Trail Resources

Did any of your ancestors get ‘Gold Fever’? Or, did any get ‘Oregon Fever’? One of the people I believe to be my ancestor, Hiram M. Currey of Peoria, Illinois, is fairly prominent in various records prior to 1850. However, he seems to just disappear around 1849. Thus, I’ve wondered if he had ‘gold fever’ and left Illinois for California.

That curiosity led me to learn more about the trails and the resources available to document someone’s journey west. Since this time of learning was in the early days of the Internet, most of my knowledge of the trails came thru participating in an area chapter of the Oregon California Trails Association. During that time, we visited sites where swales are still visible in the prairie, visited cemeteries and grave sites along the trail and helped mark the trail.

During this time period, I also learned about the letters and diaries documenting the journey west. And I acquired a copy of the book, Platte River Road Narratives. In this handy reference tool, the author, Merrill J. Mattes, ‘attempts to identify, describe and evaluate all known substantive central overland accounts during the half century prior to the advent of the transcontinental railroad.’ Thus, I was able to identify several accounts by men who migrated from Peoria, Illinois. Since my husband and I live a few hours from Independence, Missouri, we were able to visit the National Frontier Trails Museum where I was able to read these accounts on microfilm.

While learning about these trail diaries, I discovered that my great-grandmother’s aunt, Amelia Hammond Hadley had a diary published in the series Covered Wagon Women. Her journal is in the Special Collections in the University of Oregon Libraries.

In the process of learning more about Hiram M. Currey, I found land transactions with a Providence M. Currey. I believe these two men are brothers, but I don’t have a will, obituary or any document other than the land record connecting them. Like Amelia, Providence M. Currey ventured west with his family making a donation land claim in 1853. Desiring to know more about my CURREY ancestry, my husband and I traveled the trail from our home in Kansas to Oregon where we were able to visit the graves of Providence’s son, George B. Currey, research in the Oregon Historical Society and the University of Oregon and visit the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.

So, when I was researching Jacob Thompson‘s family in Oregon, I got in touch with a researcher who had added his profile to WikiTree. She pointed me to a couple of trail resources involving Jacob.

Her response prompted me to search for a diary about the Wapello train. Thru that process, I found Letters from the Oregon Trail in the University of Pittsburgh ULS Digital Collection. Remembering that the newspapers often contained articles about the westward migration, I searched the Wapello county newspapers on Newspapers.com. While I didn’t find anything about Jacob Thompson, I found some related items.

  • Farm for Sale. Ottumwa Semi-Weekly Courier (Ottumwa, Iowa) 18 Mar 1852, page 3
  • Oregon Letter by H. P. Graves Ottumwa Semi-Weekly Courier (Ottumwa, Iowa) 9 Dec 1852, page 2

I’ve just begun to research Jacob Thompson and the Wapello emigrants. Further research will require digging into county records and trail resources.

While my ‘freepages’ on RootsWeb hasn’t been updated in ages, I was able to find it. Since it hasn’t been update, the likelihood of broken links is HIGH. However, the site, Oregon Trail: The Trail West, might provide some ideas for locating additional information for emigrant families.

One thought on “Trail Resources

  1. Very interesting. I don’t have any ancestors that I know of that migrated west on a trail, but you never know what you find when you do family research. I’ve been wanting to go to Independence, MO for a while – I need to check out that museum.

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