What Hardships Were Faced by Pioneers on the Oregon Trail?

The dangers faced from pioneers traveling the Oregon Trail came largely from exhaustion, disease and accidents along the way. Many of the accidents came from the necessity of crossing rivers, which could mean loss of belongings and even loss of life.

The Oregon Trail began in Missouri and became a popular route for people looking to emigrate from the eastern United States to the west, ending in Oregon City, Oregon. For most settlers, the trip took about 5 months. It was not a single route but rather a series of wagon trails used by emigrants from 1841 to 1869, and the route is marked with hundreds of graves from those people who died along the trip.

The number of deaths of pioneers crossing the 2,000 miles of the Oregon Trail in wagon trains is estimated at roughly 20,000. Ninety percent were caused by diseases, such as small pox, flu and measles; most were due to cholera, a contagious intestinal disease which can strike quickly. Dysentery, an intestinal inflammation causing acute stomach pains, was the frequent result of eating food that had spoiled.

Many accidental injuries and deaths were caused by being run over by wagon wheels, a danger that children were particularly susceptible to. Accidental shootings were another significant cause of accidental injury and death.