Traveling The Oregon Trail

Traveling The Oregon Trail through the Blue Mountains

      Imagine the early day pioneers driving their loaded covered wagons down the steep grade of the Blue Mountains. Today, as you drive along I-84, down from Meacham to Pendleton, the winding and steep grade may not seem so bad with paved highway.  That was not the case back in the 1800’s.  Here you will find first impressions of the early day settlers. 

The information comes from  “The Grande Ronde Valley and Blue Mountains: Impressions and Experience of Travelers and Emigrants, The Oregon Trail, 1812-1880,” a report by Stephen Dow Beckham for the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, La Grande, Oregon.  February 16, 1991.  Beckham found his resources from historical societies, libraries and archives from Oregon, California, Washington, Indiana and Connecticut.  See below for a complete list of those resources.  There are hundreds of entries such as this in the report. I intend only to provide a smattering of these entries.

    Tuesday, (August) 4th-Not long after daylight we continued down the Creek till 9A.M., when finding a deep hole with some salmon in it, we halted 4 hours, and speared seven. Proceeded on again at 1 P.M., thro’ a most enchanting tract (for a few miles) where the gloomy heavy timbered mountains subside into beautiful hills, chequered with delightful pasture grounds, which, when combined with the numerous rivelets murmuring over their gravely serpentine beds towards the glade below, afford a scene truly romantic, and such as is seldom to be met with in these regions of solitude and gloom (Stuart 1953:70).–Robert Stuart, an eastward-bound fur trapper from Astoria, approached the Blue Mountains from the west on McKay Creek. He wrote about his party’s transit of the mountains on August 4, 1812.     Here I noticed in the western horizon something stationary, although it looked like a cloud in the bright sky.  It proved (afterwards I found) the grand and snowy Mount Hood. I called the attention of  the men to it.  This we hailed as a discovery, and the grandest sight we had yet seen. (Ball 1902:96-97)–John Ball wrote about sighting Mount Hood from atop the Blue Mountains on Octoer 14, 1832.
    This afternoon we travelled the Blue Mountains covered with beautiful pines & spruce trees, 20 miles.  Encamped on the summit of hte mountains were we found beautiful grass for our animals. (Drury 1966 {3}:108).–Sarah White Smith wrote on August 29, 1838, about the Blue Mountains.
    Nature stretched her bare and might arms around us!   The moutnains hid hte lower sky, and walled about the lower wrold!  We looked upon the beautiful heights of the Blue Mountains, and ate among its spring blossoms, its singing pines, and holy battlements, ten thousand feet above the sea.–Thomas Jefferson Farnham, September 21, 1839.    We passed 3 graves today, one was marked Mrs. Theresa S. McLaddon died Aug. 11, 1851 aged 22 years. We past one dead ox.–Jared Fox, July 29, 1852
Here we began climbing the Blue mountains, and if they don’t beat the devil.–Samuel James, September 2, 1850 worse Road then yesterday  – the condition this road places men in this the Sabath & I have never though[t] of it till the children told me after the Sun was down.–Rev. Jesse Moreland, September 5, 1852