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Westward Expansion

by Mr. Dunn

Pages 2 and 3 of 4

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A Trail to the New Land
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You might think that the Oregon Trail was safe and easy. Well, that really wasn't the case.
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What Was It?
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The Oregon Trail was a roughly 2,000-mile route from Independence, Missouri, to Oregon City, Oregon, which was used by hundreds of thousands of American pioneers in the mid-1800s to emigrate west. The trail was arduous and snaked through Missouri and present-day Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho and finally into Oregon. Without the Oregon Trail and the passing of the Oregon Donation Land Act in 1850, which encouraged settlement in the Oregon Territory, American pioneers would have been slower to settle the American West in the 19th century.
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A map shows where the Oregon Trail went
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A covered wagon heading west towards Oregon
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Home on the Road
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By far, the most important item for successful life on the trail was the covered wagon. It had to be sturdy enough to withstand the elements yet small and light enough for a team of oxen or mules to pull day after day.
Most wagons were about six feet wide and twelve feet long. They were usually made of seasoned hardwood and covered with a large, oiled canvas stretched over wood frames. In addition to food supplies, the wagons were laden with water barrels, tar buckets and extra wheels and axles.
Contrary to popular belief, most of the wagons that journeyed the Oregon Trail were prairie schooners and not larger, heavier Conestoga wagons.

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