I’ve always been fascinated by the strength and fortitude that enabled pioneers to set off across an unknown wilderness to create a better life for themselves. During my career as an author, I’ve run across readers who never tire of reading about these people.
A massive wagon train, made up of 1,000 settlers and 1,000 head of cattle, sets off down the Oregon Trail from Independence, Missouri. Known as the "Great Emigration," the expedition came two years after the first modest party of settlers made the long, overland journey to Oregon
After leaving Independence, the giant wagon train followed the Sante Fe Trail for some 40 miles and then turned northwest to the Platte River, which it followed along its northern route to Fort Laramie, Wyoming. From there, it traveled on to the Rocky Mountains, which it passed through by way of the broad, level South Pass that led to the basin of the Colorado River. The travelers then went southwest to Fort Bridger, northwest across a divide to Fort Hall on the Snake River, and on to Fort Boise, where they gained supplies for the difficult journey over the Blue Mountains and into Oregon. The Great Emigration finally arrived in October, completing the 2,000-mile journey from Independence in five months.
In the next year, four more wagon trains made the journey, and in 1845 the number of emigrants who used the Oregon Trail exceeded 3,000. Travel along the trail gradually declined with the advent of the railroads, and the route was finally abandoned in the 1870s.
Movies often sensationalize the experience, but the truth was, it was hard, dangerous, and grueling. Many pioneers walked the entire distance, wearing out their shoes and clothes. Still, they continued on, undaunted toward paradise.
The wagon became their home. A campfire, their stove. The ingredients and amounts of supplies needed to complete the journey was long and expensive.
To survive the long journey, a family of four would need 600 lbs. of flour, 120 lbs. of biscuits, 400 lbs. of bacon, 60 lbs. of coffee, 4 lbs. of tea, 100 lbs. of sugar, and 200 lbs. of lard. These would just be the basic staples. Other food stuffs could include sacks of rice and beans, plus dried peaches and apples. Bacon was often hauled in large barrels packed in bran so the hot sun would not melt the fat. Each man took a rifle or shotgun and some added a pistol. A good hunting knife was essential. Farm implements such as a plow, shovel, scythe, rake, hoe; plus carpentry tools - saw, broad axe, mallet, plane. Seeds for corn, wheat and other crops.
The journey was not for the faint of heart. I’ve often wondered whether I would have what it took to be one of these brave people. Would you have had the strength and courage?
Multi-published and Best-Selling author Cynthia Hickey had three cozy mysteries and two novellas published through Barbour Publishing. Her first mystery, Fudge-Laced Felonies, won first place in the inspirational category of the Great Expectations contest in 2007. Her third cozy, Chocolate-Covered Crime, received a four-star review from Romantic Times. All three cozies have been re-released as ebooks through the MacGregor Literary Agency, along with a new cozy series, all of which stay in the top 50 of Amazon’s ebooks for their genre. She has several historical romances releasing in 2013, 2014, 2015 through Harlequin’s Heartsong Presents, and has sold more than 200,000 copies of her works. She is active on FB, twitter, and Goodreads. She lives in Arizona with her husband, one of their seven children, two dogs and two cats. She has five grandchildren who keep her busy and tell everyone they know that “Nana is a writer”. Visit her website at www.cynthiahickey.com