"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! For many women, it was to accompany their husbands. But for other women, it was for adventure and freedom! Freedom to be free from the social limitations, binding restrictions, and confining conventions common in Eastern society at the time."
"The national financial panics of the mid-1800s 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."
"Many Oregon Trail pioneer women left behind their families, homes, most books, friends, heirlooms, music and other comforts not likely to be found on the trail. As a result, finding an occasional quiet moment to briefly enjoy a few uplifting lines of prized prose, poetry, or scripture in a treasured volume became a sweet and welcomed luxury."
"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 soon prospered and Oregon's cattle became the region's primary and most important product."
"Original Oregon 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, resourceful settlers soon learned to seize the opportunity to rest their sore and worn work-weary bones whenever they could."
"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."
"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 forced to grow up fast, travelling on their own, comforting and caring for each other the best that they could."
"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."
"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."
"In the early 1800s, 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 near the original Oregon Trail."
"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."
"The Pioneers along the Oregon Trail were remarkably resilient. Day after day, and mile after mile, they relentlessly worked their way West. Pausing only as exhaustion required, they courageously arose and pressed on to overcome all obstacles and settle the vast new lands. 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 32nd state."
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