The edge of the wood, for several miles along the river, was dotted with the white covers of emigrant wagons, collected in groups at various camps, where the smokes were rising lazily from the fires, around which the women were occupied preparing the evening meal, and the children playing in the grass; and herds of cattle grazing about in the bottom, had an air of quiet security, and civilized comfort, that made rare sight fort the traveller in such a remote wilderness. – John Fremont, dairy entry for July 1845
Also on this day: “Oh-oh! SpaghettiOs!” – In 1965, Franco-American puts SpaghettiOs on the market.
Sedition – In 1918, a new Sedition Act was put into place in the US.
Hank – In 1905, Henry Fonda was born.
Sassafras Tea – In 1866, Charles Hires invented root beer.
Friends and Heroes – In 1763, James Boswell met Samuel Johnson for the first time.
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