Oregon Trail

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The Oregon Trail is a 2,000 miles (3,200 km) historic east-west wagon route that connected various towns on the Missouri River to valleys in Oregon and locations in between. It was the oldest of the northern commercial and emigrant trails and was originally discovered and used by fur trappers and traders in the fur trade from about 1811 to 1840. In its earliest days much of the future Oregon trail was passable to wagons but was passable everywhere only to men walking or riding horses and leading mule trains. Early parties of fur traders and settlers gradually made improvements over or through barriers on the trail that converted the original mule paths into a rough but contiguous wagon road. By 1836 when the first Oregon wagon trains were organized at Independence, Missouri, the trail had been improved so much that it was possible to take wagons to Fort Hall Idaho. By 1843 a rough wagon trail had been cleared to The Dalles, Oregon and by 1846 all the way around Mount Hood to the Willamette Valley in Oregon. What became called the Oregon Trail was complete even as improved roads, "cutouts", ferries and bridges made the trip faster and safer almost every year.

After the American Revolutionary War various trails were found and used that connected the states of the east via the passes across the mountains (in Pennsylvania, and Virginia) into the sparsely settled Northwest Territories and as time went on further west into the territories of Iowa and Missouri. The newly developed riverboats and steamboats traversing up and down the Ohio, Mississippi and Missouri Rivers helped speed settlement and development in the American mid-west--Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Iowa et al. These riverboats allowed passengers and supplies to be delivered to "jumping off points" for the Oregon Trail on the Missouri River cheaply, quickly and easily. West of the Missouri River the next lands initially available for settlement with reportedly lush and fertile lands, forests, rivers and other possible sources of development were along the far western Pacific coastal maritime lands in the Oregon Territory. During the early migration waves until the mid-1850s, much of the territories through which the Oregon trail passed were still open and unsettled lands.

The Oregon Trail, starting from various locations on the Missouri River, led to the vast (and boundary disputed) Oregon Country. This territory in the early 19th century was subject to competing claims by the United States and Britain, who had come to an arrangement by 1818 that is usually described as "joint occupancy". Britain's name for the region was the Columbia District and the sparsely settled territory was governed by the local regional department of the British Hudson's Bay Company.[1] In about 1840 a change in men's fashion that avoided using the felt from beaver pelts to make men's hats essentially ruined nearly all the fur trade in North America. After 1843 when 700-1000 U.S.settlers went to Oregon, Britain became much more amenable to a boundary compromise. The Oregon Treaty of 1846 settled the major boundary disputes with Britain and the U.S. opening the territory to undisputed settlement.

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