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Great Emigration (Wagon Train of 1843)

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The so-called Great Emigration was the first great wagon train to leave Missouri to arrive in Oregon, departing 22 May 1843 from Westport, Missouri, and traveling more than 2,000 miles to Oregon City, Oregon. (A wagon train of about 30 wagons had left the year before, but those settlers were compelled to leave the wagons at Fort Hall in Idaho.)

Led by Peter H Burnett, later the first governor of California, there were more than 160 wagons and over 1,000 people in this wagon train. (This was not the largest single train to cross the plains -- one was over 3,000 people -- but it was the largest for several years.)


Fun Facts

Peter H Burnett was the leader of the wagon train, and the first governor of California.

Jesse W Applegate was the leader of the Cow Column, the slower-moving column of emigrants and their cattle.

Charlotte Matheny Kirkwood, who died in 1926, was nearly the last survivor of that first large wagon train. She wrote a book, eight decades later, called Into the Eye of the Setting Sun, that documents much of the family and regional history.

Catharine (Zachary) Davis was the last surviving member of the wagon train of 1843. Born 15 October 1838 in the Republic of Texas, she died in Ellensburg, Washington, 20 June 1934, aged 95 years, 8 months, and 5 days.

Two people named Thomas Owens were on the trail. (One is Thomas A Owens.)


Family History

  • Into the Eye of the Setting Sun by Charlotte Matheny Kirkwood, published by the Hewitt-Matheny-Cooper Family Association.
  • Our Proud Past, by Gail I. McCormick, self-published.
  • Overland to Oregon, by Edward Lenox, 1904, republished by Ye Galleon Press, Fairfield, Washington.
  • Recollections of My Childhood, by Jesse A. Applegate;
  • Conversations With Pioneer Men, by Fred Lockley of the Oregon Journal, compiled by Mike Helm, 1996, Rainy Day Press,
  • A Day With the Cow Column, by Jesse Applegate, Ye Galleon Press, Fairfield, Washington.
  • The old Cason-Cross House, Gladstone, 1861-62, by Gertrude Oswald.
  • Life and Labour of Rev. A. E. Garrison, 1887.
  • Oregon's Fading Past, by Lawrence E. Nielsen and Donald S. Galbreath, Maverick Publications, Bend, OR, 1993.
  • The Rose Farm,1847 - Oregon City," by Marshall Dana.
  • Recollections of An Oregon Pioneer of 1843 by Samuel Penter (OHSQ Vol 7)
  • Skookum-An Oregon Pioneer Family's History and Lore, by Shannon Applegate, Beech Tree Books, William Morrow, New York, 1988.
  • 'Newlyweds,' Pioneers, Vol. 11, by Rick Steber, Bonanza Publishing, Prineville, OR, 1993

Historical Records

  • The Yamhill County Museum, Lafayette, Oregon.
  • Polk County Pioneers--Study of the Inhabitants Listed in the 1850 Federal Census of Polk County, Oregon, by Shirley H. O'Neil, self-published, 2002.
  • Oregon Historical Landmarks, published by Oregon Society Daughters of the American Revolution.
  • Growth of Early Cornelius Due to Arrival of Railroad,an on-line article, original transcript by Eric Stewart for the News-Times.
  • Quarterly of the Society of California Pioneers, Vol 6 [1930].

Other Websites

Please include specific information on how to obtain copies of source material if available.


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