From which states did the majority of Oregon Trail settlers come from?

So my mother, an elementary school teacher, is teaching a unit on the Oregon Trail (a staple of elementary school teachers in Oregon). The kids are planning out their families of pioneers, creating histories and backgrounds for each of the families in their wagon train. One possible issue cropping up is kids who’ve invented backgrounds for families in Texas, Louisiana, and Florida. Is that realistic? Certainly we can come up with individuals who came from these states, but probably not many. Does anyone have access to a demographic breakdown of Oregon Trail settlers and where they came from? We’ve both got an idea that settlers came from the lower Midwest (Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, Wisconsin, Michigan) and the Northeast (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, New York, and New England), but we don’t have any kind of hard evidence for that. Any help is appreciated. Thanks!

Your title is redundant.

Ah. In fact, it is.

Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa, says the Oregon Trail Pioneer descendant sitting beside me. However, this is anecdotal.

This site might be able to help you:

Starting in 1850, one of the census questions was “Place of origin/birthplace”, so by browsing the 1850-1860 census records, you’ll be able to get some idea of where people came from.

Here’s a capsule summary of the early history of Oregon: History of 19th-Century Oregon. Perhaps the teachers could incorporate it into their lessons…

That census data is great! I found a list of deaths, which included birthplaces. Missouri is the clear leader, followed by Illinois and Iowa. Indiana, Ohio, Arkansas, and Wisconsin were there too. Very few New Englanders, which surprised me. Ignorance fought- thanks all!


The only people who settled the Oregon Trail were bankers from Boston, carpenters from Ohio, and farmers from Illinois.

Cite. :smiley:

Seriously, I remember from AP US History that most of them did come from the midwest. That being said, when I did this type of thing in elementary school, it never seemed as though the teachers were that concerned with the nitpicky things. It seems like the point would be the hardship endured on the trail and the experience of the thing, not the specific state of origin. At least not at a grade school level.

Or at the “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” level. The question 3 (?) nights ago was “In what state did the Oregon Trail start?” Of course, it started in Independence, MO, as any child of 90s knows by heart.

Unless you’re playing Oregon Trail II - then you can start in Nauvoo, Illinois!

Your mother’s students may be amused to know that in Stow, Ohio, southeast of Cleveland, is an area called Oregon Corners, named because it was a meeting place for travelers on their way west. This timeline from the town historians estimates that a signpost stood there around 1850 saying “Oregon – 1000 miles.” Today there is an Oregon Corners shopping center, an Oregon Corners florist, and bank branches with that name. Few people have any idea why.

Boy, I’ll bet they were surprised 1000 miles later when they were still in Kansas.

Sure, sure. It’s a tiny little nitpicky thing that maybe one of them will remember in three years. But you do want to be right, and I thought that the Dope was the place to get nitpicky answers about things that aren’t easy to Google.

They were misinformed.