Vanguards of the Frontier: A Social History of the Northern Plains and Rocky Mountains from the Earliest White Contacts to the Coming of the Homemaker

By Everett Dick | Go to book overview

CHAPTER X
CHASING THE RAINBOW'S END

THE OVERLAND TRAIL which frayed out like a rope at
its eastern end, with starting-points at the various Missouri River towns from Kansas City, as it is now called, north to the mouth of the Platte, was bound into a unit near Fort Kearney, Nebraska, and ran along the Platte to the mountains in Wyoming. In the western part of that State and in Idaho it again divided, one branch leading to Oregon and the other to California.

The first travelers over the eastern end of this highway were the trappers and fur-traders who, in order to avoid the hostile Indians on the Missouri River, struck directly across the prairie with their goods for the rendezvous. Captain William L. Sublette was the first to use wheeled vehicles on this route in 1830.

In 1841 the first band of emigrants set out from the Missouri border for California and Oregon, and by 1843 the so-called Oregon Trail had become well enough established that more than a thousand moved over it in the early years. Joel Palmer, who traveled up the trail in 1845, tells us that a large body of three thousand emigrants paused for organization on Big Soldier Creek in Kansas. According to the arrangements, two chief officers were to be elected, a pilot to act as guide and a captain. That year one candidate offered to guide the party for five hundred dollars in advance. Another offered to do the work for half that amount with a small sum down and the balance at Vancouver. The latter candidate was elected. A host of lesser officers were also elected-- lieutenants, judges, sergeants, and so forth.1 But a number of dis

____________________
1
Joel Palmer, Journal of Travels over the Rocky Mountains to the Mouth of the Columbia River, R. G. Thwaites, ed. ( Cleveland, Ohio, 1906), pp. 11, 39-43.

-228-

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