I can remember many years ago watching or listening to various programs that ended with some form of the phrase – “and the rest is history.”
In 1841 when the Bidwell-Bartleson party headed west the rest was indeed history. This first great wagon train heading west not only made history, but it also led to the populating of the West and later the middle of the country. The next year, 1842, Dr. Elijah White led a group of more than 100 on the all new Oregon Trail. Two years later four wagon trains carried more than 2,000 hopefuls West. The next year the numbers more than doubled. By 1869 more than half a million people had traveled along the trail to Oregon, California, and later to the Salt Lake Valley of present-day Utah.
|Trail Ruts cut deep from thousands of wagons - Guernsey Wyoming|
The goal for all of these travelers was the same. Make the 2,000 plus mile trip in 150 days taking along enough food and finding enough fresh water along the way to make it. Taking a day a week off, as most trains did, this would mean the wagons needed to average about 15 miles each day six days each week for five months. Today if we drove for eight hours each day for 130 days averaging 60 miles per hour we could circle the earth two and a half times. What does all this mean? The west coast was a long way to travel, farther than anywhere on earth in today's world. Once the new would-be settlers started west, in all likelihood, they could never go back. What a commitment these people were making.
|A view down the trail. When the first wagons came there were not nearly|
as many trees along the North Platte River as today
All of the above are my thoughts as we get ready to take off on a 4,000-mile vacation next week, and we will only be gone 16 or 17 days. My, how times have changed.
|Fall at Fort Laramie, the most famous, and most welcome stop on the trail.|