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In the year of 1830, a noted fur trader named William Sublette led the first wagons along a trail to the Rocky Mountains. For the next few decades, many emigrants to the west traveled this same trail, which came to be called The Oregon Trail. It was called White-Topped Wagon Road by the Native Americans. It was also called The Mormon Trail, The Platte Trail, and The California Trail because people traveled it seeking gold in California, land in Oregon, or a Christian Mission Field in the Wild West.
The Oregon Trail was mostly traveled by emigrants, but it was also used by the Army and followed in part by The Pony Express and stagecoaches. The Oregon Trail began as far east as Missouri and continued all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Many of the emigrants journeys began in eastern Kansas.
An average trip on The Oregon Trail lasted about four to six months. There were many hardships along the trail. The disease Cholera killed more emigrants than anything else. Cholera was often horrible diarrhea caused by bad food, impure water, or severe weather and temperature changes. There were other deadly diseases too, such as Measles, Smallpox, and Diptheria. There were also great thunderstorms. Many emigrants were killed by large hail, lightning, and high winds. Emigrants were also killed by drowning, getting run over by wagon wheels, and starvation. When people died on the trail, their bodies were sometimes buried along the trail. If there was no time for a burial, the bodies were often dumped along the side of the trail. Also, if an old person were sick and dying, the emigrants would be forced to leave the sick person along the side of the trail to die and to prevent them from infecting others with their deadly illness.
It was also reported that most able-bodied children of all ages walked clear across the United States, and some wore no shoes. They were forced to walk because the wagons measured only about four feet by ten feet wide and they were packed to the brim with farming tools, food, furniture, and other necessary supplies. They attempted to keep rain out of the wagons by treating the cotton covers with linseed oil, but eventually they leaked anyway. The emigrants often went for days without bathing. Their only chance to clean themselves came when they reached a river.
There were reports of attacks by Native Americans. At first, most of the encounters with Native Americans were only business transactions. The Native Americans usually offered food or horses in exchange for rifles, clothes, or tobacco. However, after a few years the Native Americans became hostile because the emigrants had overgrazed the prairie grasses, burned all of the avaliable fire wood, and killed most of the buffalo. Soon, many tribes along the Platte were starving and impoverished. This led to the hostility of the Native Americans towards the emigrants. When this occurred, the Native Americans stole things from the emigrants so that they were able to survive. Because of this, both Native Americans and emigrants were killed.
River Crossing was also a major part of traveling the Oregon Trail. At every river crossing, there were ferry keepers. They would carry your wagons, cattle and anything else traveling with you across the river. The cost of ferries were about one dollar per wagon and ten cents per head for cattle.
I think the brave emigrants faced many more hardships than they expected to on there journey west. I think when they arrived at their destination, they were all extremely satisfied with the results of their difficult journey. I think the Oregon Trail had a great impact on the development of Kansas because, since most of it s beginnings are in Kansas, it brought many people to the state of Kansas. Therefore, it made the land of Kansas more traveled and some people may have decided to stay in Kansas instead of making the lengthy, tedious journey west.
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