2018 marks the 175th anniversary of the “Great Migration” of wagon trains on the Oregon Trail. In 1843 approximately 1,000 pioneers made the 2,170-mile journey to Oregon. Over the next 25 years, 400,000 people traveled west from Independence, MO with dreams of a new life, gold and lush farmlands. As the starting point of the Oregon Trail, join us as we mark this historic year with celebrations and unique activities commemorating the dreamers, risk-takers and those who gambled everything for a new life.
Party Like it’s 1843 – A Weekend Celebration May 18 – 20, 2018
May 19 | 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. | Historic Independence Square
Live Action Oregon Trail: Teams of 2-4 will try to make it to Oregon. Teams will have to answer trivia questions, win competitions, and stay clear of cholera! This will be a ticketed event. Event Website
1843 Main Street: Free pioneer crafts for kids! Learn all about life on the trails. Living history demonstrations including blacksmith, candle making, gold panning, old time photo booth, general store, first person re-enactors.This is a free event. Event Website
Overland Trail Lecture series in the Brady Courtroom: History lovers rejoice! The Jackson County Historical Society will host a lecture series about the trail system. This is a free event. The Brady Courtroom is located on the 2nd floor of the Historic Truman Courthouse. Event Website
May 20 | 2 p.m. | National Frontier Trails Museum
Oregon Trail History: Did You Know?
- For the critical decade from 1840-1850, the town of Independence, Missouri, was the spot where, for most American “emigrants,” the adventure of starting over first touched reality.
- Each spring Independence became a rendezvous for the cosmopolitan medley of strangers ready to undertake an up to six-month journey into the unknown. Located on the edge of the American frontier, the town was the trailhead for covered wagons heading across the plains for the dreamed-of and unsettled lands of Oregon and California.
- Free land, up to a square mile of it for new settlers.
- Seeking prosperity in the fertile soils.
- Health benefits, away from the mosquito-ridden swamps of the Mississippi Valley.
- Sever recession devalued commodities and livestock during “The Panic of 1837.” The harsh economic conditions encouraged many farmers to seek a better life in the west.
- Average people, mostly farmers, who were looking for a better life. They were willing to sell their homes, leave friends and families, and pack up their belongings and head west.
- The first were the trappers who had been in the Oregon Country for fifty years working for American and British companies trapping beaver and other fur-bearing animals for trade to Europe and China. These trappers were very important in establishing positive relationships with the Indians, many of whom later helped the Oregon Trail emigrants by trading for food and services, such as swimming livestock across the rivers.
- Missionaries and religiously oriented members.
- Merchants hoping to capitalize on new market opportunities.
- Adventurers seeking excitement on the frontier.