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OREGON COUNTRY and the OREGON TRAIL

At one time, maps showed a large area as “Oregon Country,” and four different nations all claimed it was theirs. Oregon TrailPrior to 1805, Lewis and Clark were the only ones to explore it — in fact, they walked the entire length of Oregon Country. Oregon Country was the entire area south of Alaska, and to the north of California.

The four nations that originally wanted to claim it was the United States, Spain, England, and Russia.

By 1821, Russia and Spain gave up their claims.

John Jacob Astor was a naturalized American. On the Columbia River, he set up a fur post in 1811. He then sold it to an English owned company in 1813, since it was in danger of being taken over by the English anyway, due to its location. When that English business merged with the “Hudson’s Bay Company,” it sent Dr. John McLaughlin to lead the organization. Bringing in supplies from far places would be difficult, always being in danger of attack and theft. Therefore, McLaughlin had the brilliant idea to recruit farmers from the East, and move them directly to Oregon Country so they could raise livestock and grow crops right there.

Canada and the United States had settled on a border. The agreement they reached in 1818 was to have the border between the two nations along the 49th parallel. It stretched from the east coast and ran to the Rocky Mountains. Past the Rockies, the two nations agreed to share it with joint occupation. In 1827, Canada and the United States renewed their agreement. A stipulation was set stating that either nation could give a one year notice and withdraw from the treaty.

Not everyone in the United States thought that owning Oregon Country was necessary. In 1823, some people such as congressman Dr. John Floyd, were ridiculed for suggesting America should acquire Oregon. Others who did think that owning Oregon Country Oregon Territorywas important went there themselves to settle and to start business there, such as Nathaniel Wyeth and Hall Kelley. However, they were unsuccessful, as Oregon Country seemed to be dominated by John McLoughlin’s company.

Catholic, Presbyterian, and Methodist missionaries had much more success in convincing the United States to see the potential of Oregon Country. Some notable missionaries include Fr. Pierre De Smet, Henry Spalding, Marcus Whitman, Samuel Parker, Daniel Lee and Jason Lee. W. A. Slacum was sent by President Jackson to the area in 1836. His task was to survey the area and bring back reports. The reports he brought back were very positive, and the United States was more interested in aquiring Oregon Country than ever before.

People immediately began migrating to the area. The migration may have been slowed for a short time between 1837 and 1842, because the United States had a downturn in the economy due to the Panic of 1837. But when the economy picked up again, so did the momentum of migration to Oregon Country.

Some people had read reports from mountain men and others who had traveled the area before, such as John C. Frémont. People were excited to hear that a smoother journey was possible. There were humorous people such as Peter Burnett that would tell wild, unbelievable stories of how wonderful the area was, but it didn’t matter — the “spirit” was catching. For example, when Burnett talked before crowds, he would say that in Oregon Country the wild pigs were already cooked, and they ran all over the place complete with a knife and fork in them, ready to eat.

Then, it was 1843. Migration was in full swing. People were signing up for wagon trains by the masses. Familes and communities were making the journey to Oregon Country to claim land for the United States.

The journey was long, and not without adventure.

 

See also, facts about covered wagons.

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Source of fact information: Mark Twain Media, Inc., Publishers

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