Our five Corbett intermediate classes participated in a reenactment of the Oregon Trail as the culminating activity for our Westward Expansion unit. Wagon groups were formed of five or six students each. Each group mixed up bread dough, which was baked by our wonderful kitchen staff. Groups converted Radio Flyers to Prairie Schooners, stitched covers for their wagons, and loaded up with some food.
Pioneers set off from Independence on Thursday afternoon, April 12th. Almost immediately, each group had to rope their wagon in order to negotiate Windlass Hill. Some groups were more successful than others! At the bottom of the hill, groups enjoyed a respite at Ash Hollow, and were allowed to wash up and refresh themselves. Back on the trail again, groups met some Mormons, who warned them of cholera ahead. Sure enough, our pioneers had to stop and assist in grave digging for some unfortunate emigrants. More travelers on the trail urged our groups to turn back, due to the difficulties ahead. Our intrepid travelers persevered, and were rewarded for their efforts, as many of them discovered gold!
The hardships were not over. Due to storms and a bridge washing out, the wagons had to ford the North Platte River. Everyone waded the river; luckily with no loss of life. Another hill faced our hardy pioneers. Once reaching the top, they each recorded their initials on Independence Rock, to prove that they made it that far and to encourage those traveling behind. Next came the opportunity to add to their supply of food. The woods were teeming with wild animals. Quite a few folks successfully hunted. Some reported that the stew made from their fresh game was delicious.
Many of our pioneers offered spare food to the poor souls that they next encountered on the trail. These folks, by the name of Donner, were starving and planned to take a shortcut to California. Other folks at Fort Hall also tried to convince our parties of the merits of California, but our valiant groups continued on the trail to Oregon. In the Blue Mountains, our travelers learned of the abundant forest resources and then were offered water and encouragement at the Whitman Mission. All groups traveled the Barlow Road around Mt. Hood, rather than facing the dangerous rapids of the Columbia River. Most of the pioneers paid a toll to Sam Barlow, but a few were either very persuasive or very pathetic, and passed the tollgate without charge.