Oregon Trail Survival Guide by suchenfz


									                                       Oregon Trail Survival Guide

You are a wagon leader guiding a party of settlers from Independence, Missouri, to Oregon’s Willamette
Valley by way of the Oregon Trail in 1848. Since you are traveling by “Prairie Schooner”, you are limited
in the amount of supplies you can take. Although, Conestoga wagons were large enough to transport
loads up to 7 tons and were usually drawn by 6-8 horses or 2-4 oxen, your Prairie Schooner could
transport loads of 1200 pounds (in addition to the 1300 pounds of wagon) and was pulled by 4-6 oxen or
6-10 mules. You must consider your weight restriction carefully because the heaver your load, the faster
the horses, oxen, or mules died. Early pioneers also faced problems if their loads were too heavy when
they had to cross rivers. With these considerations in mind, you want to appropriately load your Prairie
Schooner with enough supplies so that you can survive the 5-month journey and arrive at Willamette

On a separate sheet of paper, write down all of the members of your party of settlers and answer each
of the following items. Be sure to follow the directions for each point in order to receive full credit.

    1. First, you must decide which animal, horse, oxen or mule, will be best to pull your wagon. Use
       the information given on each animal to decide which would be best suited for the journey. Be
       sure to explain your choice in at least 6-8 sentences.

    2. Next, list the supplies that you will taking on your journey in order of most important to least
       important. Keep in mind that you have weight restrictions and will not be taking all of the
       supplies on the list. You must then choose which ones will be more valuable to you as you travel
       the Oregon Trail. In order to help you make your decision, there is a section with more specified
       information about the particulars of the “Prairie Schooner”.
Horse, Oxen or Mule?

       ANIMAL               STRENGTH                  SPEED             COULD LIVE OFF        DISPOSITION
                                                                         PRAIRIE GRASS
Horse                  Weakest                  Average                NO (must pack        Average
Oxen                   Strongest                Slow (2 mph)           YES                  Gentle
Mule                   Average                  Fast (8 mph)           YES                  Cantankerous

The Prairie Schooner

"Prairie Schooner," a half-sized version of the Conestoga that typically measured 4' wide and 10' to 12' in
length. With its tongue and neck yoke attached, its length doubled to about 23 feet. With the bonnet, a
Prairie Schooner stood about 10' tall, and its wheelbase was over 5' wide. It weighed around 1300 pounds
empty and could be easily dismantled for repairs en route. Teams of 4 to 6 oxen or 6 to 10 mules were
sufficient to get the sturdy little wagons to Oregon Prairie Schooner in good repair offered shelter almost
as good as a house.

The wagon box, or bed, was made of hardwoods to resist shrinking in the dry air of the plains and deserts
the emigrants had to cross. It was 2' to 3' deep, and with a bit of tar it could easily be rendered watertight
and floated across slow-moving rivers. The side boards were beveled outwards to keep rain from coming
in under the edges of the bonnet and to help keep out river water. The box sat upon two sets of wheels of
different sizes: the rear wheels were typically about 50" in diameter, while the front wheels were about
44" in diameter. The smaller front wheels allowed for a little extra play, letting the wagon take slightly
sharper turns than it would otherwise have been able to negotiate without necessitating a great deal of
extra carpentry work to keep the bed level. All four wheels had iron "tires" to protect the wooden rims,
and they were likewise constructed of hardwoods to resist shrinkage. Nonetheless, many emigrants took
to soaking their wagon wheels in rivers and springs overnight, as it was not unheard of for the dry air to
shrink the wood so much that the iron tires would roll right off the wheels during the day. Hardwood
bows held up the heavy, brown bonnets. The bows were soaked until the wood became pliable, bent into
U-shapes, and allowed to dry. They would hold their shape if this was done properly, which was
important to the emigrants: if the wagon bows were under too much tension, they could spring loose and
tear the bonnet while the wagon was jostled and jounced over rough terrain. The bonnets themselves were
usually homespun cotton doubled over to make them watertight. They were rarely painted (except for the
occasional slogan such as "Pike's Peak or Bust" in later years) as this stiffened the fabric and caused it to
split. The bonnet was always well-secured against the wind, and its edges overlapped in back to keep out
rain and dust. On some wagons, it also angled outward at the front and back, as shown in the illustration
above, to lend some additional protection to the wagon's interior.

While wagons were minor marvels of Nineteenth Century engineering, they inevitably broke down or
wore out from the difficulty and length of the journey. Equipment for making repairs en route was carried
in a jockey box attached to one end or side of the wagon. It carried extra iron bolts, linch pins, skeins,
nails, hoop iron, a variety of tools, and a jack. Also commonly found slung on the sides of emigrant
wagons were water barrels, a butter churn, a shovel and axe, a tar bucket, a feed trough for the livestock,
and a chicken coop. A fully outfitted wagon on the Oregon Trail must have been quite a sight, particularly
with a coop full of clucking chickens raising a ruckus every time the wagon hit a rock.

There was only one set of springs on a Prairie Schooner, and they were underneath the rarely-used
driver's seat. Without sprung axles, riding inside a wagon was uncomfortable at the best of times. Some
stretches of the Trail were so rough that an overlander could fill his butter churn with fresh milk in the
morning, and the wagon would bounce around enough to churn a small lump of butter for the evening
meal. The simple leaf springs under the driver's seat made that perch tenable, but not particularly
comfortable. The illustration above does not show the driver's seat, and its placement of the brake lever is
questionable. The brake lever was usually located so it could be pressed by the driver's foot or thrown by
someone walking alongside the wagon, and it was ratcheted so the brake block would remain set against
the wheel even after pressure was taken off the lever.
Supplies (indicate how much of each item you are taking in either number or pounds)

Household items                 Food          Personal items              Tools             Miscellaneous
1 pair of Candle       Bacon                Bag of clothes for     100 ft of Rope (6      Animal feed for 1
sticks (2 lbs)                              1 person (10 lbs)      lbs)                   pair of animals (30

15 yards of            Beans                Box of rounds (1       2 – man cross –        Chicken coop (12
material (12 lbs)                           lbs)                   saw (7 lbs)            lbs)
5 candles (1 lbs)      Beef jerky           Chaps (5 lbs)          3 – prong pitch        Medicine box / Dr.
                                                                   fork (6 lbs)           kit (10 lbs)
Baby cradle (12        Chicken (for eggs)   Eating utensils for    4 steel animal         Saddle (25 lbs)
lbs)                   (5 lbs)              1 person (2 lbs)       traps (5 lbs)
Bed (30 lbs)           Coffee beans         Extra keg of gun       Anvil (18 lbs)         Shoes (for
                                            powder (20 lbs)                               animals) (12 lbs)
Bedding for 1 bed      Dried beef           Extra pair of boots    Axe (8 lbs)            Wood box full of
(12 lbs)                                    (5 lbs)                                       wood (25 lbs)
Bottle (1lbs)          Flour                Family first aid kit   Axle grease (13
                                            (5 lbs)                lbs)
Butter churn (10       Fruit                Fiddle (5 lbs)         Bellows for the
lbs)                                                               fire (10 lbs)
Butter mold (2 lbs)    Pinto beans          Guitar (6 lbs)         Box of nails (1 lbs)
Chamber pot (5         Rice                 Hunting Knife (3       Brake chain (5 lbs)
lbs)                                        lbs)
Chest for clothing     Salt                 Needle & thread        Extra axle and
(35 lbs)                                    set (1 lbs)            tongue (20 lbs)
Clock (5 lbs)          Salt pork            Pistol (4 lbs)         Hammer (2 lbs)
Coffee grinder (6      Seeds                Powder horn (4         Hatchet (4 lbs)
lbs)                                        lbs)
Coffee pot (3 lbs)     Spices               Powder horn (4         Hoe (4 lbs)
Cooking pan (6         Sugar                Rifle (6 lbs)          Large grinding
lbs)                                                               stone (20 lbs)
Cooking stove (75      Vegetables           Snow shoes (5 lbs)     Metal plow (40
lbs)                                                               lbs)
Cooking utensils       Vinegar              Toys (8 lbs)           Oxen yoke repairs
for family (4 lbs)                                                 (15 lbs)
Dutch oven (6 lbs)     Water Barrel (20                            Pick Axe (5 lbs)
Family Bible (5 lbs)                                               Saw (5 lbs)
Lantern (3 lbs)     Scythe (7 lbs)
Loom (35 lbs)       Shovel (8 lbs)
Match bottle and    Tool assortment
matches (2 lbs)     (10 lbs)
Mirror (10 lbs)     Twine (5 lbs)
Needle and thread   Vise (5 lbs)
set (1 lbs)
Piano (100 lbs)     Wagon jack (10
Pitcher and bowl    Wheel parts (20
(10 lbs)            lbs)
Rocking chair (15
Rug (25 lbs)
Set of 3 blankets
(7 lbs)
Set of dishes (20
Skillet (5 lbs)
Spinning wheel
(25 lbs)
Spinning wheel
(25 lbs)
Stool (8 lbs)
Table & 4 chairs
(50 lbs)
Wooden bucket (5
Woven basket (5

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