Oregon Trail

Some family history… My great uncle, wife and two young sons came across the Oregon Trail (then called the Emigrant Road) in 1847. Another one of their seven sons was born along the trail somewhere in Nebraska. Their descendants are now spread all across Oregon and Washington.

Recreated wagon circle on trail

Wagons Circled

(Baker City OR)
I visited the National Oregon Trail Interpretive Center east of town on what is now called Flagstaff Hill. They would have passed over that hill after crossing the Continental Divide and the Snake River.

Oregon trail stage route

Stagecoach Ruts

At the time, it was known as the hill overlooking the Lone Pine; a singular, huge and ancient pine tree, in the valley below, which was a landmark for travelers. I went looking for the wagon ruts, but found what would have been a stagecoach road.

(La Grande OR)
Their next waypoint would have been, in the Grande Ronde Valley, in late August. It was common to rest there before crossing the Blue Mountains, and heading to The Dalles.

Boxes stacked in back of wagon

Supplies in Covered Wagon

I visited the Blue Mountains crossing, and walked in the wagon path for a ways; maybe the one they used. On a plaque by it, there was a quote from an August 30, 1847 diary entry; possibly by an immigrant in the same wagon train as my ancestor.
Wagon path in the forest

Oregon Trail over the Blue Mountains

(The Dalles OR)

At The Dalles, was a major staging area for resupply and an important decision on which way to take from there. Some chose to float the dangerous Columbia River for the last stretch of their trek.

Snow capped mountain

Mount Hood

But, my ancestors decided to take the newly carved Barlow Road past Mount Hood for the last leg of their journey to Oregon City. I boondocked in the forest, very near their route, with a nice view of Oregon’s tallest peak at 11,239 ft covered in snow.

Oregon Trail roadway

Portion of the Barlow Road

(Jefferson OR)
My uncle settled in the Willamette Valley on a land claim just outside of Santiam City (now Jefferson) near the Santiam River. He went to the gold mines in California in 1849, and returned with enough to build a new house, a barn, and buy equipment; and to purchase more land. He later had a general merchandise store in town.

Field of grain with tree row

Ancestors Farm Field

Oregon Hwy-99E runs right through the middle of what was once his land. Just north of the original Santiam homestead, I stopped and visited with a farmer. His family too came across in the 1840s, and he was still on their land claim.

(Salem OR)
In later years, they moved to Salem and opened a general mercantile store. He became assistant county treasurer and assessor, and also justice of the peace. While in Salem, I had a nice visit with a cousin.

(Scio OR)
One of his sons bought a 1,000 acre farm just north of Scio, and became a partner in a mercantile store, and he was twice mayor of Scio. He later retired to Salem, and had a summer farm in Stayton.

Old barn in a field

Barn on Ancestors Land

(Corvallis OR)
A grandson had a livestock ranch near Corvallis raising cattle and sheep, and was also a banker. He became a city councilman, mayor of Corvallis, and a state senator. I didn’t get the chance to locate his ranch, but did drive through the area where it would have been located.

(Mitchell OR)
The son born on the Oregon Trail, was a blacksmith and rancher in Mitchell. When he was postmaster of the town, he named it for his friend state Senator Mitchell. I spoke with a local who showed me an excerpt in the town history confirming our family story.

Rugged cliffs against the sky

Cliffs at John Day Fossil Beds

The town of Mitchell has burned down twice and been flooded out numerous times. So, it doesn’t look much like it would have during his time. It’s still a little country town.

(John Day/Canyon City OR)
He then was a blacksmith for the Malheur Indian Agency, near John Day, during the natives uprising in 1878. In fact, four of the chiefs had a powwow in their kitchen, just prior to them heading off to their war dance. Chief Winnemucca was not able to talk the others out of going on the warpath. In the following years, they were right in the middle of the hostilities; sometimes taking refuge in an old mineshaft.

(Burns OR)
In 1882, they moved to Burns OR and built the first structure there, a hotel and saloon. It was replaced with a newer hotel, on the same lot, in the early 1900s. He was the first postmaster there, and became Deputy US Marshall for the county.

River raging between rocks

Powder River

It was exciting to visit the places that my ancestors pioneered and to experience the land first hand. What a wonderful journey through time and place I’ve had, all made possible with Tardis.

Camps: Boondock – Mt.Hood NF, Malheur NF
Scene: Trails, farms, towns, mountains, river

8 Responses to Oregon Trail

  1. Dizzy-Dick July 26, 2014 at 12:30 am #

    Quite a history your family has around that area. Something to be proud of.

    • Pleinguy July 26, 2014 at 12:52 am #

      Yes. I’ve always been intrigued by those in the family that pioneered the west. It was fun seeing those places.

  2. Gypsy July 26, 2014 at 12:34 am #

    You really struck gold in the genealogy department! You can read all about it but being there and seeing it personally is so much better and makes it more real. I’ve always been fascinated with the way you can still see wagon ruts across the Plains states. I just can’t picture wagon train after train crossing the country.

    • Pleinguy July 26, 2014 at 12:55 am #

      I used to be very involved in family history research. And yes, going to where they lived makes it all come alive.

  3. jonthebru July 26, 2014 at 8:02 am #

    This is one fantastic post. Its cool how many of them did so well.

    • Pleinguy July 30, 2014 at 8:04 pm #

      I really enjoyed seeing the places they settled, and encouraged by their successes.

  4. J. RICHARD SECOR July 29, 2014 at 12:02 am #

    Very interesting post and great photos

    • Pleinguy July 30, 2014 at 8:04 pm #

      Thanks Dick. Glad you enjoyed it.

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