The Migration of People in the Western Trail of America in 1800s I am enthralled by people from various directions who step on this western part of America through the Oregon Trail, the only practical corridor to the entire western United States. These migrations caused the population to grow, driven in part by German, English, and Irish settlers who arrived in huge numbers in the pursuit of escaping food shortages and political repression in Europe (Moch, 1995). I can also see large numbers of Europeans, who were drawn by the promise of freedom, cheap lands, and jobs in factories during the emerging industrial age in the country. Some of them are English men and women with children tagged along. some are French, who were later absorbed by the United States as French colonists in the upper Midwest of New Orleans, Louisiana. I noticed that the Englishmen were wearing flannel undershirts, neckerchiefs, and hats. Even the men, not just the women of this period, knew their layering and to suffer for their style. Some wore stiffly starched collars and folded tips, which were a part of the fashion then. The native American dwellers, particularly women, were wearing ankle-length one-piece dress made of silk fabrics, very common among upper middle class women during that period. Their necklines were generally modest, with a fichu worn on them. Some of the men were wearing a linen pullover shirt made with full sleeves, deep-buttoned cuffs, a generous collar, and very long tails tucked to the trousers. Their pants had straight, slim legs, and a flap that was buttoned to the waistband.
These emigrants were traveling by walking, through barefoot in particular. Some of them came through steam ships all the way from their motherlands, which took them several weeks before finally arriving in this western part of America. The travel via the steam ships must have caused them too much anxiety, as I’ve heard that traveling through these ships is comparable to risking one’s life. Several people die in ships, and during those moments, the captain and his crews usually do not have any option but to conduct a sea burial. The emigrants also encountered cholera, poor sanitation, and accidental gunshots in their long journey of the trail, which took them about 2,000 miles. There was a misconception that the emigrant’s biggest problem en route were the Native Americans, which in truth, were quite helpful to them (The Oregon Trail: Retrieved on June 26, 2008).
Traveling to the west entails hardship for this prospective immigrants, adding to the fact that they had no one to depend on in their initial stay in the region, but only their hopes to own and till a piece of land, and set their lives anew. Some of them are able to settle in Pennsylvania and work in mill factories in which mill owners recruit young farm girls and provide them housing in dormitories owned by the company, and from what I have gathered around, their leisure time was as carefully supervised as their working hours. They were also required to attend church masses regularly, owing to the purpose of factory owners to mold their moral edification (Toro-Morn and Alicea, 2004). Food shortage and political repression in Europe caused these migrations to the west, and the United States, as an emerging industrial state in this period, is seen as a Greener Pasteur in which economic statuses of people from other lands may improve.
These migrations are changing the American environment in a manner in which various cultures are amalgamated in a single system, producing diversity in language and customs but are integrated to the American society through socialization and inter-marriages. This mixing of black and white, of white and white, produced multi-racial children, in a melting pot of which America is the host. The places known later as Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada, Utah, and Idaho would probably not a part of the United States if not for the Oregon trail (The Oregon Trail: Retrieved on June 26, 2008).
As a bison busy with finding my own Pasteur, I can only observe these rapid migrations of people in the western trail, seeking for newfound promise of prosperity.
Moch, L. P. (1995) Moving Europeans: Historical Migration Practices in Western Europe. In: The Cambridge survey of world migration, Cohen, Robin, (ed). University Press, Cambridge.
The Oregon Trail. Retrieved on June 26, 2008 from http://www.isu.edu/~trinmich/Introduction.html
Toro-Morn, M. I. and Alicea, M. (2004) Migration and immigration: a global view. Greenwood Press.