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Sutherlin West Intermediate School

Sutherlin, OR

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Oregon History

By Trail H.

Oregon is the 33rd state of the United States and is a Pacific Coast state. Before becoming a state it was known as the “Oregon Territory”. Three sides are bordered with water. The North has the Columbia River, East has the Snake River and the Pacific Ocean is on the West. There is also many rivers and lakes in Oregon. The three states that border Oregon are Washington, Idaho, and California.

In the early 1800’s there were about 51 Indian Tribes in the Territory. Many of the tribes lived near the Pacific Ocean. These tribes were in many ways related and spoke the same language. Today there are nine Oregon tribal governments that represent all the tribes in Oregon. Fur trappers found the best routes and trails through the mountains and across the rivers for the wagon trains to follow. They are the ones who “opened up” the Oregon Territory. The Oregon Trail started in the small town of Independence, Missouri and it stretched across 2,000 miles to Oregon City in the Willamette Valley. (Just south of where Portland is today) The Oregon Trail passed through seven states which are Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. Over 400,000 people followed portions of the Emigrant Road (Oregon Trail) to settle in the West between the 1840’s and 1860’s. Hardships were great and many people died along the way.

The Wagon Train of 1843 had an estimated 700 to 1,000 emigrants heading for Oregon. They were charged $1.00 a person to be guided by John Grant former army Capitan and fur trader. Nearly all the settlers in that train arrived in the Willamette Valley by early October. As they traveled, the problems were great and rough roads needed to be cleared so the wagons could pass. A road had to be completed around Mt. Hood. This was called the Barlow Road and made the journey much easier.

Wagons were called Prairie Schooners and were smaller than the big Conestoga wagons used in the eastern United States. The Prairie Schooners could easily be pulled by 4 to 6 oxen or 6 to 10 mules. Wagons cost between $85 and $170. These smaller wagons had larger wheels that were protected with iron rims on them and they could move more easily over the rough ground and rocks and even tree stumps. The cost of food for four people for a six month journey was about $150. They hunted for fresh meat to eat along the way that included antelope, buffalo, elk, bear, geese, ducks, deer and fish.. The emigrants came to Oregon to get free land. Married couples could get 640 acres and a single settler could claim 320 acres. In 1854 that changed and land was then $1.25 an acre with a limit of 320 acres.