1843 — The first wagon train takes the Oregon Trail

The first major group – large enough to be called a wagon train – of settlers to tackle the Oregon Trail departed Elm Grove, Missouri, on May 16, 1843. Numbering between 700 and 1000 souls (accounts vary), they would not be the last. It would take another year or so for the trail to really become popular, but for more than twenty years, the trail, and its various offshoots, would be one of the most popular routes to the Californian coast. More than 400,000 people would travel it – most of them after the discovery of gold in California in 1848.

That first group took six months to traverse the approximately 2000 miles to the Oregon Territory, but they left behind them a rough yet passable trail that others were quick to follow, and over the next fifty years, enough Americans would go west that the government would eventually declare the frontier closed, so settled had it become.

Referenced in:

Oregon Trail — C.W. Call
Oregon Trail — Woody Guthrie