1836 - 1880 Oregon Trail

         When Thomas Fitzpatrick led the first group of missionaries across the continent on what would soon be known as the Oregon Trail, no one would have imagined the confluence of events that would produce the longest continuous migration in recorded human history.  Within years, hundreds of thousands of emigrants were heading to the California and Oregon territories in search of cheap land and a new life in the fabled Garden of Eden known as the Willamette Valley.

Fitzpatrick - Oregon Trail

Thomas Fitzpatrick leads the first group of settlers over the Oregon Trail in 1836 to Walla Walla Washington, where Marcus and Narcissa Whitman open their mission among the Cayuse Indians.

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         But most of this road traversed country that was still owned by the Indians.  White wagon trains devastated the countryside.  They killed the game, ran the buffalo off, chopped down timber, and brought killing plagues into Indian Country where there had been none.  These inevitable frictions did not take long to break out in violent encounters.  Treaties secured safe passage for the emigrants, but the federal government rarely made good on its promises to the Indians, and depredations by whites escalated over time and enraged the owners.  

         These tensions that eventually led to the Indian Wars of the second half of the century, and the final dénouement at Wounded Knee in 1890.