Oregon Trail: The Great Migration: 1843 Pioneer Wagon Train to Oregon

Oregon Pioneers

updated: 25 May 2010 minor
The Wagon Train of 1843
The Great Migration
also, check out Oregon State Archives State Archive Resources

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quoting from the book: see Source
"The circumstances attending the final starting of the emigrants, are thus related by Gen J W NESMITH:--

"Without orders from any quarter, and without preconcert, promptly as the grass began to start, the emigrants began to assemble near Independence, at a place called Fitzhugh's Mill. On the seventeenth day of May, 1843, notices were circulated through the different encampments that on the succeeding day, those who contemplated emigrating to Oregon, would meet at a designated point to organize. Promptly at the appointed hour the motley groups assembled. They consisted of people from all the States and Territories, and nearly all nationalities; the most, however, from Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri and Iowa, and all strangers to one another ... Many of the emigrants were from the western tier of counties of Missouri, known as the Platte Purchase ...

"...After the election of [Peter] BURNETT as captain, and other necessary officers, the meeting, as motley and primitive a one as ever assembled, adjourned, with "three cheers" for Captain BURNETT and Oregon. On the 20th day of May 1843, ... we took up our line of march, with Captain John GANTT, an old army officer, who combined the character of trapper and mountaineer, as our guide. ...

"The following list contains the names of every male member of that great train over the age of sixteen years. It was prepared by J W NESMITH when the train was organized, and preserved among his papers for a third of a century before given for publication. [Publication was in OPAT (Oregon Pioneer Association Transactions) 1876, The Occasional Address of Hon J W NESMITH with this list appearing on pp 49-51.] All reached the Willamette Valley, except a few, the exceptions being designated by marks and foot notes:"

--[list is re-alphabetized and notes included for this publication. Please notify me of any errors, corrections, or links to other sites on these names -mjr]

A-through-M names
N-through-Z names

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Already there in 1843:

"There were in Oregon, at the time the train arrived, the following individuals, a few names, possibly, having been omitted from the list:--"
list is re-alphabetized for this publication; please notify me of any errors, additions, or links concerning these people.--mjr]
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"In addition to the above were the following gentlemen connected with the various Protestant missions:--

Go to List of Missionaries

A 64-year old preacher, Joseph WILLIAMS, came to Oregon in 1841, and returned to St Louis in 1842. His Diary of the trip, typed out on 36 pages, is reproduced on the Ripley County Indiana web site. He discusses Indians, settlers, and the missionaries he met throughout the diary, along with a good description of the country, weather, and conditions along the trail and in early Oregon.

TOTAL: c 430 men in 1843

"In addition to these were some fifty former employees of the Hudson's Bay Company, nearly all of whom had settled on French Prairie, and a number of priests connected with the Catholic mission, making a total male population at the close of the year 1843 of about four hundred and thirty, exclusive of the officers and actual servants of the Hudson's Bay Company." For more information on records about these people, see Hudson's Bay Company Archives.
"There is a great book, FARMING THE FRONTIER: THE AGRICULTURAL OPENING OF THE OREGON COUNTRY 1786-1846 by James R GIBSON (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1985; out-of-print, per Amazon Books, but available at Eastern & Southern Oregon, Lewis & Clark, Linfield, Whitman, Willamette, U of O and OSU, or Oregon State Library. ). On p 20, he gives a table showing the number of regular employees of the Hudson's Bay Company in the Columbia Department from 1821 to 1846. In 1842-43, he shows 559 men. These numbers came from official documents of the Hudson's Bay Company." --Connie LENZEN

Except as noted, the lists are taken from the book,


Being a Description of the Valley and its Resources, with an account of its Discovery and Settlement by White Men, and its Subsequent History; together with Personal Reminiscences of its Early Pioneers"

edited by Herbert O LANG; published by HIMES & LANG, Portland, Oregon 1885, pages 273 - 278.

The two-volume book is available in many libraries:

NESMITH's list was first published in Oregon Pioneer Association Transactions [OPAT] 1876, The Occasional Address of Hon J W NESMITH with this list appearing on pp 49-51.] OPATs [annuals, 1874-1928] are available in-print for $20, or on microfilm for $10 from E-mail for info on costs or Oregon Historical Society

Other good sources include: [tip o' the hat to Stephenie FLORA for suggesting this list]

  1. The Beginning of the West by Louise BARRY, p 466ff. Out of print Amazon.com
  2. Platte River Road Narratives by Merill J MATTES, pp 47-55. Buy the Book Today! from Amazon.com
  3. Blazing a Trail to Oregon, A Weekly Chronicle of the Great Migration of 1843 by Lloyd W COFFMAN, 184 pages. Buy the Book Today! from Amazon.com
    Lloyd addressed the OCTA Convention in Pendleton OR in August 1998 about the 1843 migration. Book and information is also available from him at: 501 E. Orangethorpe, #51 Pine, Anaheim, Ca 92801; telephone 1-800-224-8184.
  4. The Oregon Trail In The Columbia Gorge, 1843-1855: The Final Ordeal by G. Thomas Edwards, appeared in the Oregon Historical Quarterly--Summer, 1996 [Volume 97, Number 2 ], available for $6.25 from Oregon Historical Society; write for details.
  5. JOURNAL OF TRAVELS: Over the Oregon Trail in 1845 , by Joel Palmer, is also for sale ($14.95) from Oregon Historical Society.
    Originally published in 1847 after he traveled the Oregon Trail in 1845, Joel Palmer's Journal became for many emigrants the authoritative guidebook to the Eden that lay beyond the Rocky Mountains. Considered to be one of the most comprehensive and detailed primary documents available, Palmer's account of the journey west was widely circulated among overlanders who were eager to follow the Oregon Trail after 1847.

    Read an historical novel, based on the 1843 wagon train, written by T J HANSON.

    Western Passage (2001) tells the story of this wagon train from the view of "Abby MEACHAM", and has good reviews at Amazon.com

    The book is an entertaining and detailed account of the Oregon Migration of 1843 in a "historical fiction" setting. In this context, the reader can enjoy the adventure as a participant, rather than as a student or scholar. Reissued in 2006 with added pictures and new title, Oregon Country.

    Oregon Country

  6. Several children and women's views of Trail travel are available at Amazon.com, including

  7. Pioneer Days of Oregon History Vol II, by S A CLARKE, pp 472-502.
  8. Oregon Historical Society Quarterly index.

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  1. Find out about or-roots listserv, a wonderful source of exchange on help on Oregon items. Operates out of the State Archives.

  2. Find out about and search State Archive Records of interest to historians and genealogists

  3. Learn about the Overland Emigrant Name Database

  4. Link up to the Oregon-California Trails Association Homepage for information and links to many trail sites.

  5. Stephenie FLORA maintains The Oregon Territory and It's Pioneers [website] which focuses on early Oregon and early settlers. Her list of Pre-1842 residents in Oregon is an annotated listing. Her 1843 unedited listings include children and the maiden names of female emigrants. She also will answer email requests for her data.

  6. Lots of information about early pioneers is abstracted from Oregon Pioneer Certificates, a (slow-loading, 80+kb page) project of the Oregon Genealogical Society in Eugene.

  7. GORP maintains pages on various trails; try the Oregon National Historic Trail to "travel it then", or travel it "now" at Oregon's Oregon Trail

  8. The Oregon Trail Website with pictures and history of the Trail, based on the PBS documentary; a "complete compendium" and well worth a visit.

  9. Visit the Oregon Historical Society, with lots of historic photos.

  10. The five Oregon Interpretive Centers, and complete Oregon segment information is found at The End of the Oregon Trail website. Pioneer histories and great historical articles.

  11. The National Oregon/California Trail Center at Montpelier, IdahoThe National Oregon/California Trail Center at Montpelier, Idaho has information and links about the Idaho segment of the Oregon Trail.

  12. A plethora of interesting, humorous and educational Links about the Oregon Trail





    Pioneer Spirit Web Award Spring 1999

updated: 25 May 2010 minor