Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Tidbits About the First Major Wagon Train to Oregon

On May 22, 1843 the first major wagon train headed to the NorthWest. They left with 1000 pioneers and departed from Elms Grove, Missiouri.

You can read more at This Date in History

Please note this is not the first trip on the Oregon Trail it wasn't even the largest as two years later 3000 pioneers left. But this has the unique status of the first largest group to travel. Some of their struggles were unique to the size of the group as well as what had happened on the trail the two years prior.

Below is a quote from Jesse Applegate, one of the members of the company of 1000.
"In his journal of the trip he gave a pleasing picture of the afternoon and evening of a long day:

It is now one o'clock; the bugle has sounded, and the caravan has resumed its westward journey. It is in the same order but the evening is far less animated than the morning march; a drowsiness has fallen apparently on man and beast; teamsters drop asleep on their perches and even when walking by the teams, and the words of command are now addressed to the slowly creeping oxen in the soft tones of women or the piping treble of children, while the snores of the teamsters make a droning accompaniment. But a little incident broke the monotony of the march. An emigrant's wife, whose state of health has caused Doctor Whitman to travel near the wagon for the day, is now taken with violent illness. The Doctor has had the wagon driven out of the line, a tent pitched and a fire kindled. Many conjectures are being made in regard to the mysterious proceeding . . . The sun is now getting low in the west, and at length the painstaking pilot is standing ready to conduct the teams in the circle which he has previously measured and marked out, which is to form the invisible fortification for the night. The leading wagons follow him so evenly around the arch that but a wagon's length separates them. Each wagon follows in the track, until its tongue and oxchain will perfectly reach from one to the other, and so accurate the measure and perfect the practice, that the hindmost wagon of the train always precisely closes the gateway, as each wagon is brought into position. It is dropped from its team (the team being inside the circle), the team unyoked and the yokes and chains are used to connect the wagon strongly with that in front. Within ten minutes from the time the leading wagon halted, the barricade is formed, the teams unyoked and driven out to pasture. Every one is busy preparing fires of buffalo chips to cook the evening meal, pitching tents and otherwise preparing for the night. There are anxious watchers for the absent wagon, for there are many matrons who may be afflicted like its inmate before the journey is over . . . But as the sun goes down the absent wagon rolls into camp, the bright, speaking face and cheery look of the doctor, who rides in advance, declares without words that all is well, and both mother and child are comfortable."

Lynn A. Coleman is an award winning & best-selling author who makes her home in Keystone Heights, Florida, with her husband of 42 years. Lynn's latest novel "The Shepherd's Betrothal" is the third book in her Historical St. Augustine, FL. series. Coming in Oct. The Rails to Love Romance Collection


  1. So, she went into labor? Sounds like it was a surprise to some. Thanks for sharing.

  2. An unexpected event happening while traveling with a large wagon train and how it was handled. Thank you for sharing.

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    2. You're welcome Marilyn. I just love the description of the doctor's face "the bright, speaking face and cheery look of the doctor, who rides in advance, declares without words that all is well,"

    3. I agree, Lynn, about the description of the doctor's face. God bless.