Westward Through Nebraska
University of Nebraska - Lincoln
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      From the very earliest times mankind has been interested in the West and the routes thither. The West, representing a region beyond the fringe of settlement, allured people of many classes. The explorer and the trader, the missionary, the scientist, the land hungry farmer, the individual who wanted to start life over, the adventurous--these, and others, made their way into new and untried regions--the advance guard of an expanding civilization.

      From the time when an awakening medieval Europe took to the sea to discover new trade routes to the East, "the West" has been a factor directly affecting the destiny of our country. Dissatisfied Europeans sought the new world as a place of refuge from troubles of many kinds. The early pioneers in the new world pushed the settlements into the interior along the river valleys, and across the crest of the Appalachians. Advancing settlement and too close proximity of

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      neighbors sent the bolder and more adventurous of these still farther westward into the Mississippi Valley and politicians began to dream of an empire beyond the plains and across the Rocky Mountains.

      Other nations, recognizing the possibilities of the Pacific Coast of North America, had taken steps to lay claim to the part known as the Oregon Country. Of these, the claims of England became most troublesome to the carrying out of the plans of the United States, and the negotiations attempting to settle the question were prolonged over a period of years. In the meantime other events were taking place which were to affect profoundly the future destiny of the territory in question.

      Thomas Jefferson, realizing the significance of the West, not only arranged for the purchase of the Louisiana Territory (1803), but also sent an expedition to explore this region and that which lay beyond the mountains. To the Lewis and Clark Expedition belongs much of the credit for an early knowledge of the Oregon Country. But the region they passed through, as an organized expedition, had probably already been

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      visited by bold courageous souls who sought adventure and wealth in the furs of a region hitherto untapped. They had gone as individuals to hunt and trap, to trade with the Indians, and, after a sojourn of a year or so, to return to civilization with precious cargo.   -1-

      Fur trading companies, under the urge to meet the ever-increasing demands for fur to make beaver hats, soon organized to secure their share of these fortunes. Fur trading posts were built in far-away places, and communications between them and the frontier market, St. Louis, were regularly established. The early fur-trading expeditions were to seek out the most direct and easily traveled routes to the region of the Rocky Mountains and the coast. Their goings and comings were finally to establish the route known as the Oregon Trail, the central route to the Pacific, the most direct and practicable, and one which was to play a significant part in the settlement of the so-called Oregon Question.

1. Ghent, W. J., The Road to Oregon , pp. 1-4. (Go back to where you were.)

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      In the development of this route much significance attaches to the Astorian expedition of 1811-1813. John Jacob Astor, intent on establishing a fur trading post at the mouth of the Columbia, sent two expeditions, one by water around Cape Horn, the other by land, under the direction of Wilson Price Hunt. The overland expedition, by way of the Missouri, the Bighorn, the Wind and the Snake rivers, touched, only here and there, at points which were later to be tracked by emigrant wheels. But

      "the route pursued on the return journey, under the direction of Robert Stuart, was, with three exceptions, that of the Oregon Trail of later years. Stuart's party kept south of Snake river, instead of crossing and following the line of the Boise'. They also missed the line from Bear River to the Devil's Gate, although near it a good deal of the way. From Grand Island to the mouth of the Kansas they followed the rivers, instead of crossing the angle between them, as the Trail did afterward. All of these variations would have been avoided on another journey. The two Astorian expeditions, therefore, are entitled to the credit of having practically opened up the Oregon Trail from the Missouri River at the mouth of the Kansas to the mouth of the Columbia."  -2-

2. Chittenden, H. W., The American Fur Trade. Vol. I, p. 214. (Go back to where you were.)

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      The hostility of the Arikaras, (also called the Rees) proved itself a blessing in disguise. They dwelt along the upper reaches of the Missouri, and being somewhat capricious in nature, could not always be depended upon to assume a friendly attitude toward the whites. Their unprovoked hostility upon various occasions led the traders and trappers to search for a more central route to the west.  -3-

      The Rocky Mountain Fur Company, organized in 1822 under the leadership of William H. Ashley, sent its first expedition to the West in April 1822. Under the command of Major Andrew Henry this expedition located a fort at the mouth of the Yellowstone River. He later moved his camp up the Powder River from which place Major Henry organized and sent out a party under the command of Etienne Provost. This party explored the rich beaver country in Green River Valley and possibly also the region around Great Salt Lake for the first time since the visit of the ill-fated Astorians.

3. Ghent, op. cit. , pp. 9-10. (Go back to where you were.)

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      "The party dispatched by Henry to the southwest is believed to have been the first party of white men to have crossed South Pass. Tradition among the traders and trappers always ascribed the discovery of this pass to Provost, and there is little doubt of the fact; but of positive proof there is none. The date of the discovery was probably late in the fall of 1823."  -4-

      "The line of the Sweetwater Valley was opened up at the same time, as was also the route from South Pass to Bear River."  -5-

      The discovery of South Pass and the spread of the knowledge that now the Rocky Mountains might be crossed, by wagon trains as well as by pack trains, had a deep influence in determining the route to be followed by future travelers to the far west. The journey up the Missouri was long and accomplished with great difficulty. It led through the territory of the capricious Arikaras. The Platte River was not navigable, though its valley was an excellent highway for overland travel. The starting point was St. Louis, and it soon came to be recognized that the most direct

4. Chittenden, American Fur Trade. Vol. I. p. 271. (Go back to where you were.)

5. Ibid. , p. 458. (Go back to where you were.)

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      route to South Pass lay up the Missouri to Independence or Westport, thence overland to the Platte, near Grand Island, and up the Platte Valley.

      "The portion of the route between Independence, Missouri and Grand Island on the Platte came into use at an early day, but there is no record when or by whom it was opened up."  -6-

      The discovery of South Pass must be regarded as a factor of prime importance in directing westward travel up the Platte Valley.

      The fur trading business, started by Ashley, was continued by some of his men, Jedediah S. Smith, David E. Jackson, and William L. Sublette. They began business in 1826 and to them goes the credit for being the first to conduct a wagon train over the route to be known later as the Oregon Trail. On April 10, 1830, ten wagons drawn by five mules each, and two dearborns (four-wheeled carriages, with curtained sides), drawn by one mule each, set out from St. Louis. In the words of the report of the party to the Honorable John H. Eaton, Secretary of War:

      "Our route from St. Louis was nearly due west

6. Idem.  (Go back to where you were.)

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      to the western limits of the state; and thence along the Santa Fe Trail about forty miles: from which the course was some degrees north of west, across the waters of the Kansas, and up the great Platte River to the Rocky Mountains and to the head of Wind River, where it issues from the mountains. This took us until the 16th of July, and was as far as we wished the wagons to go, as the furs to be brought in were collected at this place, which is, or was this year, the great rendezvous of the persons engaged in that business. Here the wagons could easily have crossed the Rocky Mountains, it being called the Southern Pass, had it been desirable for them to do so, which it was not, for the reason stated.... Our route back was over the same ground nearly as in going out, and we arrived at St. Louis on the 10th of October, bringing back the ten wagons, the two dearborns being left behind;...."  -7-

      The first great epoch in the development of the Oregon Trail as a highway of national significance belongs to the fur traders and may be regarded as reaching its peak with the Smith-Jackson-Sublette wagon train of 1830. The path thus marked was to be followed, during the next decade, by an increasing number

7. The Letter of Jedediah S. Smith, David E, Jackson, and William L. Sublette to the Honorable John H. Eaton, Sec. of War. Senate Document 39, 31st. Congress, 2nd Session, Serial No. 203. Also, Historical Reprints--1830-1930 : The Oregon Trail Centennial: The Documentary Background of the Days of the First Wagon Train on the Road to Oregon, edited by Archer B. Hulbert, State University of Montana, Missoula. (Go back to where you were.)

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      of parties, some traders and explorers, some seeking adventure, some missionaries, and perhaps countless others whose records have not been preserved.

      One of the first travelers of the second epoch, and one of the most interesting is Captain Bonneville. Urged by a desire to explore, inspired by at least a slight zeal for scientific knowledge, but more probably eager to share in the wealth of the fur trade, he secured a two-years' leave of absence from the United States army. Starting from Fort Osage, ten miles from Independence,

      "the route was the usual one up the valleys of the Platte and Sweetwater rivers, through South Pass and thence to Green River, where he arrived about noon on the 27th of July (1832)."  -8-

      He spent some three years exploring the western country, trapping, and trading. From the standpoint of scientific knowledge gained, or financial returns, his expedition may not be considered a success.

      "To Captain Bonnevile belongs the credit of being the first to take wagons through South

8. Chittenden, American Fur Trade. Vol. I, p. 400. (Go back to where you were.)

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      Pass and to Green River.... Bonneville's expedition was another step in the progress of civilization into the unsettled regions of the Far West."  -9-

      Nathaniel J. Wyeth was another of the early traders and explorers whose trek to the west in 1832 and again in 1834 helped to mark out the route which, in the next decade, was to become the great emigrant route. In 1832, a contemporary and rival of Captain Bonneville in the fur trade, Nathaniel Wyeth discovered how firmly entrenched the British fur traders were in the Oregon country. Inspired to this undertaking by the exhortations of the Boston school master, Hall J. Kelley, Wyeth, with about 20 in his party, all as inexperienced as he, managed his expedition in a masterful manner, and though it fell short of financial success, he gained a rich experience. With this new experience he determined upon a second expedition, which set out from Boston in 1834 and followed the usual route to the fur country. On this expedition he was accompanied by two scientists, Thomas Nuttall

9. Ibid. , p. 431. (Go back to where you were.)

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      and J. K. Townsend, and two missionaries, Jason and Daniel Lee. The failure of this expedition is doubtless due to a lack of financial backing adequate for a long drawn out competition with the firmly established British companies. He did succeed in building Fort Hall on the Snake River, the first resting place to be built along the Oregon Trail.  -10-

      From this time on interest in the fur trade seems to have been on the wane. Rendezvous were held at appointed times and places, but after 1840 there was no longer need for supply trains to visit the haunts of the trappers. Those who still remained in the mountains could get their supplies from the forts or trading posts which had been established--Bent's Fort, Fort Laramie, Fort Hall, Fort Boise and others.  -11-

      The years which marked the declining interest in the fur trade saw an increasing interest in the establishment of missions. Such religious zeal was stimulated by the appearance in St. Louis, about 1832, of

10. Chittenden, American Fur Trade. Vol. I, pp. 434-456. (Go back to where you were.)

11. Ghent, W. J., The Early Far West, A Narrative Outline , 1540-1850, pp. 262-3. (Go back to where you were.)

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      a delegation of natives from the Oregon Country. Consisting of four or six representatives from the Flathead Indians and a delegate from the Nez Perce, the group accompanied a returning fur party, and presenting themselves before General Clark, at St. Louis asked that teachers be sent to their people. The story of their appeal was heralded far and wide and religious enthusiasts took up the cause of the neglected tribesmen of the far northwest.  -12- It has already been noted that two missionaries, Jason and Daniel Lee, accompanied the second expedition of Wyeth. Though the Methodist Church was the first to respond to this call, other denominations were soon to follow suit and in 1835 a party, which included the Reverend Samuel Parker and Doctor Marcus Whitman, was sent by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions to investigate the needs of the region in question and the possibilities of meeting them.  -13- Whitman returned to the states to organize a mission-

12. Bancroft, Hubert H., History of Oregon. Vol. I, pp. 54-57. (Go back to where you were.)

13. Ibid. , pp. 104-110. (Go back to where you were.)

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      ary party which started westward in 1836. The party went by way of Council Bluffs and the Platte Valley.  -14- Though it did not follow the route of the Trail in question significance attaches to the fact that Mrs. Whitman and Mrs. Spaulding, as members of the party, were the first white women to cross the Rockies and find homes in the far west.  -15- They were soon to be followed by many others who went, sometimes with missionary parties, and sometimes with parties of home seekers.

      With the decade which began about 1840 missionary enthusiasm seemed to have been overshadowed by the desire to colonize and the route which was first marked out by fur traders and supply trains and followed later by missionary parties, was to become the world's most unique highway. Many and complex were the motives which prompted such multitudes of people to trek beyond the frontier, across a vast stretch of country occupied by hostile natives and into a region which at best could offer only insecure rewards. Some

14. Ghent, The Early Far West , pp. 261-2. (Go back to where you were.)

15. Ibid. , p. 261. (Go back to where you were.)

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      were seeking land; some were feeling the aftereffects of the panic of 1837; some, dominated by a patriotic motive, saw an opportunity to dispute England's claim in the Northwest; some hoped to find more healthful climatic conditions than the Mississippi Valley offered. With all these, and perhaps others, was the spirit of and love for adventure.  -16-

      The first of the emigrant parties to be organized as such set out from near Independence in 1841. Organized by John Bidwell, with John Bartleson as captain, and Thomas Fitzpatrick as guide, the total number reached eighty-one, including De Smet, a missionary to the Flathead Indians, and an eccentric preacher, the Reverend Joseph Williams.  -17- The route lay along the approximate course of the Oregon Trail until near the present Pocatello, Idaho. Here the party divided, some continuing on to Oregon and some going to California.  -18-

16. Ibid. , p. 314. (Go back to where you were.)

17. Ibid. , pp. 316-17. (Go back to where you were.)

18. Idem. Also Williams, Joseph, Narrative of a Tour from the State of Indiana to the Oregon Territory in the Years 1841-2.  (Go back to where you were.)

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      The emigration of 1841 was greatly overshadowed by the migration of the next year. Dr. Elijah White, who had formerly been in the Oregon Country with Jason Lee, was returning as Indian sub-agent early in 1842. In response to a call for immigrant families to accompany him on the return journey, a total of 107 men, women and children assembled, with eighteen wagons and some herds of cattle, at Independence.  -19- Like the previous emigrant party, they traveled the approximate course of the Oregon Trail.

      The year 1843 marked the beginning of heavy migration to the Oregon Country. In that year, under the leadership of Marcus Whitman, somewhere near 1000 people began the long overland journey. Whitman had made a trip to Washington to represent the interests of American citizens residing in Oregon and on his return in 1843 headed this great band of emigrants. Disagreements exist as to the exact size of the party, but Joseph G. Masters says it consisted of 200 wagons, and 1000 men, women and children.  -20- Much importance

19. Ghent, The Early Far West , pp. 319-20. (Go back to where you were.)

20. Masters, Joseph F., Pamphlet of the Oregon Trail Memorial Association.  (Go back to where you were.)

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      attaches to this migration, the first large organized expedition which brought to Oregon American citizens in sufficient number to influence the settlement of the question of ownership. Furthermore, the expedition was significant as marking another step in the development of the Oregon Trail as an emigrant highway.

      Other emigrant trains followed in rapid sucession.

      "In 1844 from 500 to 700 went out; in 1845 over 3000 with 460 wagons made their way into the West; while in 1846 approximately 1600 went to Oregon and California. In 1847 at least 3000 Mormons made the trip over the two branches of the Trail, finally reaching Salt Lake; in 1848 a large number of Mormons and others were again found on the Trail. This year may be said to close the pioneer-emigrant period."  -21-

      The next year or two were marked by an unprecedented excitement over gold in the west and trails which had been taking home seekers into the Far West were now to carry gold seekers into the fabled regions. Could the trails but speak, what tales of fortune and misfortune, of hope and disappointment,

21. Ibid.  (Go back to where you were.)

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      of courage and romance, of tragedy and disaster, would they tell! The great surge of humanity westward is suggested in the following excerpt from the pamphlet quoted above:

      ".... by April 1, (1849) 20,000 had gathered along the banks of the Missouri ready to begin the trip over the Trail just as soon as the spring grass would make its appearance to sustain the oxen and mules. The St. Joseph Advocate states that by May 18 of that year 2850 wagons had crossed the river at that point and by June 1, 4000 wagons had passed Fort Kearney on the south side of the river alone. It is estimated that from 8000 to 10,000 wagons went over the trail that year. There were often as many as ten oxen to each wagon."

      "In the year of 1852, 500 wagons passed Fort Kearney in a single day. In a period of twenty four hours, 888 wagons were counted on the trail between Fort Kearney and Julesburg on the south side of the river. In 1857 Albert Sidney Johnston passed over the trail with 2500 soldiers enroute to quell the Mormons. Large numbers again fared forth with the "Pike's Peak, or Bust" discovery of gold in 1858 and 1859."

      Such increasing interest in the west and the growing numbers of emigrants aroused the government to action. As early as 1842, before the heavy tide of migration began, Captain J. C. Fremont of the United States Army, was sent to explore the route of

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      the emigrants and the territory through which it passed. Setting out from a post on the Missouri River ten miles above the mouth of the Kansas River, he followed the general route of the Trail to the Platte River and thence up the Platte to South Pass, which he discovered to be "a wide, smooth gap, with an ascent so gradual that only by the closest observation could one tell when the summit was reached."  -22- He found the route pretty well thronged with emigrants, and the report of his expedition, published in 1845, doubtless gave great encouragement to others, who were considering such a journey.

      From time to time the government sent military expeditions over the route to aid in maintaining peaceful relations with the Indians and to make recommendations concerning the establishment of forts for protection. Colonel Kearney was sent to the Rocky Mountains in 1845 to consider the feasibility of estab-

22. Ghent, Early Far West , p. 322. Also, Senate Document 174 to 177, 2nd session, 28th Congress, Report of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains , J. C. Fremont. (Go back to where you were.)

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      lishing a post at Fort Laramie. He followed the general route of the Oregon Trail and, meeting with the Pawnee, Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians, told them they were not to close the road to the white travelers. He recommended that, instead of building a fort, a military expedition be sent into the region at frequent intervals.  -23-

      The year 1847 witnessed the expedition under command of Lieutenant D. P. Woodbury to locate a site for a new fort on the Oregon road for the protection of travelers. The site chosen was

      "seventeen miles from where the Oregon Trail turns off to the south from the Platte River--two or three miles from the head of the group of islands called Grand Island".  -24-

      Such a site was believed to be favorably located with respect to the Pawnee and Sioux Indians, particularly the Pawnee, as it was

      "intermediate between their villages where they spend five months of the year--the

23. Senate Document Vol. I. 1st session, 29th congress, Report of Colonel Kearney.  (Go back to where you were.)

24. Publications of the Nebraska State Historical Society Vol. XXI, Military Correspondence of the War Department Relating to Fort Kearney , pp. 250-268. (Go back to where you were.)

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      spring and autumn--and their hunting grounds, the Platte, the tributaries of the Kansas, and the Arkansas, where they spend the remaining seven months--women, children and all...."  -25-

      Two government expeditions went to Utah in 1849 following the general route of the Trail, particularly in Nebraska. Captain Howard Stansbury of the United States Topographical Survey was sent to explore Salt Lake. His account contains much interesting and valuable information for other travelers of his day and much of it is still interesting reading.  -26- A second expedition of 1849 was under the command of Major Cross who led a regiment to Oregon. His journey lay along the route of the Oregon Trail and was undertaken to further peaceful relations with the natives. Migration in 1849 was heavy, and disease and suffering took a heavy toll of life along the way.  -27-

      A government expedition to the Great Basin of Utah in 1855 was under command of Colonel Steptoe.

25. Idem.  (Go back to where you were.)

26. Stansbury, Howard, Exploration and Survey of the Valley of the Great Salt Lake of Utah. Also in Senate Executive Document No. 3, Special Session 1851. (Go back to where you were.)

27. Senate Document No. 1, 31st Congress 2nd session, Serial number 587. (Go back to where you were.)

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      His report indicates that the course of his journey lay along the route of the Oregon Trail.  -28- Two years later Albert Sidney Johnston led an army of 2500 men into the Mormon country, following the main traveled route to the Platte Valley and Fort Laramie.

      The decade after 1850 which saw such increase in migration to the West and which aroused the government to greater interest in the region, brought, as a natural result, demand for communication between the far-flung frontier and the more populous east. The very first enterprises in establishing overland communication were of a private nature, but political developments in the Union and the expediency of keeping a firm hold on the newly acquired regions prompted the government to aid in this undertaking. In the process of establishing such communication the various routes to the Far West came into keen competition, and it remained for the enthusiasts of the Central Route to the Pacific to demonstrate its practicability as a

28. Executive Document No. 1, Part VI, 34th Congress, 1st session. (Go back to where you were.)

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      route for overland communication.

      The Mormon settlement in Utah had created the first urgent demand for government assistance in this respect and it was in 1850 that the United States Post Office Department made arrangements for the first postal facilities to Utah. The contract, which went to Samuel H. Woodson of Independence, Missouri, provided for monthly service each way from the Missouri River to Salt Lake City, beginning July 1, 1850 and continuing four years.

      "This pioneer mail followed the Oregon Trail up the Platte and through South Pass. There were no mail stations maintained by the contractor at first. One team or set of pack animals was used to make the entire trip, and the time allowed for the service one way was thirty days. Due to various difficulties the trip was seldom made in schedule time...."  -29-

      In 1854 the second contract was let and in 1856 the third contract went to Hiram Kimball, a Mormon of Utah. With the aid of the Mormon settlers plans were undertaken for the establishment of settlements along the way, and for the general improvement of the monthly

29. Hafen, LeRoy R., The Overland Mail , p. 57. (Go back to where you were.)

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      service. Such plans were abruptly interrupted in midsummer of 1857 by the approach of United States troops under command of Sidney Johnston to settle the so-called "Utah War". Postal service was resumed in 1858 under a contract providing for pack mules in winter and coaches in summer.  -30-

      Meanwhile, the government had entered into contract with John Butterfield and his associates for the establishment of mail service with the Pacific Coast over a southern route, such service to begin September 15, 1858. The southern route had its advantages as well as disadvantages, but the Northerners could see only the latter, and to appease the Northern critics the postmaster general set about to improve service on the Central Route. Contract was made with John M. Hockaday and others for a weekly service between Independence and Salt Lake City in four-mule wagons or carriages on a twenty-two day schedule. George Chorpenning received the contract west of Salt Lake City. Unusual effort was made to maintain the

30. Ibid. , pp. 62-3. (Go back to where you were.)

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      service during the winter months, so that during 1858-9 this line remained a competitor of the Butterfield line.  -31-

      Partisans of the Central Route believed the only way to secure legislation favorable to them was to demonstrate the advantages of the route and the possibilities of year round service. To accomplish this Mr. Russell, of the firm Russell, Majors, and Waddell, an overland freighting company, arranged for opening of the Pony Express. Horses were purchased and distributed along the line; the best riders obtainable were employed, and within two months everything was in readiness for launching the enterprise. On the third of April, 1860, a simultaneous start was made from both ends of the line. The route followed by the Pony Express riders was that traversed by the overland mail by the way of Salt Lake City--the general route followed by the emigrants on the Oregon Trail.  -32- The story of the Pony Express and its riders is full of

31. Ibid. , pp. 109-15. (Go back to where you were.)

32. Ibid. , pp. 169-175; also Root and Connelly, The Overland Stage , pp. 112-13. (Go back to where you were.)

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      tales of daring and adventure, of spectacular courage and reckless deeds. Such figures in history as "Buffalo Bill" and countless others, have been connected with this undertaking and the romance and human interest growing out of it have attracted such eminent writers as Mark Twain.

      Established as a private enterprise to advertise and demonstrate the Central Route, the Pony Express hoped to receive government subsidy. At last in 1861, advocates of the Central Route succeeded in securing the passage of a bill providing for daily overland mail on the desired route and a semi-weekly Pony Express to be continued until the completion of the overland telegraph.  -33- From a financial point of view the Pony Express was a failure, but it accomplished its purpose as an advertiser. In operation for less than two years, its story marks one of the most exciting and dramatic pages in our history.

      The bill of 1861, referred to above, provided for the establishment of a daily overland mail over

33. Hafen, Overland Mail , pp. 188-9. (Go back to where you were.)

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      the Central Route. Influenced by the secession of the southern states, and encouraged by the demonstration of the Pony Express, the new legislation provided that the Butterfield people transfer their operations from the southern route to the Central route. Though some changes were later to be made in the route the early course followed approximately the route of the Oregon Trail to Salt Lake City, and is of interest in this connection as another step in the history of the Oregon Trail.

      During the decades from 1830 to 1860 the Trail rendered its greatest usefulness, first as a trail for fur trading parties; then as a highway for those with missionary zeal. Later, it carried those seeking to colonize and those searching for the fabled wealth of the far frontier. Over its course went the primitive lines of communication which were to be a factor in binding the new empire of the West to the older one of the East. But in the background of all this movement and activity was to be heard distant rumblings, which, to the more thoughtful people, were becoming louder and louder. They foretold the coming of an era

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      of railroads, which, by the end of the next decade, (1860-1870) was to affect materially the Oregon Trail as a highway to the West.

      The effect of the railroad on the Oregon Trail has been described by Root and Connelly, in their book The Overland Stage :

      "After the Union Pacific railway was finished from Omaha to a point on the north side of the Platte adjacent to Fort Kearney, in the fall of 1866, staging along the 'Overland' between Atchison and the old military posts was done away with. Not only this, but the bulk of merchandise transported by the white-covered prairie-schooners continued to 'grow small by degrees and beautifully less'. Neither horses, mules, nor oxen could compete with the iron horse in moving freight overland. The frequent stage stations were forever abandoned. The men who kept the trading posts at convenient distances were forced to abandon their premises and seek other localities."

      Thus the history of the Oregon Trail came somewhat abruptly to a close, but as a highway that carried thousands of souls to a new home, that helped to bind East and West, it left a lasting influence upon the nation, and upon the region through which it passed.

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