Wagon's West - The Years

The first wagon train to the west coast passed through Fort Laramie in 1841. When I taught Wyoming History I was often asked, “What years did people travel on the Oregon Trail”? Well, there’s the answer, or at least part of it, the Oregon Trail was first traveled in 1841.
Trail Ruts Near Guernsey Wyoming, 13 miles West of the Fort

On the Grounds of Fort Laramie today
        This first train west, was organized and captained by adventurer John Bartleson who set the entire trip up with no real knowledge of the west and certainly not enough knowhow to lead a large group of people overland to California.

Even Today Mountain Men Can Be Found Camping at the Fort
So how did he do it? Easy, he tagged on with a group of Jesuit missionaries heading west. The difference was that the missionaries knew they needed a guide, and they hired one, a good one. Thomas “Broken Hand,” Fitzpatrick led the group of missionaries and Bartleson’s wagon train into Idaho where his duties to the Jesuit’s ended. From that point on the train traveled with the advice and hand drawn maps of ‘Broken Hand’ and with a lot of luck, some of it bad, made it to the coast.

It should be noted that parts of the trail were traveled as early as 1836 and trappers started laying out this route as early as 1810 or 11.

Nearly forgot, when did travel on the trails west end? Most historians agree around 1869. Who needed a wagon, by then they had a railroad?

Post a Comment