1843- Oregon Trail Opened


Oregon Trail

With the freshmen class of 1838, Oberlin College admitted its first four women. The college prided itself on its openness, having been the first school to admit blacks, it was also the first college in the nation to admit women.


In May 1843 the frontier settlement of Independence Missouri was bustling with activity. For the first time there were families preparing to depart for Oregon. They were led by Dr Marcus Whitman. He was a country doctor who had traveled with his wife to Fort Vancover seven year earlier. Among the families were Peter Burneett who would be the first governor of California and Jesse Applegate one of the most famous westerners.

On May 22 they headed out. Between 500 and 1000 people together with thousands of head of cattle set off for Oregon. They traveled in two groups, the first the wagons and the families, followed by the cattle. The caravan followed the Platte River to the Sweetwater River. Every night the wagons would circle and guards would keep the cattle together. The caravan continued until it reached Fort Hall. There they were told that there was no way that the wagons could reach the coast. They decided to go forward anyway, they had no choice. The members of caravan hacked there way through the Blue mountains. However, once they reached the Cascade Mountains they were unable to continue. They were forced to Columbia Valley, were the wagons were unable to make it through. Most of their property had to be abandoned. Help was sent upriver by the settler of the Wilmatte Valley and a result most of the settlers arrived safely.
For the next two years the settlers followed the same course. In both cases the settlers suffered greatly. The first group was snowed in for the winter in Walla Walla Valley. Finally Jesse Applegate set off and discovered a completely new trail down the Umpqua Rivers to Grants pass east along the Applegate River to a pass by the Klamath Lake and there to the California Trail.

Year by year the numbers of settlers on the Oregon trail made there way and settled Oregon and the territories to the North and South.