The current configuration of population and the composition of states that is known as the United States has not always been in place. In fact, after the American Revolution, the United States was composed of primarily the thirteen original colonies. However, after the Revolutionary War the country was looking to expand its possessions into territories west of the original colonies. The lure of the unknown was a big drawing card to the government and the opportunities that were present.
One of the first big events that led to westward expansion was the Louisiana Purchase. In the early 1800's, President Thomas Jefferson negotiated the purchase of a substantial amount of land which pushed the boundaries of the United States to nearly the Pacific Ocean. As a result of this new land becoming part of the country, the need to map this area to begin settlements was very important. To help chart the path to the Pacific and the Oregon Trail, the government commissioned an expedition to Oregon led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.
The Lewis and Clark Expedition was just the first step in the development of the Oregon Trail. Once charted, this trail became commonly used by others such as the Northwest Company and Hudson By Company, which began settlement of the Northwest Territories. The trail to Oregon began a popular route to emigrants to the United States and provided them with a fresh start and land in a new country. The Great Migration of 1843 was the first big push where over 1,000 pioneers left Independence Missouri to the new area of Oregon.
The Oregon Trail is one of the most significant developments in the growth of the Western United States. This provided an established path for settlers to travel to begin a new life. Until the development of the Transcontinental Railway, the Oregon Trail was the most popular path to the west. To learn more about the travel on the Oregon Trail, we have put together a number of helpful resources:
- Document Archives — Government archives showing the original document used in the Louisiana Purchase.
- Louisiana Purchase and Jefferson — Overview of the role of President Thomas Jefferson in the negotiation and purchase of the Louisiana Territory.
- Louisiana Purchase — Summary of the events of the Louisiana Purchase and key elements of the treaty with France.
- Overview of the Purchase — Information on the territories involved and the history behind the Louisiana Purchase.
Route of the Oregon Trail
- Oregon Trail Map — Information on the route of the Oregon Trail that was used in 1843.
- National Historic Trail — Government site which lists the trail as part of the National Parks System.
- Route of the Oregon Trail — Educational site providing information on a number of areas on the travels of the Oregon Trail.
Lewis and Clark Expedition
- Lewis and Clark — Informative site providing a historical look at the work of Lewis and Clark.
- Lewis and Clark Expedition — Government archive description of the work of Lewis and Clark in exploring the Oregon Trail.
- Journey of Lewis and Clark — Biographical look at the lives and explorations of the famed adventurers.
- Discovering Lewis and Clark — Excellent resource detailing the lives and work of Lewis and Clark.
- Northwest Fur Company — Information on the company that was established in the northwest in the early 1800's.
- Northwest Explorers — Article discussing the pioneers that helped explore the Northwest Territory.
Hudson Bay Company
- Hudson Bay Company — Overview of the company that was established in Canada that was a leader in the fur trade.
- The Hudson Bay Company — Helpful look at one of the major fur traders in the 1800's and its origins.
Great Migration of 1843
- Oregon in 1843 — Educational look at the emigration that took place in Oregon in 1843.
- West in the 1840's — Listing of events, including the Great Migration of 1843.
- History of Migration — Information on the major movements in history with a great deal of focus on the Great Migration of 1843.
- Oregon Trail and Migration — Informative page detailing the use of the Oregon Trail for the Great Migration of 1843.
- First Emigrants on the Oregon Trail — Helpful page detailing the lives of the first emigrants that traveled on the Oregon Trail.
- Oregon Trail History — Informative and educational look at the travels of emigrants traveling the Oregon Trail in the 1800's.
- Oregon Trail Life — Discussion of the trials that emigrants went through while on the Oregon Trail.
Wagons on the Trail
- Oregon Trail Wagons — Information and description of what the wagons were like on the trail.
- Covered Wagons — A historical look at the wagons that were used on the Oregon Trail.
- Wagons — Helpful and educational site providing information on the wagons in the Oregon Trail.
Teaching About the Oregon Trail
- Oregon Trail Lesson Plans — Collection of resources that can help teach about the Oregon Trail.
- Imagining the Oregon Trail — Educational look at life during the 1800's and the travels on the trail west.
- Lesson Plans — Helpful collection of lesson plans based on the Oregon Trail.
- Oregon Pioneer Lesson Plans — Informative page providing information and resources on the trail.
- Oregon Trail Plans — Useful collection of resources and plans for the Oregon Trail.
Oregon Trail Resources
- The Oregon Trail — Overview of the events and travels of pioneers on the Oregon Trail.
- Oregon Resources — Resourceful site with information on the westward expansion of the pioneers.
- End of the Oregon Trail — Useful collection of information and resources on the end of the Oregon Trail.