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Thursday December 3, 1987

Pix #1 - Ezra Meeker, Born Dec. 29, 1830 emigrated to the Oregon country in 1852. Farmer and father of the hop industry in Washington territory (now state). Spent five years searching out and recovering the lost Oregon Trail.

Pix #2 - United States of America, showing The Chief American Trails. This map illustrates the path of the Oregon Trail, which was used to open the Northwest territory. The map also illustrates the Santa Fe Trail, used to reach California and other southwest areas of the U.S. Other explorers developed trails which used part of the Oregon Trail with variations to suit their wishes.

Pix #3 - Meeker photographed in 1906 on the trail near Wells Spring, Oregon busy writing in his journal of the previous day.

Pix #4 - Thousands of early exployers died along the trail, but few of the graves on the plains were preserved. Photo shows Meeker addressing a group of pioneers at a lone grave in Nebraska, photographed in 1910.

Pix #5 - Photo shows the rough, steep terrain encountered by Meeker at Snake River, Idaho in 1910.

Several years ago I inherited a set of 25 postcards, published by Ezra Meeker after he migrated to the Oregon country in 1800's. The set of postcards was named Oregon Trail Monument Expedition.

The scenery and captions on the cards whetted my interest in learning more about The Oregon Trail, the name which came to be used by various explorers who attempted to find the best routes to reach, explore and settle this country's newly purchased land in the great northwest.

My next thought was to inquire what Kaubisch Library had in books about the Oregon Trail. Inquiry disclosed three excellent books which readers of all ages should read to learn how our United States of America expanded after all of the fabulous western lands were won and developed.

Perhaps this treatise of the subject, whether it be one, two or three articles, will devlop appreciation for those early explorers and settlers of the West, and lead readers to be more appreciative of our country, and be willing to preserve it with the spirit of "God Bless America".


Books at the library which present the history about the development of the trails, the pioneer explorers and settlers used to open and develop the West are: (1) "The Old Trails West" by Ralph Moody; (2) "Oregon Trail" by Walter Havighurst; (3) "The Oregon Trail Revisited" by Gregory M. Franzwa.

Upon requesting permission to excerpt data from all three of those books, only the #3 listing granted the request, with the provision that The Patrice Press, the publisher be credited. So, it is from that book that much of the information for this article was gleaned.


The Foreword of The Oregon Trail Revisited provides a good overview of the explorers of yesterday vs. today, written by Geo. B. Hartzog Jr., Director of National Park Service, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture which follows:

"In recent years we Americans have enjoyed the excitement of watching men conquer the thresholds of outer space. Through the magic of modern communication, we have witnessed the first human excursions to the moon".

"Perhaps because of these wonders, it is difficult to comprehend that just over a century ago Oregon and California seemed as remote as the moon does today. Americans once ventured to the western edge of the continent as they now do into space. But they did not merely pause and return. They stayed and populated the land, and they helped to build America".

"Today, when most of us are content to let a few daring individuals conquer the universe, it is easy to forget that the West was not conquered by a hand- ful of trained adventurers. Ordinary Americans traveled the Oregon Trail by the hundreds of thousands, seeking a better life in the form of farmland they could call their own. Half a million of them crossed the Continental spine at the great South Pass".

"It took courage to venture into a strange and forbidding land, drawn only by a promise of a better life. Pioneers on the Oregon Trail faved many obstacles ...climate and terrain, distance, Indians, hardship and sickness, scarcity of food and water, to name only a few. Amateurs in the wilderness, they profited by their experience, buried their dead...more than 30,000 still lie along the trail...and pushed on to build the comfortable America their descendants have inherited".

"We of the National Park Service are charged with preserving some of the landmarks of the Oregon Trail. Chimney rock, Scotts Bluff, Fort Laramie, and Whitman Mission stand today, as reminders of the trail's past. Other sites have been designated National Historical Landmarks as a result of National Park Service studies. As this book shows so well, however, the story of the Oregon Trail is greater than these few outstanding places. It was mile on mile of toil, pain adventure and hope. Mr. Franzwa recounts this story, and he gives us a splendid guide book so that all may visit the many scenes of this great epic".

"Read this book and reflect on qualities that shaped America, especially the perseverance and courage of ordinary citizens who created a nation out of strange wilderness".

"Under the guidance of Mr. Franzwa, the book's author, we may stand at South Pass, witnessing in our imagination the migrations of the past, and sensing the quiet determination that characterized our forebears. (Washington, D.C. March, 1972)".


To read the book will be educational and delightful if you are interested in the history, and development of this country's great western territory.

It all really started in 1803, when President Thomas Jefferson signed the President Thomas Jefferson signed the papers for the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France for fifteen million dollars. It was wilder- ness region, extending from the Mississippi river to the Rocky Mountains.

The rest of the land to the Pacific Ocean was not in possession of any nation. If it could be reached and claimed, the U.S. borders would extend from ocean to ocean.

In the Spring of 1804, President Jefferson ordered Captain Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to accomplish that task. They did, returning September 1806. They had taken what was later referred to as the northern route of The Oregon Trail, starting in Kansas and on through territories which later were named South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. In later years the Southern Route was developed, leaving Independence, MO.

By 1840, wagon trains were on their way to the Williamette Valley of W. Oregon. In 1847, 5,000 emigrants set out for the new Oregon Territory.

There is a wealth of history and delighful reading in the 386 pages of "The Oregon Trail Revisited". You must read it to get the full impact of what "Trail" had meant to our country.

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