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Accounts of travelling
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The Applegates 1843



Catherine Sagar 1844



Donner and Reed 1846



Francis Parkman 1846



The Mormons 1846-7



Ralph Geer 1847



William Porter 1848



Phoebe Judson 1853



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1840s Emigrants
cross the Great Plains


headernacouk2.jpg

The Great Emigration of 1843
by the Applegates

"After a few days they heard the deafening roar of gushing waters ahead. The current carried them out of control, they could only try to avoid the large boulders which jumped out at them midstream. One of the craft capsized and was sucked down into the raging waters by an eddying whirlpool."


Columbia River

Columbia River

The Great Emigration of 1843 by the Applegates

One of the leaders of the Great Emigration of 1843 Jesse Applegate wrote down his memoirs, A Day with the Cow Column in 1843.

Jesse Applegate's 7-year-old nephew and namesake Jess, when he was in his 70s, wrote Recollections of My Boyhood, in which the same journey is seen through the eyes of an old man remembering when he was a young boy.


The Applegate wagon train began to assemble in late April, and departed on May 13, 1843. Over 900 emigrants bound for Oregon elected Peter Burnett as captain. The “cow column” for the livestock and slower wagons was led by Jesse Applegate. Former trapper John Gant would guide them as far as Fort Hall. He would follow the trail used by mountain men Meek and Newell in 1840. The group possessed over 200 wagons, 700 oxen and about 800 cattle.

In 1843 the Appelgate’s crossing of the Blue Mountains was hard going as they needed to enlarge the trail cut through the forest and experienced adverse weather conditions. A snowstorm made them cold and wet, at first drifting made progress difficult and when it melted the wagons became bogged down in the mud.

At Soda Springs they met the group led by explorer John Charles Fremont. Jess recorded: "There was a soda spring or pool between the camps, and Fremont's men were having a high time drinking soda water. They were so noisy that I suspected they had liquor mixed with the water."

In October they finally reached Fort Walla Walla where they stayed for a fortnight to build timber skiffs on which to ride the Columbia River down to Fort Vancouver and the Willamette Valley, which was reckoned to be more viable than traversing the steep sided gorges through which the river surged. Animals and Wagons had to be left behind.

In November this last hazardous stage of the journey was begun. After the dreary plodding pace of the wagons riding the turbulent waters must have been an exhilarating experience. After a few days they heard the deafening roar of gushing waters ahead. The current carried them out of control, they could only try to avoid the large boulders which jumped out at them midstream. One of the craft, capsized and was sucked down into the raging waters by and eddying whirlpool. Three of the six occupants survived but shooting rapids. Young Jess Applegate's brother Warren and his cousin Edward drowned, the latter despite the best efforts of 70-year-old Alexander McClellan. McClennan could have saved himself but refused to do so and also perished in trying to save the youngster.

In the Willamette Valley they built log cabins and spent their first winter at what they called “The Mission” which is where the modern town of Gervais, Oregon lies.

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1840s Emigrants cross
the Great Plains







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© Chris Smallbone Sept 2006