Larry Jones, Historian
Idaho State Historical Society, retired
John Crancer – What is the Oregon Trail?
Larry – For everything to come together as with every movement there needs to be an atmosphere right for change and this was certainly the case in the late 1830’s and the early 1840’s. Malaria was running rampant in the Mississippi Valley, there was a depression and there had been lots of information available in the last few years for them about the Oregon Country.
The primary information coming out was this should be our land – not England’s. In 1818 we signed a joint occupation with England and Great Britain for occupation of the land. So the theory was if we got all the white settlers over there then we’d have a stronger case to make for the land. So with that intact and the settlers around there having some problems some of them decided to immigrate.
The big emigration starts in 1843 and there were nearly a thousand of them and prior to 1843 there had been a few who went to Oregon following the missionaries and looking for farm land but they had never been able to take their wagons past Fort Hall. They were always told that it was too rough. Marcus Whitman had gone back to the east to try and get more money and support for his mission and he met them near Fort Hall and he said we can take wagons. So they were the first ones to take wagons through and then once it was proven that wagons could go through then more people started to come. They didn’t come in droves at first. Prior to 1848 there were probably 15,000 who came and probably 4,000 or less who went to California but then what happened in 1848 was the discovery of gold and that gold fever pretty much swept the nation and then we start seeing more and more coming along the trails. Not all of them are going to California. Some of them still go to Oregon but the vast majority of them were going to California but they were still using trails that we have here in Idaho.
John – What were the prime years of the trail and how many travelers were there?
Larry – The prime years of the trail itself were probably 1841 to 1860 according to most historians and during that time, that is when we have pretty much a rough estimate of how many were going.
They say – depending on who you look at for estimates that 400,000 to 500,000 went to the west coast. The majority of those went to California and during that time period there were probably 100,000 who went to Oregon. The rest were going to California. Now that estimate is going to go up some because the Oregon/California Trails Associations have been researching the southern trails which have never been looked at before so that will probably add to the total during those years. But I have found after 1860 we still have more and more coming, using the trails because of gold discoveries, the opportunity for free land and cheap land and so we could probably add a few more thousand on to that.
The last good immigrant diary we’ve got is 1919 and we know there were people still taking wagons at that time. Even when the train came through and came to Kelton people were bringing their goods and buying wagons or shipping the wagons out after 1869 and coming, migrating into Oregon and Idaho at that time.
John – We’re talking about that there were still people on the trail until the early 20th century.
Larry – Right, until the development of the automobile and then even then in some remote areas we still have people still using their wagons. So the trails were in use probably into the ‘20’s and even probably the ‘30’s until there are more and more automobiles and then even then people tried to drive their autos, in the beginning on the trail and that didn’t work too good so they had to find new routes for the roads.
John – What kind of people attempted this journey? Who was travelling?
Larry – There is a whole spectrum of people who were travelling. In the beginning you mostly get farmers and some businessmen and entrepreneurs. You get what you might call today the wanderers or you might have called them hobos or whatever, they were drifters. And they really had no place to put their hat down in the Midwest and they were hooking on and trying to get a new start for themselves coming out. So you have a whole myriad of different types of people who were coming out here – but mostly its families looking for new opportunities
Now, it is always thought that these people were poor people when they were coming out here but that is another misconception because when you look at what it costs to come out here at that time with the wagon and outfit you are looking at four or five hundred dollars anyway and that was a lot of money back in the 1840’s. So these were fairly well to do people who were just moving on. And then you might get the occasional person who might move on because his nearest neighbor was within ten miles and he thought that was too close so he was going to move on farther west.
John – What were some of the biggest challenges along the trail?
Larry – Every day was really a challenge for them. They never knew what they were going to run into – in the beginning. Later on they had a good idea of what the challenges were before them but the real challenge for them was the camp grounds. They always had to have wood, water and feed for their animals. In the beginning, there was not too much problem finding these campgrounds but when you start – especially until they get over into Idaho – when you have like in 1852, you have 50-60,000 people going over the same trail, that is going to decimate the environment pretty good and that was also the time when they have all the cholera epidemics along the trail, when thousands die because of all the polluted water and all the waste along the way.
John – What were the essentials to make this trip?
Larry – Again, they always wanted to take grandfather’s clock along and there are a lot of grandfather’s clocks that ended out on the prairie. Some historians have called the trail just one large garbage bed.
The recommendation was that your wagon shouldn’t be overloaded. They thought the ideal weight was somewhere around 1,200 pounds. Some people would start off their wagons with over 2,000 pounds and that would include beds and stoves and all sorts of iron implements and those soon met the wayside. But you always wanted to have a good supply of food. They would have bacon and beans and rice and tea and coffee and sugar and flour. Those were some of your essentials that would get them out here.
In the beginning people thought that they could shoot wild animals along the way but that didn’t last for more than one or two years before the animals figured out they didn’t want to be anywhere near the trail and there just wasn’t much there for them. So they had to depend on some of the trading places that grew up along the trail from retired mountain men and so forth who would start trading spots along the way. Fort Laramie, Fort Bridger, Fort Hall and Fort Boise would be places – where if they had money – again, these people had to have some money with them to buy supplies and then they had ferries along the way that if they had the money they would get ferried over rather than try the dangerous crossings themselves. So it was a pretty expensive operation really, when you stop to think about it in terms of today’s money.
John – Why were there so many variations on the trail?
Larry – Again, it goes back to what we talked about – the essentials they needed for camping spots – the wood, water and the grass and as they would become decimated they looked for better ways. And once the gold fever strikes then you are looking for the fastest and the shortest way and so then you have new cut-offs that start up that they think are going to be faster when in reality most of them don’t turn out to be any faster. They are closer but they are harder and the time wise is pretty much about the same.
And then we get the government involved with the Lander Road which is our only government surveyed road for the emigrants in 1857 and again that was trying to make it a shorter and better travelled way for commerce to go back and forth. That didn’t really work either because it was shorter but again, on the Lander Road when you are going over a mountain range that is over 9,000 feet high you can imagine it takes you a while to get your team up and over that and down – although the grass and the water were better along that route and that route was later used along with Goodale’s Cut-Off for the cattle drives once we had a settlement out here and they are going back east to rail heads, they went these ways.
John – Did they do some improvements on the Lander Road?
Larry – Yeah. On a lot of the stretches they didn’t need to do it on but when they go directly west from south pass and over the mountain - Jim Bridger Forest and over in there - they had to do a lot of road construction and somewhat in Idaho too when we get over into the eastern Idaho section of it over by Kennikinet Canyon and over in there which is just west of the Fort Hall Reservation. It’s also called Terrace Canyon. You can still go over there today and see the rock work they did coming up through the canyon to get them up and over. And then when they get over into the Fort Hall area where they meet up with the main trail then there is not much road improvement until they get over into Nevada – today’s Nevada.
John – Give us a brief description of Goodale and why that was used.
Larry – Goodale was first discovered by the fur trappers and was later used as a route for some of them who were supplying the Hudson Bay post at Fort Hall. We know it’s also another shorter route and once you get through the Craters of the Moon it is pretty well watered and there’s lots of grass. We’ve got travelers going that way in 1852 and 1854 but it is a tough route until you get past Craters of the Moon so it didn’t really attract too many. But in 1862 when we were having all the problems with the native Americans west of Fort Hall a train of about a thousand met up with a retired or semi-retired mountain man, Tim Goodale and he took them on the Goodale Cut-Off and then it became a little more popular once we have all these people going that way. And it was also a route used – after settlement again, where they would take horse and cattle herds east of the trail heads in Wyoming.
John – What about the Hudspeth cut-off? What was the main motivation for that?
Larry – It’s the shortest route. But again, they forgot that they had to go over four mountain ranges. This was opened up in 1849. It takes off, instead of going northwest from over in the Soda Springs area, it went straight and they thought they were going to come out on the Humboldt. When they discovered that they didn’t come out on the Humboldt but they were still just about 80 miles south of Fort Hall one of them said that he was thunderstruck that they weren’t on the Humboldt already.
They also were somewhat dismayed to find out that the people they separated from who went up on the traditional California trail at that time through Fort Hall and then down Raft River, they met up at about the same time in City of Rocks. But it was shorter. If you were packing or on horseback or mule it probably would have saved you a little more time. But if you had wagons it wouldn’t have saved you hardly anything, but to them it was shorter.
John – Talk about Three Island Crossing and why that was such an important junction.
Larry – Some of the hardest things the emigrants had to do were crossing rivers. When you read the diaries there are a lot if incidents of deaths at the river crossings. So when they get to Three Island Crossing they’ve got a decision to make. They could continue on down the south side of the Snake which was known as the dry and the longest route and the more desolate route or they could risk crossing. Those who crossed would find better feed and wood and water but they would also have to cross the Boise again and then they would have to cross the Snake River again. And both of the routes came together just west of Fort Boise. After they crossed the Snake River at Fort Boise they would rejoin together. So it was whether you wanted to risk drowning or take the long route. And it would all depend on the time of the year they were there and what the water looked like – because we know today even from the crossings they have there, there are holes out there and that is what a lot of them found when they were going across.
The early travelers would meet in an Indian encampment there and the Indians were most helpful for a small pittance to help the emigrants get across and everything was fine. When we have problems with the Indians later on you had to pretty much make that choice on your own and some of them even thought that well, this is such a thing, once we got our wagons all caulked up let’s just float on down to the mouth of the Columbia or down to Portland. Well, as you might imagine that didn’t work either.
Some of them tried that and one of them – the people who went by oxen train met the people, they were there before the people came down the river in their wagon. And some of them who started on their wagons we don’t know what happened to them.
John – How did they use the islands on the crossings?
Larry – They usually just used two of the three islands. If the water was right, the one island, the big island, the farthest one I guess to the southwest they would drive their cattle or horses on out there to feed but they would head upstream to get the right channel to get across. So they would usually mostly only use two of the islands.
John – How did the Snake River crossing compare to Three Island versus the one near Boise?
Larry – The one at Fort Boise would probably be just a little bit harder because they didn’t have the islands as sort of a stepping stone to get across and the one at Fort Boise usually could run a little swifter and could be a little deeper. They had some islands out there but they didn’t use those so it could be a little more dangerous. But again some of our retired fur trappers and the Indians at Fort Boise got together canoes and makeshift rafts and again, would charge them to go over. But it was a little more difficult crossing than Three Island.
John – What percentage folks went on the main trail versus the south alternate?
Larry – From my research and looking at the diaries I always thought it would be more that crossed because of the better camping sites but it is probably pretty much close to 50-50. It’s pretty close.
John – Describe the south alternate route. Give us a little more detail.
Larry – They encountered more of the desert aspects of what they’d come through. There would be a lot more alkyl idée dust and prickly pears and sage brush and there was some water but the grass – it’s a little dryer there and when they go on the north side they are right along the foothills so they are going to get the last good water and the last good grass where out there on the plains, more or less along the desert floor, they are going to be more in a desert environment and the chances for good grass and water are not quite as good as they are on the other side. But they would have some good geographic features to see. They would see Wild Horse Butte and they would be really close to the Owyhees. They would have some good views.
John – What would they see along the main route there?
Larry – They would get a few more creeks to pass which was good for the water and once they get over past Canyon Creek and up through that way they’d get into some granite again and again, that is where we’ll have some signature rocks where they can put their names upon the rocks and let people know that they were there or else let the relatives coming behind or whatever know they were on the right path and this was the way that they were going.
The real viewpoint for them is when they get on Bonneville Point. They hadn’t seen trees for many miles and when they are on Bonneville Point and they are looking over the beautiful Boise valley they see the greenness along the river, the trees and the grass and the smoke fires – the early ones of the native Americans and they know they’re going to have good water and they are going to have good grass and a chance to get fish to supplement their diet once they get down there. So that was a pretty joyous occasion for all of them when they get up there.
John – Just a little more on Canyon Creek and what kind of camp spot that was.
Larry – It was a good camping spot. They’d come through over by Teapot Dome Hot springs which is just north of Mountain Home. They had had a chance to rest and recuperate and wash their clothes and then they would hit another good creek at Rattlesnake Creek. But then at Canyon Creek they actually had a chance if they had time to maybe catch a fish or two to get through there and it is kind of a little green oasis. Of course when you’ve got a lot of people coming through the good grass along there is not going to last too long. But what happened as settlement goes and we have the development of stage lines we have a nice stage station put in there – Rock Stage Station which we can still remnants of today, and people always enjoyed there because they could always depend from the Daniels Family who built it and maintained it a nice trout dinner. So they all looked forward on the stages coming through there. Not so much in immigrant days because they didn’t have time to get a fish and pull out or dynamite to dynamite the fish or whatever they might have done.
John – More on Signature Rock and what you’ve seen there?
Larry – Over on Ditto Creek we do have a signature rock the people have left their names on right along the trail and again, you wonder why they leave their names on it and a lot of them when you read their diaries you will run across once in a while, or somebody says we left our names for one of the relatives or friends who are coming behind so they could have the idea that they were on the right track. And some of them they were taken by the history of it saying well, we’re here. Let‘s make this known that we were here and you can still see some of the names today.
John – Give us a brief overview of the different versions of Fort Boise.
Larry – It was recognized early on near the mouth of the Boise River that this was a place that the Native Americans like to come and have their festivals. From different states all around the Indians would gather there so when the overland historians came in 1811 they made note of this and they sent back John Reed to develop a small post there in 1813. Well, in 1814 the Indians didn’t care for him there and they soon wiped him out and so there was not much thought given to it until a few years later when Donald McKenzie who came out with the overland historians and then went back to Canada, he came back as a north westerner, with the Northwest Fur Company and he thought it would be a good place to meet and trade with the Indians but the Indians weren’t quite ready for him either at that time.
So nothing happened until 1834 when Nathaniel Wyeth came out and he had a lot of goods and he was going to supply the rendezvous over on Green River. Well, the rocky mountain people said they didn’t meet him anymore because Sublet came through with his supplies. So Wyeth headed on west and when he got over into the Fort Hall area he saw that this was a place where the Native Americans like to come so he built Fort Hall as a trading spot and then he went on west. Thomas McKee of the Hudson Bay Company was aware of this and he immediately talked the people at Hudson Bay Company into letting him start a Fort Boise as the Fort there that we know today even though it did move its location a couple of times as a supply point. And it lasted a little longer than the one at Fort Hall because going back just a little bit – when we had the 1818 joint occupation, by 1846 the U.S. had taken possession of the Oregon Territory. So in effect the Hudson Bay Company was on American soil and they lasted until about 1855 and they weathered some of the floods that came through but what they couldn’t weather was after the Ward Massacre and the problems with the Native Americans and then the Hudson Bay Company abandoned Fort Boise.
John – What were the prime years of the original Fort Boise?
Larry – 1834 to about 1855 were the prime years.
John – Talk about how it was used by the emigrants.
Larry – They looked forward to being at Fort Boise because Francois Payette treated all the emigrants quite well and he didn’t highjack them too much on the prices. And he also had a little small vegetable garden where the emigrants could get some vegetables if he had some left. So they all looked forward to going to Fort Boise.
And also when they got there some of his voyagers were also helping to run the ferry to get across there.
John – So it was a major landmark?
Larry – It was a major landmark and then even after we have the gold discovered and ferries developed there was a river site ferry put in there in 1863 that ran for a number of years until we have bridges put up. And that is also the place where the steamer Shoshone was built to supply the gold mines. Of course that didn’t work much because you need wood to run steam and when you are going up and down the snake river there is not much wood around. So the steamboat Shoshone didn’t last too long and it made a wild ride down Hells Canyon and eventually ended up over around Portland.
John – Talk about the second military Fort Boise.
Larry – The military Fort Boise, there was movement to get that fort build early even after the Ward Massacre. There was talk that we needed military help for the emigrants coming through. Nothing happened until after gold is discovered up in the Boise basin and then the movement really took hold and we have Fort Boise the military one founded on July 4th, 1863 to serve not only the miners and the new settlements starting to grow up but also the emigrants who were still coming through.
And the military played a big role in the development of southern Idaho because they would send out troops to help protect the trail and then we still had some Indian difficulties in the 1860’s and not until after 1879 did all this stop.
John – What can you see in the Boise area today with the original fort and some of the other areas?
Larry – Fort Boise, we still have some of the original buildings there from 1864 and 1865 and up to the turn of the century so it is a place where you can go over and see what a military encampment might have looked like – and Fort Boise was economically one of the boons for Boise city for many years until it was abandoned in 1913.
We can also see nearby here Bonneville Point where there is a small interpretive site up there that the BLM maintains and we also have the Oregon Trail historic preserve when sub-divisions were being built out there a number of agencies got together and thought we needed to preserve some of this and so it is a wonderful place where people can go out. There are three overlooks and a number of interpretations along there and that’s the actual remnants of the trail.
We also have just further west of here over near Middleton is the site of the Ward Massacre and there is some new interpretation there. It’s a nice little park where you can go and read about what happened there.
And then Canyon Hill where we are still working. Hopefully we are going to get something done to preserve that and get some interpretation over there to where you will be able to see where they come down off the hill and cross the Boise River and then there is a replica of Fort Boise over in Parma and then the Fort Boise site itself so there is still quite a bit to see through here.
John – Give us more information on what you are seeing at the Oregon Trail historic park.
Larry – Over by the Oregon Trail historic preserve I think there are three or four cuts there. There is one real early one which we are in the process of getting a kiosk built there and some interpretation where you can go and see where the early wagons came down and there is just room enough down through the lava for a wagon to get down. Then just west of there is another ramp that was built in the 1860’s to accommodate heavier freight and stage wagons and that was built up and it is quite an engineering feat to see what they did there. And that is still visible. Then a little farther west of that there is another cut that comes down and goes over hits Amity Road.
The number one thing that they want to do is get down there quick and get to the water and they also wanted to get down quick and get over to the ferry which was right down below there which took people on up into the gold hills up above Boise basin. So there are a number of things to view out there.
John – I wanted to talk about the OCTA convention and what was the significance or what was it like to have a national OCTA convention in Idaho.
Larry – The Oregon/California Trails Association always tries to have their conventions along trail sites. Number one, it’s a chance to renew old acquaintances and it’s a chance for the local people to become more acquainted with the historic features surrounding their towns and it’s also an economic boon for the local towns because we usually have four to six hundred people who come out here from all over the united states and all over the world in fact to attend these. So it is something that is looked forward to by a lot of local communities getting the trails association there. And again, all these people who come – some of them have not come to the area and they all want to go out and see the different aspects of the trails and different sections and it’s an opportunity for them to get out and do this. And it’s also a time to share information.
John – Talk about putting together the tours and how that is enthusiastically received.
Larry – Everybody was very enthusiastic this year about their visit here and we’ve heard nothing but kind words from people who were attending and also from the people who helped put it on. Everybody was most helpful and the people who came had nothing but [good] to say about friendly Idaho and how well they were treated here.
John – What did they think about the historic nature? Idaho has a lot of historic spots.
Larry – Idaho is fortunate and it’s kind of a double edged sword because all of our sites are pretty easy to get to so it is a chance to over-love a site more or less where in other states you are going to have to 4-wheel drive to get to these. Most of Idaho’s sites you can drive to in a regular car and then park and hike if you want to. You can’t drive on the trail but you can get to the sites. So they were most impressed with the accessibility of the historic sites in Idaho and how easily they could get to and view these sites. It’s amazing, some of these people have had ancestors who came out here and they just like to stand in the trail ruts and envision what happened years ago. I’ve seen more than one person with tears in their eye when they know that just minutes from here they can go stand in the ruts and they know that their relatives came through here.
John – What is the importance of the Oregon Trail Association and the Idaho chapter?
Larry – The national organization of OCTA and the Idaho chapter, they work hand in hand together and they are trying to preserve what we do have left because it is rapidly disappearing – more so in other states than in Idaho but we do have a number of problems and the Idaho chapter has worked in concert with the BLM to mark all the trails that still have remnants and also the local chapter works with private land owners who are generally most appreciative about letting people mark it as long as we mark it as private property and permission required before hiking across it.
So they work closely together and rely on the national for monetary support once in a while for preservation projects. But it has been a good working relationship and it helps to be in the local working with agencies like the BLM, like the National Forest Service and helping them to carry out their duty of preserving the trails.
John – What is the significance of the Oregon Trail to Idaho’s history?
Larry – I’ve thought about this some in the past and it is the same thing as why is history important to anybody. This is our cultural resource, it is non-renewable and it sort of defines who we are because when those wagons started coming, - I like to call them they are the wheels of change and we’re always talking about change and we’re still talking about change today. When those wagon wheels started rolling across Idaho the whole panorama of the west started to change and it is still changing today. And when you think about all these people who came out here and you read the diaries and the difficulties they had and the number of deaths along the way – we have monuments certainly for them in towns and museums but the real monument to them is the trails themselves. There are all these unmarked graves out there, the people who died and early on they would bury them in the trail because they didn’t want animals, or they thought the native Americans would come rip the graves up which was not true – they wouldn’t do that – but we’ve got all these, you could almost say it is one long graveyard for over 2,000 miles of all these people who gave their lives to settle this country. And I think we owe them a great debt of gratitude for that and appreciation and I always feel a sense of compassion for all these people who lost loved ones along the way. You can’t help but bring a tear to your eye when you read about a loving mother who lost her baby or her son or daughter and had to bury them along the trail and no psychologist along to help them out and see them through the troubles. They just had to get back on the wagon or walk behind and look back at a trail of dust and wipe the tears and move on further west. So I think it is quite a monument to who we are today.
John – How much is left of the trail and how much have we lost?
Larry – There has been a lot of change naturally. We still have 180, 190 miles of actual remnants of trails – all the trails, not just the main trail that we’ve marked through the years – but there are still more and more threats coming to the trail and the biggest trail now is the wind turbine. If you are walking out there to experience a trail you don’t want to walk under a wind turbine. But again, circumstances – how do you meet this? How do you settle on what is good and what is bad? And where can you put these? You can hide cell towers to some extent but it is kind of hard to hide a 400 foot wind turbine.
So there are still problems on the horizon that we need to deal with. Plus, with the increasing population there are more and more people who want to bring more power lines in and for some reasons – I guess it was probably because the trail took the shortest route – we have a lot of electrical lines going along the trail and it is kind of hard to keep those out of view but there are still a number of spots where you can really experience the trail.
John – What does the trail mean to people today?
Larry – There are a lot of people who don’t even know that the trail is around here so it is kind of hard to talk about what they think about it. When they find out about it they are amazed, which always interests me because all the newcomers – all the old timers around here they know about the trail but all the newcomers which we’re talking thousands, they are not aware of the trail so one of the things that OCTA tries to do is help these people become aware of what is out there. And most of them are pretty appreciative of the trail and are willing to do what they can to help preserve this because I think once they know the story and what it means to Idahoans and to the nation, then they themselves become more appreciative.
And I think we do a good job in the schools around here of educating the kids about it and the kids generally know more about it than their parents do. It is always harder and OCTA works really hard to get the kids involved in the trail. That’s how for future generations, if we’re going to preserve anything whether it be the trail or whatever, the school children need to get interested early on and I think that carries over with them.
John – What are some reasons people should care about the trail in the 21st Century?
Larry – I think it is even more today than in the past that we really need to appreciate our history even on a national level and an international level. If we appreciate our history I think it would help us approach solutions a little bit differently and not jump to conclusions so fast. And if we can look at the past we can use it as sort of a ruler as to how we might better deal with the present and the future. So I think it’s important for not only the trail but all our historic sites and history because once it is gone, it is gone. There is no way to replicate an eight foot rut of an Oregon Trail that has been windblown and there is no way on a ___ shed. Once you put a subdivision there it is hard to imagine what the emigrants went through when they came through here and it’s just a little bit harder to appreciate your history.
John – What kind of treasury is the Oregon Trail for Idaho? Is it a valuable resource?
Larry - The trail itself is a valuable resource for Idaho, not only for its historical purposes but also for the cultural tourism aspect of it. Cultural tourism is big these days. Maybe not so big now with the price of gas but if gas comes down we’ll see more and more tourists coming. And they all like to go see sites of the west or the wild west or whatever and this is especially true of visitors from overseas which has always been somewhat amazing to me as all the members in OCTA that are from Great Britain, Japan and all over the world are interested in this aspect of our history. And we have that aspect of our history out there. And like I said earlier it is also, we respect our dead with cemeteries and memorials but we forget about all the dead who are buried along the trails out there and we don’t know where they are. We know they are out there because we can read the diaries and get an idea of where they were buried but not an exact location. So it is also honoring the lives they gave to help make this the country we have today.
John – What are your personal feelings?
John – What is the uniqueness of this time period, this Oregon Trail event?
Larry – I have a great appreciation for them. It’s funny how life works out for you. The hospital where I was born was like three blocks from the Oregon Trail over in La Grande Oregon and I thought it was great fun to play pioneer at the time and they still do that over there for the kids. They get little wagons together and they take the kids out on the actual trail over there.
It’s funny how you remember that far back but I was designated to be one of the Indians attacking the train and didn’t particularly like the location the teacher had and I thought to make it a little better we’d better get some rocks so as you can imagine I got in trouble over that and that is probably why I remember that. But little did I know that it was going to lead to when I became a member of the Idaho Historical Society being so involved in the Oregon Trail. And it sort of just carried over, that memory, and then once you’ve read four or five hundred diaries and been out on the trail you can’t do anything but appreciate what they did for you and have a feeling of compassion for all these people who did this. It just makes it come to life for you and we can still appreciate that here. I still appreciate what they did for us and will do whatever I can to help preserve what we do have left so that future generations can also understand who we are as a people here and why we are like we are. Because that was a time when neighbor helped neighbor and you got along or you didn’t get along. You just didn’t make it if you didn’t get along with your neighbors.
That’s what we still need today, is learn how to get along with other people and that’s a story that will be with us hopefully until the end of time.
– It is very unique because it is probably one of the better documented major overland migrations in history – not only here but in the world. You’ve got some in Africa and so forth with the Boars and whatever but nothing to this extent. When you have half a million people migrating west this is something that is just unique to us and our history.