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The Oregon Trail: An American Sagaby David Dary
Synopses & Reviews
In today's world of jet airplanes and smooth highways, it is nearly impossible to imagine the hardships faced by the thousands of people who headed west along the great Oregon Trail. In this detailed and engaging account, historian David Dary recounts the full saga of the trail's history, from its creation in the early 1800's, to its peak during the '49 Gold Rush, its rapid decline following the completion of the transcontinental railroad, and finally, its revival as a modern day historical treasure.
Dary introduces us to the pioneers: trailblazers, fur-traders, and missionaries, who made the first journeys to Oregon County, an internationally disputed territory comprising present-day Washington, Oregon, and California. We learn of the road's steadily increasing popularity, as economic problems or the promise of adventure and wealth lead thousands of homesteaders, gold-rushers, and entrepreneurs to pile their hopes and dreams into wagons and head west. Using journals and letters, as well as company and expedition reports, public records and newspaper stories, Dary takes us inside the day to day experiences of the travelers, as they risked ruin at every step from disease, weather, and human deceit. Trail.
Through Dary's expert and comprehensive history, we learn how the events of the day turned a small trickle of pioneering men and women into the greatest mass migration in American history.
A major one-volume history of the Oregon Trail from its earliest beginnings to the present, by a prize-winning historian of the American West.
Starting with an overview of Oregon Country in the early 1800s, a vast area then the object of international rivalry among Spain, Britain, Russia, and the United States, David Dary gives us the whole sweeping story of those who came to explore, to exploit, and, finally, to settle there.
Using diaries, journals, company and expedition reports, and newspaper accounts, David Dary takes us inside the experience of the continuing waves of people who traveled the Oregon Trail or took its cutoffs to Utah, Nevada, Montana, Idaho, and California. He introduces us to the fur traders who set up the first "forts" as centers to ply their trade; the missionaries bent on converting the Indians to Christianity; the mountain men and voyageurs who settled down at last in the fertile Willamette Valley; the farmers and their families propelled west by economic bad times in the East; and, of course, the gold-seekers, Pony Express riders, journalists, artists, and entrepreneurs who all added their unique presence to the land they traversed.
We meet well-known figures-John Jacob Astor, Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, John Fremont, the Donners, and Red Cloud, among others-as well as dozens of little-known men, women, and children who jotted down what they were seeing and feeling in journals, letters, or perhaps even on a rock or a gravestone.
Throughout, Dary keeps us informed of developments in the East and their influence on events in the West, among them the building of the transcontinental railroad and the efforts of the far western settlements tobecome U.S. territories and eventually states.
Above all, "The Oregon Trail offers a panoramic look at the romance, colorful stories, hardships, and joys of the pioneers who made up this tremendous and historic migration.
About the Author
David Dary is Professor Emeritus of Journalism at the University of Oklahoma. He is the author of ten previous books on the West, including Cowboy Culture and The Santa Fe Trail. He is the recipient of several awards, including the Owen Wister Award for lifetime achievement from the Western Writers of America.
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