Oregon Trail The Oregon Trail was a route followed by American emigrants as they moved westward during the middle nineteenth century. Along this route, the settlers would face many challenges such as Indian attacks, fierce weather, difficult terrain features, and many diseases. Although these tasks proved to be formidable, nearly four hundred thousand people would eventually travel along the trail. .
The origin of the Oregon Trail can be traced back to the Native Americans and early trappers. Roaming the frontier, both groups frequently crossed sections of the trail. In 1742, a Canadian explorer named Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, ventured upon sections of the trail in Wyoming. Sixty-two years later, the Lewis and Clark Expedition would return with accounts of the trail, making it more known. Finally, in eighteen-twelve Robert Stuart and a party of explorers traveled along the trail, backwards. Stuart's party discovered South Pass, which would provide a route of travel through the Rocky Mountains. This discovery opened the door to the West for thousands of settlers. Stuart's discovery of the South Pass did not immediately cause a massive migration west. The first group to travel west was the missionaries. Sent by churches in the East, missionaries moved west in order to introduce and convert the Native Americans into Christianity. In nineteen thirty-six Marcus Whitman and his wife, accompanied by Henry and Eliza Spalding headed toward Oregon Country. These missionaries would send back letters explaining the vast opportunities of Oregon. The Depressions of eighteen thirty-seven and eighteen forty-one would be the driving force behind a massive movement west. Many farmers and businesspersons were hard hit by depression and headed west with nothing to lose. Another factor that caused a western migration concerned the claim in which Britain had on the Northwest. The government was concerned with British expansion and encouraged Americans to emigrate west.