Back in the day, when the United States was just in the east, everyone wanted to explore the mystery that was the west. They believed there would be a better life there, where they could fulfill their dreams but so many obstacles stood in the way. Native Americans posed a threat, along with the mountains that proved to be near impossible to navigate with wagons. The drive to lead a better life, however, helped these people muster the courage to brave it all. The first to make it through were Marcus and Narcissa Whitman in 1836 and though they succeeded, it would take 7 years before the "Great Migration" took place. It consisted of a thousand people, all heading west together in a wagon train. What waited them there? Up to 640 free acres of land for married couples, half of that for singles.
Even with that many people going at once, there were definitely problems. Despite the general belief, the Native Americans weren't very hostile at all. During the early years, both them and the emigrants actually helped each other, but there were some who stole supplies and attacked as well. This caused the relationship between the two peoples to worsen and eventually hostile. Two notable attacks were the Ward Massacre, where 19 people were killed, and the Utter-Van Ornum Massacre that took place over several months, leaving 16 out of the 44 members to survive. At one point the army took 45 days to rescue one of the surviving parties who had been forced to resort to cannibalism like the Donner Party. The attacks weren't the biggest problem, though. Most deaths were from more natural causes, such as accidental gun discharges, accidents involving their animals and wagon, and the main contributor: cholera. It spread easily among all the travelers because of severe lack of hygiene. They rarely were able to wash their clothes, let alone bathe, unless they came upon a river, and even that was a threat to their lives. In the end, 1 out of 10 emigrants died on the Oregon Trail.
Most emigrants took this journey in a simple 4 by 10 foot farm wagon but despite what people may think, no one but the driver rode in it. They walked almost all of the 2000 miles because the wagon had no springs except under the driver seat so sitting in it would be painful and cause the animals pulling more strain as well. The wagons' wheels were also wooden with iron rims and because of the dry desert air, they had to be frequently soaked in water so they wouldn't shrink and separate from the rims. If an axle broke and they didn't have spare parts, then they would either have to abandon it or convert it into a two wheeled cart. Many of the travelers also brought too much at first, hoping to take precious family heirlooms with them to the new land. This proved cumbersome, especially with the thousand pounds of food they needed, and many were forced to leave their things in towns and forts known as "jumping off" locations, and some even on the trail itself. Others would sometimes salvage these items and use them or sell them, the latter even letting people form businesses from finding these things.
Experience the Oregon Trail in the classic game of the same name. Remember, no matter how deep or wide the river is, ford the river.