Oregon Trail

For those of us in the Pacific Northwest, our interest in the Oregon Trail fades about the eighth time we're dragged to an Oregon Trail interpretive center, museum, or monument. As the goal of America's most famous overland route, we're inundated with facts about the Westward migration from a young age, and at some point you've had enough and you don't want to read another book or see another highway sign on the topic.

Of course the Oregon Trail isn't the only local color we get bored of. Lewis and Clark can get pretty old, too, but at least they fought bears and saw Bigfoot and stuff. Pioneers traversing the Oregon Trail, on the other hand, were tired most of the time, dirty all the time, frequently sick, pummeled by the weather, drowning in rivers, and skipping the Barlow Toll Road so they could use their mouse to navigate the great Columbia River; Indians attacked only infrequently.

Who wants to read about that all the time? Well, the pioneers for one. Many of those convinced to take the trip from the American East and Midwest were led to do so by reading literature of those who'd been there, and in some cases, those who hadn't been there but had vivid imaginations. One of the latter tracts beckoned people to Oregon by describing pigs running around, fully cooked, and with forks and knives sticking in them for ready eating.

It's doubtful whether very many people were convinced to go West from fantasies like this—19th-century people were no more gullible than modern humans, and in many ways less so. It's equally doubtful that the author of said pamphlet figured people would take him altogether seriously. What is certain is that hyperbole like this led restless, individualistic, hardworking, adventurous people through hell and high water to a land of green trees, green fields, and clear water.

Compared to the increasingly industrialized East, the West really was the new Eden. It was largely peaceful, green beyond belief, fertile for farming and ranching, and (best of all for rural folk) it was empty. Those who left the citified East often spoke of their desire for "elbow room," a concept which for us in this era of suburbs and metropolitan sprawls means a double-sized lot, but for them meant acres and acres and acres of farm land and square miles of uninhabited forest and wilderness.

But the draw of empty spaces and arable valleys weren't the only sources of impetus for the pioneers. Two important ideologies were at work in mid-19th century America, both of which took a long time to wear off, and neither of which have fully departed even now: the idea of Manifest Destiny, and the ideal of rugged United States individualism. These ideas took hold of both the educated and the uneducated, and made Westward migrations into a kind of pilgrimage or religious duty.

Manifest Destiny was the idea that the United States had a divine warrant for expansion, that Americans were obligated as good citizens to expand its borders and bring their particular brand of republicanism mixed with democracy to the rest of the poor, unenlightened world. On the North American continent, this meant subjecting or displacing the native peoples (American Indians) and settling the farthest corners of the sovereign land of the still-young nation.

Rugged individualism is a little more amorphous as a philosophy. Basically, it was the result of Enlightenment thinking, which said that the individual was the final arbiter of truth, that one was responsible for himself to organize facts and establish a system of knowledge by which to interpret all things. Most Americans didn't understand this philosophical background, of course, but nearly all of them resonated with the idea that they were no longer constrained to Old World notions of authority, and could shape their own destinies by virtue of their own decisions.

Not everyone who headed West went for such dubious reasons. Many were missionaries, intent on bringing God's Word to the Indians; others wanted to see a pristine land; others were looking for land to be tamed and settled far away from the corrupting influence of cities and population hubs. Whatever the individual reasons, the pioneers came in droves, braving all sorts of dangers and deprivations for the Eden of the West.

Some went to California, some went further North to what became Washington State, but plenty of them came straight for Oregon, particularly the Willamette Valley. Once you've seen the Valley, you'll know why so many of us tolerate the interpretive center trips and stay here. It really is one of the most beautiful places on earth. It's much more crowded than the pioneers found it, but it's still not enough to make anyone suffocate.

Manifest Destiny has largely fallen out of favor, though the desire to take "American Democracy" to the world is its latest (and most destructive) iteration. Rugged individualism exists currently both as an admirable tendency toward self-sufficiency and hard work, and as a flippant attitude toward morality and laws. Neither of these ideologies are wholly bad, but inasmuch as both focus on men rather than God, they're pernicious.

That's why we prefer to focus on those pioneers who came West in the service of Christ. Perhaps the most famous (and among our favorites) were the Presbyterian missionaries, Marcus and Narcissa Whitman. The Whitmans turned Manifest Destiny on its head by following Christ's instructions to make disciples everywhere, and they baptized individualism by being among the first to come to Oregon Country. These are the pioneers we most want to imitate in a settled land that needs Christ as much now as it has ever done.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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65 Items found Print
America in the Time of Lewis and Clark
by Sally Senzel Isaacs
from Heinemann-Raintree
for 2nd-5th grade
in 19th Century America (Location: HISA-19C)
$6.00 (1 in stock)
Apples to Oregon
by Deborah Hopkinson
Reprint from Aladdin Paperbacks
for Preschool-3rd grade
in Picture Books (Location: PICTURE)
$8.99
Caravan to Oregon
by Herbert E. Arntson
from Binford & Mort Publishing
for 4th-7th grade
in Vintage Fiction & Literature (Location: VIN-FIC)
Cassie's Journey
by Brett Harvey; illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray
from Holiday House
for Kindergarten-2nd grade
in Oregon Trail (Location: HISA-19OR)
$6.50 (2 in stock)
Dear Levi
by Elvira Woodruff
from Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
for 4th-6th grade
in Oregon Trail (Location: HISA-19OR)
$4.00 (1 in stock)
Early Days in Old Oregon
by Katharine B. Judson
from Binford & Mort Publishing
for 9th-Adult
in Pacific States (Location: HISV-PNW)
Facing West
by Kathleen V. Kudlinski
for 4th-7th grade
in Oregon Trail (Location: HISA-19OR)
$7.50 (1 in stock)
Flatboats and Wagon Wheels
by Mildred Houghton Comfort, illustrated by Dirk Gringhuis
from Beckley-Cardy Company
for 3rd-6th grade
in Vintage History & Biographies (Location: VIN-HIS)
For Ma and Pa
by Wilma Pitchford Hays, illustrated by Peter Burchard
from Coward McCann
for 2nd-4th grade
in Vintage History & Biographies (Location: VIN-HIS)
Freighters and Pilgrims
Knowledge Keepers Home Library Series 1865
by Charles E. Young and Sarah Raymond Herndon
from Knowledge Keepers
for Adult
in History for Adults (Location: ADU-HIS)
$6.30 (1 in stock)
Going West
by Martin Waddell, illustratred by Philippe Dupasquier
from Harper & Row
for Preschool-2nd grade
in Western Expansion (1800-1898) (Location: HISA-19WES)
$5.00 (1 in stock)
Great and Minor Moments in Oregon History
by Dick Pintarich
1st edition from New Oregon Publishers
for 9th-Adult
in Pacific States (Location: HISV-PNW)
Here Rolled the Covered Wagons
by Albert Salisbury
from Superior Publishing Company
for 3rd-6th grade
in Vintage History & Biographies (Location: VIN-HIS)
Journey West on the Oregon Trail
by Cecile Alyce Nolan
from Rain Dance Publishing
for 2nd-7th grade
in Oregon Trail (Location: HISA-19OR)
$7.50 (1 in stock)
Kit Carson
A Discovery Book
by Nardi Reeder Campion, illustrated by Shannon Stirnweis
from Garrard Publishing Company
for 3rd-6th grade
in Vintage History & Biographies (Location: VIN-HIS)
Lucretia Ann on the Oregon Trail
by Ruth Gipson Plowhead
from Caxton Press
for 4th-6th grade
in Realistic Fiction (Location: FIC-REA)
$6.00 (1 in stock)
Lucretia Ann on the Oregon Trail
by Ruth Gipson Plowhead
from Caxton Press
for 4th-6th grade
in Vintage Fiction & Literature (Location: VIN-FIC)
Lucretia Ann on the Oregon Trail
by Ruth Gipson Plowhead
from E.M. Hale and Company
for 4th-6th grade
in Realistic Fiction (Location: FIC-REA)
$6.00 (1 in stock)
Marcus and Narcissa Whitman
by James Daugherty
from Viking Press
for 7th-10th grade
in Vintage History & Biographies (Location: VIN-HIS)
Marcus and Narcissa Whitman
A Discovery Book
by Marian T. Place
from Garrard Publishing Company
for 4th-6th grade
in Vintage History & Biographies (Location: VIN-HIS)
Marcus Whitman: The Great Command
by Nard Jones
2nd edition from Binford & Mort Publishing
for 6th-12th grade
in Biographies (Location: BIO)
Narcissa and Marcus Whitman
Heroes of God
by Anne West Williams
from Association Press
for 4th-8th grade
in Biographies (Location: BIO)
On to Oregon!
by Honore Morrow
1946 Edition from William Morrow & Company
for 3rd-7th grade
in Vintage Fiction & Literature (Location: VIN-FIC)
Oregon & Applegate Trail Diary of Welborn Beeson in 1853
by Bert Webber
for 4th-8th grade
in Oregon Trail (Location: HISA-19OR)
Oregon Trail
by Francis Parkman, Jr., illustrated by Frederic Remington
1993 printing from Little, Brown & Company
for 9th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
Oregon Trail
by Francis Parkman, Jr., illustrated by Maynard Dixon
from Heritage Press
for 9th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
$12.00 (1 in stock)
Oregon Trail
by Francis Parkman
from International Collectors Library
for 9th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
Oregon Trail
Events That Shaped America
by Michael V. Uschan, Sabrina Crewe
from Gareth Stevens Publishing
for 4th-6th grade
in Clearance: History & Geography (Location: ZCLE-HIS)
Oregon Trail
by Leonard Everett Fisher
from Holiday House
for 5th-Adult
in Oregon Trail (Location: HISA-19OR)
$8.00 (1 in stock)
Oregon Trail
Famous Books for Young Americans
by Francis Parkman
from A. L. Burt Company
for 9th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
$7.50 (1 in stock)
Oregon Trail
by Francis Parkman Jr., illustrated by Thomas Hart Benton
from Garden City Books
for 7th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
Oregon Trail
by Francis Parkman Jr., illustrated by N.C. Wyeth
from Little, Brown & Company
for 7th-Adult
in Vintage History & Biographies (Location: VIN-HIS)
Oregon Trail
by Francis Parkman Jr., illustrated by James Daugherty
from Holt, Rinehart and Winston
for 7th-Adult
in Vintage History & Biographies (Location: VIN-HIS)
Oregon Trail
by Rinker Buck
from Simon and Schuster
for Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)
$19.99
Oregon Trail #01
Choose Your Own Trail!
by Jesse Wiley
from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
for 3rd-6th grade
in Historical Fiction (Location: FIC-HIF)
$7.99
Oregon Trail #02
Choose Your Own Trail!
by Jesse Wiley
from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
for 3rd-6th grade
in Historical Fiction (Location: FIC-HIF)
$7.99
Oregon Trail #03
Choose Your Own Trail!
by Jesse Wiley
from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
for 3rd-6th grade
in Historical Fiction (Location: FIC-HIF)
$7.99
Oregon Trail #04
Choose Your Own Trail!
by Jesse Wiley
from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
for 3rd-6th grade
in Historical Fiction (Location: FIC-HIF)
$9.99
Oregon Trail #05
Choose Your Own Trail!
by Jesse Wiley
from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
for 3rd-6th grade
in Historical Fiction (Location: FIC-HIF)
$7.99
Oregon Trail #06
Choose Your Own Trail!
by Jesse Wiley
from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
for 3rd-6th grade
in Historical Fiction (Location: FIC-HIF)
$7.99
Oregon Trail #07
Choose Your Own Trail!
by Jesse Wiley
from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
for 3rd-6th grade
in Historical Fiction (Location: FIC-HIF)
$7.99
Oregon Trail #08
Choose Your Own Trail!
by Jesse Wiley
from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
for 3rd-6th grade
in Historical Fiction (Location: FIC-HIF)
$7.99
Oregon Trail #1-4 - Boxed Set
Choose Your Own Trail!
by Jesse Wiley
from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
for 3rd-6th grade
in Boxed Sets & Literature Packages (Location: FIC-BOX)
$31.00
Oregon Trail Cookbook
by Leslie J. Whipple
from Maverick Books
for Adult
in American Cooking (Location: COOK-US)
$7.20 (1 in stock)
Oregon Trail Diary of James Atkin, Jr. in 1852
by James Akin
for 9th-Adult
in Oregon Trail (Location: HISA-19OR)
Oregon Trail Diary of Rev. Edward Evans Parrish in 1844
by Rev. Edward Evans Parrish
for 8th-Adult
in Oregon Trail (Location: HISA-19OR)
Over the Applegate Trail to Oregon in 1846
by Anne Billeter, Bert Webber
for 8th-12th grade
in Oregon Trail (Location: HISA-19OR)
Path to the Pacific
by Neta Lohnes Frazier
from Quarto Knows
in Biographies (Location: BIO)
Pathways of America: The Oregon Trail
by Lynda Hatch
from Good Apple
for 4th-8th grade
in Oregon Trail (Location: HISA-19OR)
$4.00 (1 in stock)
Pioneer Children on the Journey West
by Emmy E. Werner
from Westview Press
for Adult
in History for Adults (Location: ADU-HIS)
$4.20 (1 in stock)
Prairie Schooners
by Glen Rounds
in Oregon Trail (Location: HISA-19OR)
$8.00 (1 in stock)
Prairie Schooners
by Glen Rounds
from Holiday House
for 3rd-6th grade
in Oregon Trail (Location: HISA-19OR)
Reading, Writing and Riding Along the Oregon-California Trails
by William E. Hill
Regular Print/Single Titl from Oregon California Trails
for 4th-6th grade
in Oregon Trail (Location: HISA-19OR)
$4.00 (1 in stock)
Saddles East
by John W. Beard
from Binford & Mort Publishing
for 9th-Adult
in Oregon Trail (Location: HISA-19OR)
Story of the Oregon Trail
Cornerstones of Freedom series
by R. Conrad Stein
from Children's Press
for 4th-6th grade
in Cornerstones of Freedom (Location: VIN-CORN)
Stout-Hearted Seven
Sterling Point
by Neta Lohnes Frazier
from Sterling Publishing Co.
Non-fiction/Biography for 5th-9th grade
in Oregon Trail (Location: HISA-19OR)
Tragic Tale of Narcissa Whitman and a Faithful History of the Oregon Trail
by Cheryl Harness
from National Geographic
for 4th-8th grade
in Oregon Trail (Location: HISA-19OR)
Trouble for Lucy
by Carla Stevens
from Clarion Books
Historical Fiction for 4th-5th grade
in Historical Fiction (Location: FIC-HIF)
$7.95 $5.50 (1 in stock)
Trouble for Lucy
by Carla Stevens
from Clarion Books
Historical Fiction for 4th-5th grade
in Historical Fiction (Location: FIC-HIF)
Tucket's Travels
by Gary Paulsen
from Yearling
for 4th-6th grade
in Action & Adventure Stories (Location: FIC-ADV)
$9.99
Wagons West
Adventures in Frontier America
by Catherine E. Chambers
from Troll Publishing
for 4th-6th grade
in Oregon Trail (Location: HISA-19OR)
We Were There on the Oregon Trail
by William O. Steele
from American Home-School Publishing
Historical Fiction for 4th-8th grade
in Historical Fiction (Location: FIC-HIF)
We Were There on the Oregon Trail
We Were There #1
by William O. Steele, illustrated by Jo Polseno
from Grosset & Dunlap
Historical Fiction for 5th-9th grade
in We Were There Series (Location: VIN-HIS)
Westward on the Oregon Trail
by Marian T. Place
from American Heritage Publishing Co.
for 6th-10th grade
in American Heritage Junior Library (Location: VIN-HIS)
Willamette Way
by Margot Austin
in Vintage Picture Books (Location: VIN-PIC)