The Lost Wagon Train-The Elliott Expedition Cutoff, Oregon
N 43° 44.154 W 122° 27.310
10T E 543874 N 4842684
Quick Description: The Lost Wagon Train tale is a well known story in Oakridge, Oregon.
Location: Oregon, United States
Date Posted: 8/22/2009 11:54:22 PM
Waymark Code: WM72B7
From the sign:
"Commemorating The Lost Wagon Train.
Oregon bound over plains, deserts, rough rocky lava, high mountains-West. Thru unmarked wilderness and own precipitous slopes into the bed of this stsrange river-after long weeks of great hardship, they finally reached the valley in late October. "The Elliott Expedition Cutoff. 1853"
The Wagon Train of 1853 left Fort Boise and split from the Oregon Trail near Vale, Oregon. Approximately 1000 people and 250 wagons followed Elijah Ellio on a new and reportedly much shorter route to the southern Willamette Valley. After a hard trip across the ORegon desert, they cmaped near Bend along the Deschutes river, and sent their scounts ahead. Fresh blazes were happily reported near LaPine. The wagon train turned up the eastern slop of the Cascades toward their sought-after landmark, snow-capped Diamond Peak. Early October storms had already started. Though travelling through snow was a great dread. they forged desparately ahead toward their destination, the Waillamette Valley.
The trail weary men and women endured extreme difficulties as they forged their way south of Diamond Peak, through the forest and rugged bluffs of the high Cascades. Heavy timber and downed trees added up to near impassability. With hand axes, the men chopped deep notches in huge down trees whil women and children helped by carrying limbs, rocks and dirt to bridge up to the cut and over the obstacle. It was back-breaking work. Som days not even one mile rolled under the wagon wheels. Wagons with broken wheels continued with a skid jerry-rigged under one axle of their wagon. Many other wagons wrecked and were broken down, unable to proceed. Teams of horses and oxen died from lack of forage and cruel overwork.
Hunger was their constant companion after meager provisions ran out. Starvation was not a stranger. Colonel Cline, a member of the train, had retained a few head of cattle that he hoped to rebuild into a herd in Oregon. One by one, the beef had been butchered. Each beef killed was tough and striny and cooking kettles had more bones than meat. ONe of the hungry men remembered, "The meat was so tough I couldn't stick a fork in the gravy."
Their situation became increasingly hopeless. A young school teacher, Martin Blanding, set off ahead to search for help. He followed the cut of the Free Emigrant Road Builders down to the valley. Some valley settlers found him at his campfire downriver along the Willamette. Word of the wagon train's desparate plight quickly spread. Emergency provisions were volunteered by the settlers, loaded on packhorses and hurried back upriver to the starving emigrants.
Several early settlers from the valley assisted with the rescue. Cornelius J. Hills, grandfather of Lawrence D. Hills, a past mayor of Oakridge, was a member of this mercy trip. He often said he never made flapjackes so fast in his life.
One small boy sat with tears streaming down his hungry face as he held his first flapjack. Asked why he didn't eat it, he replied, "I can't. I'm afraid I'll never get another one." Another man ate enormously and when they tried to slow him down to moderation, he said, " I have been hungry for so long, if I die, I want it to be with a full stomach."
With emergency food to tide them over, they regrouped, leaving a trail of broken wagons and discarded household items. Even their precious and indispensable dutch ovens were sacrificed because of weight. Their hardships were far from over. Mrs. Joseph Petty (Nancy Prossor) was killed near Boulder Grade as the wagon tried to negotiate a steep bank. A heavy truck gave way and fatally injured her. Some place this accident at other locations such as Simpson Creek, Crowbar Point, or Black Canyon. She had a newborn infant who died a few months later. Mrs. Petty was buried along the river. A white picket fence stood around the grave for several years until the raging spring floods on the Willamette washed it away.
Rescuers from the valley hurried the newcomers down from the mountains, and helped them set up winter camp in abandoned cabins as the late fall storms began in earnest. Many families of this grimly determined group established their hard-earned homes and became prominent in the affairs of the new land that they won by so much heartbreaking effort.
This marker, designed and donated by woodcarving artist, Art Clough, was dedicated in 1950 when the Pioneer Pageant was last held in Eugene. Cal Young, pioneer, was the speaker for the occasion.
This memorial was orginally located above Rigdon Ranch, south of Crescent Lake along the path of the Free Emigrant Road. It was moved to its present location in Greenwaters Park, Oakridge, wher ethe emigrants forded the Willamette River n their journey. From this point to Eugene, they followed the riverbed, crossing back and forth some 27 times on the riffles and plunging over boulders.
Road of Trail Name: Free Emigrant Trail
Many of the pioneers that survived this ordeal became prominent leaders in the new Oregon territory.
Years in use: The Elliott group used the trail 1853-54
How you discovered it:
I saw this sign while vacationing and geocaching in Oakdridge.
Book on Wagon Road or Trial:
"Diary of Helen Stewart 1853" (one of the members of the Lost Wagon train), "Migration Rosters of the Elliott Cut-Off: 1853-54" (both available at the Lane County Historical Society)
free emigrant road 1853
The pioneers were heading to the southern Willamtte Valley to settle down as pioneers. They took the "cut-off" thinking it was a shortcut.
This sign is located in the parking lot of Greenwaters Park in Oakdridge, OR.
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