WESTWARD HO!  You are about to embark on the journey of a lifetime - the move west with a wagon train on the Oregon Trail. This is no easy journey, though.  Your success will require careful planning, research, and expert navigation skills.  Fortunately for you, you are not among the first to take the trip.  

Click on the task titles below to find out more about what you can do.



With a partner you will choose from one of four roles:

1.  As assistant editors of a Chicago newspaper, you have decided to make the move west to begin the first organized newspaper in Oregon's Williamette Valley.  Your first issue will feature a complete detailed article of your experiences from Philadelphia to Oregon, an obvious informational resource for those who will travel after you.  

        Working in groups of 2, you will research material about people who traveled the Oregon Trail in the 1850's and write an article for your newly formed newspaper about the events of  your "journey".  

  1. Your and your partner will introduce yourself and explain your role in the development and  importance of a weekly newspaper in the Oregon's Willamette Valley. You will report on plans for distribution of your paper, mentioning how you will make sure your information in available for people "back east". You will discuss in detail how this publication will be of benefit for others traveling the Oregon Trail. 
  2. Each member of the group should dress to fit the role they are playing and be able to answer questions asked of them.

2. As a surveyor and outdoorsman, you understand the difficulties of crossing the country into the wild frontier. You use your skills and equipment to create a map to help others along in their journey

    You and two other partners are to develop a detailed map outlining the overland route taken from Chicago to Oregon which will help to promote the lure of the trail and entice others to make their way west.  Indicate the routes which could have been taken by train, then by stage coach, and finally by wagon train. The poster will contain drawings that point out areas of land claims, other important stops on the trail both for rest and supplies, and any dangerous areas as determined by your research.   

3.  In groups of two, create a flyer for travelers to help them determine how much and what kind of supplies they will need to take on their journey across the trail.  This flyer should be made available for travelers in any towns that wagon trains meet to begin the journey. Make sure the amounts will be sufficient without weighing down the wagon and slowing down the pace.  Your one page flyer should include a list for travelers or foodstuff, clothing, hardware supplies, cookware, tools, medicine.  You should also indicate approximate time of the year to begin the journey so that travelers can reach Oregon before winter. Share your findings with the other "trail members".

4. As trained musicians, you and your partner pack your guitar and fiddle and join the trip west.  While on your trip, you observe life along the trail with all its heartaches and hard work, along with the beauty of the untamed frontier.  All of these things inspire you to write and you and your partner compose at least two songs (words and melody) that help those who hear you understand what the trail is all about. You will then perform your songs for the other "trail members".



You should now have a better understanding of the Jamestown colony and the difficulties endured by those who where involved in its settlement.


The Oregon Trail





The Great Conestoga Road, completed in 1741, and the later Lancaster Pike (opened in 1794) went from Philadelphia to Lancaster. After the Lancaster Pike was completed, the Pennsylvania Legislature granted charters to extend it westward to Pittsburgh, following closely the route of the Forbes Road. Faced with the need to build a road to move troops during the French and Indian War, General Forbes' troops constructed a road from Harrisburg to Ft. Duquesne which he renamed Fort Pitt, after his commanding general. Today, we know it as Pittsburgh. Years later, the Pennsylvania Legislature granted charters that extended the Lancaster Pike on westward to Pittsburgh, subsidizing this "Pennsylvania Road" by subscribing to stock in some of the companies. Migration moved westward through Fort Pitt as settlers trekked from eastern Pennsylvania and New England west to new lands and opportunities. The river-canal system which opened in 1834 between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh reduced traffic on Pennsylvania's turnpike. Heavy freight traffic diverted to the canals although stagecoach lines continued to prosper.

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