If you grew up in the 80’s or 90’s you probably have the memory of your school integrating computers into their regular routine and curriculum. If like me, one of your favorite activities is to play video games you may remember some of the 8-bit classics that we played on the huge first edition Apple PCs. I constantly couldn’t wait to get to the computer lab to play my all time favorite game, Oregon Trail, a classic survival game based on real historic events. Here are some facts about the real Oregon Trail that you may not have known.
What Is It?
The Oregon Trail was a path for migrating toward the west of the United States and incorporated over 2,000 miles of trails. The trail covers six states and reminds us of the intense struggle thousands of people suffered in an effort to settle in the West. The trail was used by small groups to traverse the country and settle on the Pacific Coast. In 1843, the first mass migration of 1,000 settlers set out from Independence, Missouri to travel the Oregon Trail. This group of settlers traveled with 100 wagons and 5,000 oxen and cattle, looking to find better economic opportunities and adventure.
Making the trip along the 2,000 mile trail was rarely an easy one for most travelers. The trip was so long that the settlers often would see more than one season pass as they headed toward their new home. Along with weather the pioneers had to deal with sickness caused by many factors along their journey. Dysentery and cholera was common and affected many due to poor sanitation and diet, and killed one in ten along the way. As more and more people began to traverse the Oregon Trail, thieves would often camp in certain sections off the path and then rob unsuspecting travelers, often wounding or killing them in the process. Wildlife was also a problem, with insects and snake bikes to consider, while trying to protect food from scavenging animals. The trip was rough but many seemed willing to take the risk.
What Was Gained?
For many that traveled the Oregon Trail they were just looking for a better life. Over half a million people eventually migrated west and many of these were simply looking for farmland and to start a fresh life in a new location. However, the prospect of riches and owning large amounts of property were in the eyes of thousands of settlers. While the farmers settled wherever they found a suitable plot of land, many people searching for riches left from the others and headed to California in the quest for gold.
Then and Now
The greatest years of the Oregon Trail ended in 1869 when the transcontinental railroad was finished. With easier traveling and a faster trip the railroad effectively put the Oregon Trail out of business. The Oregon Trail is now situated across six states and includes a large amount of land protected in national parks. If you visit any of these states you can still see marks of the great expeditions. Wagon ruts can be found in many places along the entire trail. Even today the Oregon Trail has many groups and organizations working in it’s favor to preserve this interesting historic treasure.
I loved finding out such cool information about the Oregon Trail after playing the game so many times as a child. The game makes even more sense to me now that I have a better understanding of what the original settlers went through on their journey along the trail.
America101- Oregon Trail
ASK HISTORY- Was The Oregon Trail a Real Trail?