The Oregon Trail was a route that settlers took to move westward. It was the main route that people used to get to Oregon and California in the mid-1800s.
The trail had to be traveled by covered wagons, which were large, heavy vehicles pulled by horses or oxen. The wagon would only be able to carry about 200 pounds of supplies and luggage. This meant that many settlers had to leave behind their belongings and possessions in order to make the journey.
Settlers wore clothing that was practical for traveling in the wilderness, but also needed for protection against the elements and animals such as bears or snakes.
Right here on Buy and slay, you are privy to a litany of relevant information on what did pioneers wear on the oregon trail, what did they eat on the oregon trail, what was the purpose of the oregon trail and so much more. Take out time to visit our catalog for more information on similar topics.
The Oregon Trail
The Oregon Trail is one of three historic trails, including the Santa Fe and California trails, that started in Independence.
To mark the 175th anniversary of the Great Migration on the Oregon Trail — when the largest immigrant train to date left Independence — the Jackson County Historical Society, in partnership with Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area, National Frontier Trails Museum, City of Independence Tourism, Independence Square Association and the Oregon California Trails Association, hosted the event, “Party Like It’s 1843”.
“The major goal was to bring history to life in Independence,” said Caitlin Eckard, the executive director of the Jackson County Historical Society. “There’s just so much history in our area, we want to make sure everybody is aware of Independence’s heritage.”
The event series included a live-action Oregon Trail Game, Westward Ho! Down, and a Pioneer fashion show, inspired in part by KCPT’s earlier event, “Street Style: A Civil War Fashion Show”.
Layton, whose expertise is in historic textiles and helped research and coordinate the fashion show, said finding information about 1840s fashion, let alone clothing and accessories, proved challenging.
“Although the clothing in each era may look similar to a modern observer, a 20-year difference is long time in the world of fashion,” Layton said.
With an emphasis on local history, the fashion show featured 13 different models wearing clothes of Independence townspeople, riverboat workers and an enslaved domestic housekeeper.
“The planning committee felt strongly that ‘Party Like It’s 1843’ should include all areas of history and not shy away from the fact that 1840s Independence was a slave-holding area and that slave labor contributed to the town’s prosperity,” Layton said. “We wanted to get a true representation of the City of Independence at the time.
What did they wear on the oregon trail?
Men wore loose, full shirts, often open at the neck, and loose trousers. They also wore heavy boots and hats made of straw, fur, or felted wool and brought heavy coats of jean fustian. Women almost always wore long dresses.
What personal items would people bring on the Oregon Trail?
Families would also bring personal favorite foods, clothes, supplies, books and furniture, but had to be very mindful of weight. The recommended weight limit for the wagons was 2,000 pounds. Just the food for one family could weigh from 1,300 to 1,800 pounds leaving very little room anything else.
What was the purpose of the oregon trail ?
Oregon Trail, also called Oregon-California Trail, in U.S. history, an overland trail between Independence, Missouri, and Oregon City, near present-day Portland, Oregon, in the Willamette River valley. It was one of the two main emigrant routes to the American West in the 19th century, the other being the southerly Santa Fe Trail from Independence to Santa Fe (now in New Mexico). In addition, branches from each main trail provided connections to destinations in California, and a spur of the northerly Oregon route, part of the Oregon Trail, led to the Great Salt Lake region of what is now northern Utah.
The Oregon Trail, which stretched for about 2,000 miles (3,200 km), flourished as the main means for hundreds of thousands of emigrants to reach the Northwest from the early 1840s through the 1860s. It crossed varied and often difficult terrain that included large territories occupied by Native Americans. From Independence it first traversed the vast prairie grasslands of present-day northeastern Kansas and southern Nebraska, there following the Platte River. Skirting the southern end of the Sand Hills, it continued along the North Platte River (a major tributary of the Platte) into much drier and increasingly rugged lands in what is now southern Wyoming. There, leaving the river, it crossed its first mountain ranges before heading across the arid and desolate Great Divide Basin.
In southwestern Wyoming, after having run largely westward for hundreds of miles, the route trended generally to the northwest as it traversed more mountains and then followed the relatively level plain of the Snake River in what is now southern Idaho. Entering the northeastern corner of present-day Oregon, the trail crossed the Blue Mountains before reaching the lower Columbia River. From there travelers could float downstream or, after 1846, go overland through the Cascade Range to the trail’s western terminus in the fertile Willamette valley situated between the Cascades and the Coast Ranges to the west.
What did they eat on the oregon trail?
Ingredient number one on any responsible pioneer’s packing list was flour. A family of four typically needed 600 pounds – that’s as heavy as one male grizzly bear – to survive the whole trip. The most common type of flour was called shorts, a cross between rough bran (good for fiber, BTW) and a coarse, ground flour. Shop owners sold shorts at a more reasonable price than superfine flour. And it was a step up from the cheapest kind of flour – middlings. That contained mostly bran and tasted very gritty.
According to Randolph B. Marcy’s 1859 must-read, A Handbook for Overland Expeditions, it was best to store flour in “stout double canvas sacks well sewed, a hundred pounds in each sack.” Read on to find out what the travelers made with their flour.
Depending on how you feel about pork, you’d probably consider traveling the trail a perk because of all the bacon. In fact, bacon was the second most commonly eaten food on the trail. Back in those days, bacon could refer to thin slices from the pig’s sides or shoulders. People cured the meat because that process made it last longer.
You’d need a whopping 400 pounds of bacon to feed a family of four on the Oregon Trail. Author Randolph B. Marcy advised travelers to pack the pork in sacks, “or… in boxes… surrounded with bran, which in a great measure, prevents the fat from melting away.” Unfortunately, bacon still occasionally spoiled and had to be ditched along the trail.
In less delicious news, bacon wasn’t just cured, it was a cure! Well, at least in theory. Early Americans used it as a popular medicine to treat all kinds of ailments. They wrapped strips of it around their necks to cure sore throats and applied it to wounds and to get rid of chiggers – mites that burrow under the skin. Er, we’ll stick with bacon in our sandwiches, thanks.
Wagon space was precious, so it might seem odd that most pioneers made room for sugar, packing around 100 pounds of it for a family of four. But given that they ate the same foods over and over, they really needed something to sweeten things up. Travelers mostly carried brown sugar, which went through fewer processes than white sugar, so it was cheaper. However, it still contained molasses, which could make the sugar run in the hot sun. Consequently, they sometimes added crushed sugar to get them through the latter part of the journey.
Keeping the sugar was a big deal, so Randolph Marcy recommended putting it in rubber or gutta-percha sacks. Both of which are plastic-like substances that come from tropical trees. Ironically, given that it was used to protect sugar, dentists sometimes use gutta-percha in root canal fillings!
Another staple grain that accompanied many of the Oregon Trail travelers, cornmeal had many practical purposes. People could make it easily and cheaply. They picked corn straight from the field, dried it, ground it, and finished. Also, it could last the entire five or six months without spoiling. To make porridge, the pioneers mixed cornmeal with water or milk.
The trail travelers didn’t create this, though. People in the east made their own versions of porridge, known as hasty pudding in New England and suppawn in New York. Some of the pioneers wrote about it fondly. One traveler, Clarissa Taylor, noted, “It is remarkable that all are excessively fond of cornmeal in every form in which it is cooked. Everyone expresses satisfaction.”
Like their modern-day counterparts, the pioneers loved coffee on the trail. Unlike us, however, they couldn’t just dump the beans in a coffee machine and let technology do the work. Whenever they wanted a cup, travelers roasted the raw beans in a skillet over the fire and ground them. (And we thought waiting in line at Starbucks was a drag.)
They had coffee with breakfast, but as the journey progressed, they drank it more often. Often, it was the last food travelers had left. One person recalled that the smell of roasting coffee was the last remaining comfort when the other food ran out.
Ever resourceful author Randolph B. Marcy offered an alternative option: “A decoction of the dried wild or horsemint, which we found abundant under the snow, was quite palatable, and answered instead of coffee. It dries up in that climate, but does not lose its flavor.”
6. Dried Beans
Fast, filling, and, flatulence-causing, beans were a menu staple with cowboys as well as pioneers. Cowboys liked this versatile food so much that they sometimes nicknamed their camp cook “Beans.”
The pioneers often ate beans for breakfast. They were relatively quick to make. People simply added them to a big pot with water. Although raw beans lasted for a long time, cooked beans spoiled quickly. So everyone had to enjoy them quickly. That suited the travelers because breakfast needed to wrap up by 4 A.M. They liked to move when the sun rose.
Every traveler didn’t consider rice to be a staple. But it was a handy food to have around since it lasted and traveled well. Plus rice made people feel full, which was important for morale. Traveling along the Oregon Trail involved a lot of peril, from diseases, horse accidents, drowning, and maybe even from a fellow traveler. Finishing a long day with a hot meal helped fortify wearied travelers before the next day’s ride.
A guide written by Joel Palmer, who traveled to Oregon in 1845, advised people to pack 10 pounds of rice per adult for the journey. They could eat it with meat, like dried beef. Travelers also enjoyed rice with water, milk, butter, sugar, molasses, and our favorite, cornmeal mush.