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Oregon Trail

The Oregon Trail was one of the key overland migration paths in the 1800s which helped the United States implement its cultural goal of Manifest Destiny, that is to build a great nation spanning the North American continent. The other main overland route was the Santa Fe Trail[?]. Other migration paths for early settlers prior to the establishment of the transcontinental railroads involved taking passage on a ship rounding the Cape Horn of South America or to the Isthmus (now Panama) between North and South America. Here a mule trek through hazardous swamps and rain forrests awaited the traveler which was quite arduous. A ship was typically then taken to San Francisco, California.

The Oregon Trail originated in Missouri and is commemorated by the Gateway Arch of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial located in St. Louis, Missouri. This extravagant engineering feat is 680 feet tall, has a triangular cross section, is made of titanium, and has an interior elevator to take tourists to the viewing room at its peak. This provides a ready view of the City of St. Louis and its rivers.

Early settlers often arrived in St. Louis via riverboat on either of the quite large Mississipi or Missouri rivers and then outfitted to proceed via wagon train.

The Oregon Trail spanned over half the continent as it proceeded west through territories and land later to become 6 U.S. states. It delivered settlers to the entire Northwest as well as the West Coast areas of what is now the United States of America.

The Oregon Trail was too long and arduous for the standard Connestogas used in the Eastern U.S. at that time for most freight transport. These big wagons had a reputation of killing their oxen teams approximately two thirds along the trail and leaving their unfortunate owners stranded in desolate isolate territory. The only solution, to abandon all belongings and traipse onward with the supplies and tools that could be carried or dragged.

This lead to the rapid the development of the Prairie Schooner[?]. This wagon was approximately half the size of the big Connegstogas but was also manufactured in quantity by the Connestoga Brothers. It was optimized for the Oregon Trail's conditions and was a marvel of engineering in its time.

The Oregon Trail's designated termination point was Oregon City, at the time the proposed capital of the Oregon territory. Many settlers branched off or grew exhausted short of this goal and settled at convenient or promising locations along the trail. Commerce with pioneers going further west greatly assisted these early settlements in getting rapidly established and launched local micro economies critical to these settlements prosperity.

On May 22, 1843 the first major wagon train[?] headed for the northwest set out from Elm Grove, Missouri[?] on the Oregon Trail with one thousand pioneers.

The map provided by this web site: http://www.pbs.org/opb/oregontrail/teacher/trailmap makes it clear that many settlers and pioneers took this trail with the intention of branching prior to the Sierra Nevadas to southern territories such as Nevada or California.

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