Couple Relives Their Trip along the Oregon Trail
Byline: Sharon Kissane
"The experience itself became the Oregon Trail" said June Shuldes in summing up Bob and June Shuldes' slide presentation on the 2,000-mile trail, a lecture sponsored by the Barrington Area Historical Society on Sept. 24 at the Barrington Area Library. Michael Harkins, director of the historical society, called it a "tremendous program" which drew almost 60 people. Harkins said he saw many society members in attendance whom he hadn't seen in a long time.
The origin of the program was the 1993 trip the Shuldeses had made along the Oregon Trail as part of the Sesquicentennial Celebration of the Oregon Trail. Through lectures by guides and through plaques along the road, the couple learned that there are two common misconceptions of the settlers' trek along the trail. First, Conestoga wagons were used as commercial vehicles. The average family traveled in a smaller wagon, a farm wagon with a canvas cover. Secondly, the pioneer custom of circling the wagons did not have to do with defense against attacks by the Indians, but rather to provide a makeshift corral for the animals.
The true grit of the pioneers was made evident by the hundreds of graves along the trail. Most died of cholera from which there was no cure. The cause was the polluted water they drank along the trail. June Shuldes said there is a grave every 80 yards on the route.
The high point of their trip, said the Shuldeses, was standing in the deep roots on Deep-Rut Hill in Gurnsey, Wyo. As the wheels and the bottoms of the wagons scraped the sandstone along this part of the trail, the abrasions formed permanent ruts, some as deep as five feet. …