"At the beginning, most men and women had very different reasons to find themselves on the Oregon Trail. For men, it was the land! Free land! While for many women, it was to accompany their husbands. But for other women, it was for opportunity, adventure and freedom! Freedom to be free from the social restrictions, legal limitations and confining customs common in Eastern society at the time."
"Oh, to be Free!
The emerging Eagle in Me!
To escape the closed cages of my past.
And soar high aloft early morn,
Sun-bless'd and breeze-borne,
'Free to be Me' at last!"
"The national financial panics of the mid-1800's were devastating to many families. Due to widespread bankruptcies, foreclosures, and unemployment, more than a few men went West to repair their financial fortunes. Not all of these men were prepared for the loneliness and hardships, and some were never heard from again. Depression wasn't a common diagnosis at the time, but there may be some cause to wonder how many accidental falls, drownings, and fatal gunshot wounds were 'accidents' after all."
"From my Western abode,
I'd pay debts agreeably owed,
And repair my reputation among men.
But the Trail's truth declared,
A Pioneer unprepared,
Is unlikely to be heard from again."
"Many Oregon Trail pioneers left behind their families, homes,, friends, heirlooms, most books, music and other comforts not likely to be found on the trail. As a result, finding an occasional private moment to enjoy a few uplifting lines of prized prose or poetry in a treasured volume became a welcomed source of solace during the often trying, troubling times."
"Alone in my mind,
With memories refined,
The finer literature and learning I recall.
So, through essay and song,
Those most looked-up to, lived on;
And weren't left behind after all."
"Oregon's first "Vaqueros" (Spanish for "cowboy" and the source of the English term "Buckaroo") were expert horsemen who originally came from the mostly Spanish-speaking American southwest. However, as Oregon Trail range lands proved to be prime cattle-grazing areas, these soon-to-be Americanized "Cowboys" headed North. As a result of their talent and toughness, the territory's ranchers prospered and Oregon's cattle soon became the region's primary and most important product."
"'A 'Well-Earned Rest',
Probably says it best,
As Vaqueros were often banged up, black and blue.
While the happy ranchers exclaimed,
(As they prospered and gained),
''God Bless Thee! Thou brave Buckaroo!'".
"Great stands of timber covered much of early Oregon, and nearly all needed to be cleared before crops could be planted. Original pioneer families were each granted 640 acres - - and in a first for the nation, one-half (320 acres) was in the wife's name. But all had to be cleared before either one could receive title. The endless sawing and clearing by hand was brutal. And in order to survive to work yet another day, exhausted settlers soon learned to seize a much-needed break whenever and wherever they could."
"For many Menfolk and Missus,
To honorably address each other's wishes,
The Homestead decision was most equitably decided.
For since they were Paired,
The rewards would be shared,
And real estate equally divided."
"Death and danger were no strangers along the Oregon Trail. Diary excerpts, family records, and 1850-1860 census data indicate approximately 1 out of 10 who set off on the Oregon Trail did not survive. Over time, the Oregon Trail earned the reputation as "the nation's longest graveyard," with an estimated average of 10-15 deaths per mile, or a gravesite every 300-500 feet."
"'Lost along the way',
So easy to say,
But each passing left deep sadness within.
But the sorrows would soon fade,
As Pioneer prayers were prayed,
And they knew they'd be together again."
"The way West was difficult and filled with hardship. Due to accidents, illness, weather, and overwork taking their toll on both mothers and fathers, it wasn't uncommon for young children to find themselves left alone on the trail. Other travelers would almost always provide food and take them in for a time, but there was frequently little to share; and little brothers and sisters would often find themselves travelling on their own, comforting and caring for each other the best that they could."
"Hardship was expected,
And as hazards connected,
Both parents sometimes suffered and passed.
And left on their own,
So early alone,
The little children forced to grow up so fast."
"Most early explorers and settlers tended to find themselves alone in a largely lawless land. Drunkenness, gambling, claim-jumping, and boundary disputes were common. As a result, a town sheriff or a town marshal was one of the first public officials appointed when towns were established. Through necessity, these men were generally the toughest available, which meant that more than a few came with considerable experience on both sides of the law."
"The Trail would be rough,
And it wasn't enough,
To cry 'foul' as men commonly would,
So protection was found,
From the most able around,
Although the bad was sometimes mixed with the good."
"Marriages and births were exciting events along the Oregon Trail. In the beginning, there were few unmarried women of a marriageable age who accompanied the wagons West - - most women were wives traveling with their husbands. Later, however, some spirited young, single women began to join the trek out of a sense of adventure and desire to see the new land. Romances bloomed. Marriages followed. And soon, new frontier families graced the land."
"With mostly men on the move,
The odds began to improve,
Due to fair maids joining the trek on the trail.
For a man on his own,
Is just that - - alone,
While Nature requires a Pair to prevail."
"In the early 1800's, some frontier scouts described the high desert area of the Oregon Trail as "unsuitable for human habitation." However, settlers soon found that wheat, alfalfa, and other hay could be successfully grown despite less rainfall than further West. And later, aided by irrigation, high desert hay became a primary crop. In more modern times, great numbers of Oregon's cattle are still fed by hayfields and pastures along the original Oregon Trail."
"The Territory Northwest,
Was thought uninhabitable at best,
By early Pioneers scouting the way.
But they soon discovered,
A little water uncovered,
A most prodigious production of hay".
"Logging became increasingly important as areas were opened by the Oregon Trail. Among early timber harvesters, the use of "springboards" was fairly common. They were narrow, wooden planks with an iron toe which could be inserted into tree trunks to avoid sap and resin which collected near the base. More than a few loggers became so adept working from their precarious perches, they could spend most of an entire day up there, and some were even known to "catch forty winks" from time to time far above the forest floor."
"Stately as a Lord,
And comfortably aboard
His 'home' on the high narrow beam;
The lumberjack's life,
Lacked, but an elevated wife,
Of whom he'd frequently dream."
A Moment of Rest
"Pioneers along the Oregon Trail were remarkably resilient. With only the rare moment's rest, they tirelessly pushed fully loaded large-wheeled wagons through unknown, unforgiving lands, over mountains, down steep ravines, and across wild rivers to reach their new homes more than 2000 miles away. And, in a relatively brief period of time, by February 14, 1859, the Pioneer's unquestioned courage, character, and unconquerable spirit was officially rewarded as Oregon was welcomed into the union as the Nation's 33rd state."
"'A 'Moment of Rest',
To Angels addressed,
A Prayer most unlikely to fail.
A 'Moment of Rest',
Upon Gaia's fair breast
Along the Oregon Trail."
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