Tuesday, July 14, 2009
The Oregon Trail
We have made a two night stop in Lingle, WY. The purpose is to spend some time visiting historical sites associated with the Oregon Trail. This famous trail(s) was a big part of the westward flood of pioneers to Oregon and California territories starting in the 1840’s thru the 1860’s that fulfilled the promise of “Manifest Destiny” that had become a national conviction. It is estimated that as many as half a million souls made this arduous journey to a new future in the west.
Our young girls understood how difficult it was to complete this journey, as we played the then popular game of traveling the Oregon Trail with them on one of our first computers.
There are several sites in this area that help understand this part of our history. The Fort Laramie National Monument, The Oregon trails Ruts monument in Guernsey, WY, the Scotts Bluff and Chimney Rock National Monuments in Nebraska.
Chimney Rock was the first recognizable feature the wagon trains saw after spending weeks in the open grassland featureless expanse. Reaching Chimney Rock meant they were nearly finished with the first third of their journey and the dangers and death that followed them on the plains was nearly over. During some years, the pioneers suffered from cholera, with as many as two thirds of the members of some wagon trains dying from the disease.
Scotts Bluff was the next feature which represented a chance to make repairs and pick up some supplies from a supply station established near the bluffs.
Then on to Fort Laramie from which soldiers provided escort and other assistance as the wagons continued west to the next challenge-crossing the Rocky Mountains. Finally, west of Fort Laramie, some of the ruts made by these thousands of wagons have been preserved and gives you a real sense of the difficult conditions under which the journey was made. Very near the ruts is a spot called Register Cliff where many of the travelers carved their names in the stone. Many have been lost due to later visitors carving their own messages in the stone, but careful study reveals some form the early settlers.
This was a fascinating period in our history and visiting these sites and studying the exhibits enhances our understanding of what took place such a long time ago.