Apr 28, 2020 in History

Oregon Trail

The Oregon Trail has a great meaning to the US history. The reason for it is that it helped significantly to provide the growth of the country. Due to it, people moved to the West from the overpopulated US parts. Without the Oregon Trail, the western states, probably, would not look like they do today. It also assisted in promoting and spreading religious beliefs and culture. Therefore, the Oregon Trail can be considered one of the most important events in the American history. Hence, the paper focuses on analyzing the fact that Oregon Trail is one of the main reasons for the West development and explores its influence on the modern America that is expressed through the economic progress, territory and population formation as well as culture and religious beliefs diffusion. 

Due to the Oregon Trail, the population moved from the north to the west that provided the modern generation with ability not to live in the overcrowded part of the country. It was known as one of the several routes that the pioneers who were seeking for the place to live on the western territories traveled in the middle of the 19th century. For thirty years, particularly, from 1830 to 1860, around three hundred thousand Americans moved by the overland trails. The Oregon Trail was the first road that they followed in the early 1840s. By 1845, around five thousand people moved to the Oregon Territory while three thousand individuals within the next three years came for living to California. However, for the following decade, the number of people has rapidly increased. With more of them crossing the Oregon Trail, the West was becoming more populated while the East, in the end, got less crowded. Before using that road actively, people were complaining that the East was overloaded but with the trail development, many of them were relieved since the free land and space appeared. As the Oregon Trail reached its popularity, the situation when one part of the country was overpopulated while the other looked empty changed. Hence, the country managed to provide the population equality. However, it was not the only one benefit from the Oregon Trail since it also managed to improve the economic situation in the USA.


The Oregon Trail linked two parts of the country that benefited the north from the economic perspective since otherwise, the modern north would not be so successful in this sector of development. In the early period, the West was discovered. By the 1820s, the politicians suggested resettling the Oregon country. The fur trade development in this region from the 1820s to the 1830s exposed the presence of natural wealth of the territory and native peoples. In general, the relations between Oregon Country and those peoples had different nature as compared to previous experience. Hence, meetings between settlers and the Indians were organized. Most of the contacts were peaceful, and the native population even benefited the travelers. However, as more and more emigrants continued to cross the Indian lands in the 1840s-1850s, the native peoples started being resistant to them. 

The Oregon Trail was the longest and one of the most used roads during the resettlement of the western part of the country. It was developed from the discovery of a safe wagon route over the Continental Divide at South Path in 1812 that Robert Stuart provided. Stuart was a man from the Pacific Fur Company returning from Fort Astor. Passing his route over the Blue Mountains, Snake River, South Path, and Platte River, he managed to conclude that the journey to the west within certain period of time would not be a problem. However, William Sublette, a fur trader, was the first who provided the full reports about travels from the South Path to St. Louis in 1830. Therefore, by the middle of the 1840s, emigrants were able to use trail guides who helped them to plan their trips and avoid making common mistakes. 

People traveled to the West concerning economic reasons including the depression of 1837. They wanted to improve their lives and find new lands to survive. People accepted the stories about black rich soil of the Pacific coast and Great Plains with big hopes. Due to the economic depression and epidemic illnesses waves, many families and individuals were stimulated to seek for the new chances and opportunities for life. The lands with the potential wealth were a great reason to move from the North. For the government, the West was the only chance to help the problematic economic sector of the suffering region. Therefore, it was saved from further economic difficulties due to the connection with the West that predetermined balanced growth of the whole country for many years. Except the economic development, the Oregon Trail provided the spread of religious beliefs and cultural traditions on the west.

With people going there, the above-mentioned moral values got their common formation on the Oregon Trail, which, in the end, helped to unite two opposite parts of the country. The travel by the Oregon Trail lasted from six to seven months. It is essential to say that the journey was difficult and people who left too early risked to be mired in mud while the individuals leaving too late had to handle the snow problem at the end of their travels. As the trail became well-known, many people preferred the smaller trains since they moved more quickly. The road passage involved many dangerous issues. The main challenges of the trip were violent storms, river crossings, disease threats as well as the steep ascents and descents. The greatest problem was the diseases, particularly, cholera. The other often death cause was the accident. In the journey, many of them happened including lethal ax wounds getting, drowning, and shooting. The conditions were terrible but people were receiving support from their religious beliefs and traditions, which were later widespread on the west.

People on the wagon trains were organized by the rules concerning behavior, order, and work responsibilities that were mentioned in the constitutions. To handle the punishments for assaults, property crimes, and security-violent activities the tribunal was organized. The most common punishments were expulsion and extra guard duty. The women and men`s roles were almost the opposite. Basing on the 19th-century norms, women had to care of laundry, cooking, personal gear, and children while men had to be focused on the guard, wagons repairing, and group works. Hence, the men took the leadership position. As a consequence, a certain little community with its own rules was formed. Later, it was used on the western lands during the society formation. In those difficult conditions, people already consisted a little society with its regulations, beliefs and culture. Without Oregon Trail with its travelers’ religion, the other values and culture could have dominated the West. For instance, the British would have started their beliefs promotion on this territory. Hence, the Oregon Trail changed the spiritual environment of the West that, in the end, helped to unite two parts of the country. However, its main contribution to the US history is the territory formation in the way that is well-known in the modern society.

The Oregon Trail completely changed the US since without its influence, the states including Nevada, Oregon, Utah, California, Idaho, and Washington could have been formed in an absolutely different way. Until 1846, people were able only to dismantle the wagons and load them on rafts to float down the disturbing Columbia River. It was a risky action since the passage was highly expensive. However, by 1845, people had another alternative. Joel Palmer and Samuel K. Barlow pioneered the route from Mount Hood to Oregon City, and in 1846, due to their efforts, the path through the rough toll road had been developed; it was called the Barlow Road. Within certain period of time, several other routes appeared. The other splinter was developed on the north of the Columbia River where the outlanders moved at Fort Vancouver and used Hudson`s Bay Company posts. Then, in 1845, Michael Simmons founded Tumwater, and in 1844, John Jackson settled Cowlitz River. In 1847, Kelso owner Peter Crawford started to create settlements across the land and river near the Puget Sound. Through the Oregon Provisional Legislature, the emigrants were provided with 640 acres of a land. 

Continued emigration in to the West demanded additional aid from the US government. The Congress secured Oregon territorial status in 1848, and the population of the territory increased from 5000 to 12000 inhabitants by 1850. In 1820, it affirmed the Oregon Donation Land Act known as an extraordinary land law that extended the provision period till 1855 and caused seven thousand claims for more than 2.5 million acres. Many emigrants made the US government buy a million of land acres from the native peoples through treaties. The treaties, which Joel Palmer and Isaac Stevens negotiated in 1854-1855 managed to secure most of tribal lands in the Washington and Oregon states. Therefore, the trail was the main reason for the travelers’ decision to move to the west before finishing the Transcontinental Railroad. The main point is that without the Oregon Trail the states would not be the same as people can see them now. 

The Oregon Trail case is a great historic event that still connects past with present since it, the US of today would have been completely different from the economic, territorial, and cultural perspectives. In 1859, Oregon achieved statehood, and people realized the historic importance of their trip. Hence, the Oregon Pioneer Association that was founded in 1874 provided annual meetings, preserved and documented immigration details, and published memoirs about trail experience. Due to such meetings, in 1898, the Oregon Historical Society was created. It was known as a private corporation focused on the state past promotion and preservation of Oregon historical objects. In 1923, Walter Meacham founded the Old Oregon Trail Association that concentrated on the enhancement of immigration to the state. Therefore, by 1990, many organizations and museums focused on the Oregon Trail were developed. Hence, this historical route has a great meaning for the Americans today since without it, most of the western states would not have been the US parts as well as would not have been cultivated in the American business processes and culture.

In conclusion, it is critical to notice that the Oregon Trail played a great role in the American history. Due to it, the western states got included into the US territory, and people know America just the same as it looks now. Despite being difficult and dangerous for the pioneers, it became an important part of the history of the country. Due to the Oregon Trail, the culture and religious beliefs were widespread across the West that helped to promote values common for the US. It was another issue that assisted in unifying such a big country. Another benefit that the Oregon Trail provided was the economic situation improvement of the whole state that allowed further development. Therefore, the Oregon Trail story is, without doubts, one of the most critical episodes in the US history. It links the past with present from the territorial, economic, and cultural perspectives.


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