The Road to Oregon

The Road to Oregon

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Excerpt from The Road to Oregon: A Chronicle of the Great Emigrant Trail

It is singular that no comprehensive historical treatment of the Oregon Trail has until now been attempted. The subject is of wide interest; the material is abundant, and it has long been available; for of the great wealth of recently discovered material that compels the rewriting of much of the history of the Far West, little has been added to the early documentation of the Trail. Historical essays, such as Professor F. G. Young's The Oregon Trail, Mr. W. E. Connelley's "National Aspects of the Old Oregon Trail" and H. M. Chittenden's brief and compact sketch in The American Fur Trade of the Far West, have outlined the subject; and more recently has appeared the excellent study of some of its phases, Opening a Highway to the Pacific, 1838- 1846, by Mr. James Christy Bell, Jr.; but the writing of an extended history with the Trail as its central theme has somehow been neglected.

In 1848 Francis Parkman published The Oregon and California Trail. It is a book that has had its hundreds of thousands of readers, and doubtless will always be popular. To students, however, it is disappointing by reason of what it omits. Of the Trail itself the book gives little information. Parkman was ill; he was young, and he had not yet developed that first essential of a historian - the spirit of inquiry.

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