Illness and Death on the Trail

Oregon Trail Tombstone

Scarce information is known about this traveler. Historians know he died from cholera near Baldwin Creek, now Pottawatomia County, Kansas, but his first and middle name, age, occupation, or family left bihind is all unknown.

Death was rampant on the Oregon Trail. Approximately one out of every tenth person who began the trip did not make it to their destination. These deaths were mostly in part to disease or accidents.

Diseases ranged from a fever to dysentery, but the most deadly disease was cholera. This disease stole into the shadows and reared its ugly head from the unsanitary conditions on the trail. It was near impossible to stop the spread of the disease. It could take a hold of a traveller and within hours that traveller would be in a freshly cut grave. The cholera epidempic along the Oregon Trail was a part of the worldwide pandemic at that time. The only hope in the traveller's chance of not contracting the disease was to get to a higher elevation, such as the plains and mountains.

Accidents accounted for a horde of deaths, too. Accidents could happen due to failure to pay attention to details, weather, exhaustion, guns, animals, and even the occasional freak accident with an unknown cause. The biggest deaths from accident on the trail were due to shootings, drownings, wagon mishaps, and injuries from handling the cattle.

Every death suffered along the trail was a heartbreak, but the deaths that took the largest emotional tolls were those of mothers in childbirth and young children. 

Kansas Historical Society. (2008). Oregon Trail Tombstone. Retrieved from http://www.kshs.org/kansapedia/oregon-trail-tombstone/10385

Life and Death on the Oregon Trail. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.octa-trails.org/articles/life-and-death-on-the-oregon-trail