The Oregon Trail at Walla Walla, Washington.
a digital reconstruction by Elroy Christenson
The Oregon Trail set a path and an ideal that was followed by thousands of settlers to the western coast. The trip was long and arduous, but it did not deter the hardy and the hopeful. Sections of the trail were first explored by Meriweather Lewis and William Clark in 1805. Fur traders had used the route shortly afterwards but it was not until in the 1830's that the first wagon was brought across by Benjamin Bonneville. The settlers first started using this route to the west about 1841.
The Oregon Trail wound its way 2000 miles through the present states of Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon states. It was a six months journey if all went well. The forever hopeful travelers would usually start in Independence, Missouri and then go northwest across a corner of Colorado to Fort Kearny (Nebraska). They would follow the Platte River to the North Platte going near Chimney Rock, which they could see for two days before they finally reached it. From here they had to go north through Mitchell Pass, only wide enough for one wagon, to Fort Larimie (Wyoming) they then followed the plains almost due west around to the South Pass through the Rocky Mountains to Fort Bridger(Wyoming). From Fort Bridger to Fort Hall(Idaho). A few miles from Fort Hall the settlers could fork off to the south to the California Trail while the main trail went more northwesterly to Fort Boise(Idaho) and on even more northerly to Walla Walla (Washington). Once in Washington they could spread out to go into the Spokane region or stay on the trail to the south of the Columbia River to Portland. At Portland they would have to ferry across the Columbia to go north to Seattle. The influx of immigrants was so rapid that a provisional government had to be established by 1843 and the Oregon Territory was set up by 1848.
The trail was long and dusty most of the way although they also had to ford flooded rivers, cook with scarce firewood, defend themselves from hostile Indians, and drink from contaminated water holes. They consequently also sometimes contracted cholera and other familiar diseases which took there toll of the unfortunate. They had been prepared with articles and advice for the journey by others that had gone before. One such advice is given here in 1863 by John Mullen.
"For persons who decide to leave St. Louis in the spring on steamer for Fort Benton, where the passage is from $40 to $100, and freight from 5 cents to 10 cents per pound, and who desire to make the land transit by wagon, I would advise that they provide themselves with a light spring covered wagon in St. Louis, also two or four sets of strong harness, and transport them to Fort Benton, where they can procure their animals, mules or horses. The former can be had from $100 to $150, the later from $45 to $75; oxen, from $100 to $125 per yoke. Let them provide themselves with a small kit of good strong tin or plated iron mess furniture; kettles to fit one in the other, tin plates and cups, and strong knives and forks; purchase their supplies in St. Louis; brown sugar, coffee, or tea, bacon, flour, salt beans, sardines, and few jars of pickles and preserved fruits will constitute a perfect outfit in this department. I have found that for ten men for fifty days, the following is not too much on a trip of this kind: 625 pounds of flour, 50 pounds of coffee, 75 pounds of sugar, 2 bushels of beans, 1 bushel of salt, 625 pounds of bacon side, 2 gallons of vinegar, 20 pounds of dried apples, 3 dozen of yeast powders, and by all means take two strong covered ovens, (Dutch ovens.) These amounts can be increase or diminished in proportion to the number of men number of days. If your wagon tries become loose on the road, caulk them with old gunny sacks, or in lieu thereof, with any other sacking; also, soak the wheels well in water whenever an opportunity occurs. In loading the wagons, an allowance of four hundred pounds to the animal will be found sufficient for a long journey. For riding saddles, select a California or Mexican tree with machiers and taphederos, hair girth, double grey saddle blanket, and strong snaffle bit.
If the intention is to
travel with a pack train, take the cross-tree pack-saddle, with
cruppper and breeching, and broad thick pads. Use lash-rope, with
canvas or leather belly bands. Have a double blanket under each saddle.
Balance the load equally on the two sides of the animal- the whole not
to exceed two hundred pounds. have a canvas cover for each pack. A
mule-blind may be found useful in packing. Each pack animal should have
a hackamo, and every animal (packing and riding ) a picket-rope, from
thirty-five to forty feet long and one inch in diameter. For my own
purposes, I have always preferred the apperajo for packing, and have
always preferred mules to horses. Packages of any shape can be loaded
upon the apperajo more conveniently than upon the packsaddle. A bell
animal should be always kept with a pack train, and a gray mare is
generally preferred. Every article to be used in crossing the plains
should be of the best manufacture and strongest material. this will, in
the end prove true economy. Animals should be shod on the fore feet, at
least Starting at dawn and camping not later than 2 p. m. , I have
always found the best plan in marching. Animals should not go out of a
walk or slow trot, and after being unloaded in camp they should always
be allowed to stand with their saddles on an girths loose, for at least
fifteen minutes, as the sudden exposure of their warm backs to the air
tends to scald them. They should be regularly watered, morning, noon,
and night. Never maltreat them, but govern them as you would a woman,
with kindness, affection, and caresses, and you will be repaid by their
docility and easy management. If you travel with a wagon, provide
yourself with a jackscrew, extra tongue, and coupling pole; also, axle
grease, a hatchet and nails, auger, rope, twine, and one or two chains
for wheel locking, and one or two extra whippeltrees as such other
articles as in your won judgment may be deemed necessary. A light
canvas tent, with poles that fold in the middle by a hinge, I have
always found most convenient. Tables chairs can be dispensed with, but
if deemed absolutely necessary, the of army camp stool, and a table
with lid that removes and legs that fold under, I have found to best
subserve all camp requisites. Never take anything not absolutely
necessary. This is a rule of all experienced voyageurs."
Prosperity was in the wind. By 1879 the population in Seattle was about 3500, and Olympia about 2,000. Articles and publications were distributed to promote the bountiful west and the westward movement. In How to Reach Washington, 1879 it was stated, " There are three routes which Eastern people may take in coming hither. If a person wants to save time , and desires to bring stock and wagons, etc. the quickest and most direct route would be to come from Omaha to Ogden, thence to wagon road to this new country; traversing the distance from Ogden, in two or three weeks, when roads are good - say in the months of June, July and August. Those having neither wagons nor teams can come by rail to Kelton, at a cost of about $50 in an emigrant car; thence by stage to Walla Walla, at an expenses of $75 , exclusive of meals, and on to Colfax or Spokane Falls, at an additional expense of ten and seven dollars. respectively, the remaining route is via San Francisco, by rail, thence to Portland, Orgon, by ocean steamer; thence to Almota, by boat." [Spokane Times, June 5, 1879]
Our relatives undoubtedly saw some of these articles and studied the material well enough that they felt capable to enduring the hardships. The Marshall family came to Washington State in 1899, after the railroad had been opened up but could not afford the fare for their entire brood. They had already been starved out of Texas by successive droughts that drove them to Oklahoma. Since things were no better there they continued to push north back to Missouri where John Marshall originated. The call of the west was too strong and they loaded their kids and gear into a covered wagon for the long trek. Cleo Marshall claims that she and the other kids walked next to the wagon practically the entire distance from Texas. At night they were sent to collect fire wood and when none was available they burn cow chips. Water was gathered by the adults.
The following families were in Washington State before 1900 which makes ancestors of these families eligible to become members of the Washington State Pioneers Association.
See the Thomas Homer Marshall | John Wesley Marshall | Keithly Bailes
some came by way of ship
to Washington -
Rosalie Schock | Emil Kiesel
Cheryl's Family Index || Ancestor Chart #1 || Regional History || Surname Index || Occupations
All information and photos
included within these pages are here for the express purpose of
personal genealogical research and may not be included or used for any
commercial purpose or included in any commercial site without the
express permission of Cheryl and Elroy Christenson. Copyright Elroy