TRAIL BASICS - SUPPLIES
The Trail Center's Merchantile Store is the place where you can select your supplies for your journey along the trail.
A pioneer’s typical outfit wasn’t terribly expensive; usually one or two small, sturdy farm wagons, six to 10 head of oxen, a milk cow or two. Plus all the necessary food, clothing and utensils needed for survival. Often heavy items such as furniture, stoves, pianos would be freighted to the West Coast by clipper ship around the Horn of South America. If such heavy things were packed in the wagons, they usually ended up left along trailside along the way.
To survive the long jouney, a family of four would need 600 lbs. of flour, 120 lbs. of biscuits, 400 lbs. of bacon, 60 lbs. of coffee, 4 lbs. of tea, 100 lbs. of sugar, and 200 lbs. of lard. These would just be the basic staples. Other food stuffs could include sacks of rice and beans, plus dried peaches and apples. Bacon was often hauled in large barrels packed in bran so the hot sun would not melt the fat. Each man took a rifle or shotgun and some added a pistol. A good hunting knife was essential. Farm implements such as a plow, shovel, scythe, rake, hoe; plus carpentry tools - saw, broad axe, mallet, plane. Seeds for corn, wheat and other crops.
A.J. McCall an early traveler on the Oregon Trail made light of how some pioneers tried to "take it all." He wrote: "They laid in and over supply of bacon, flour and beans, and in addition thereto every conceivable jimcrack and useless article that the widest fancy could devise or human ingenuity could invent – pins and needles, brooms and brushes, ox shoes and horse shoes, lasts and leather, glass beads beads and hawks-bells, jumping jacks and jews-harps, rings and bracelets, pocket mirrors and pocket-books, calico vests and boiled shirts."
Usually, thick slabs of smoked bacon would keep as long as it was protected form the hot temperatures. One way to preserve bacon was to pack it inside a barrel of bran. Also, eggs could be protected by packing them in barrels of corn meal – as the eggs were used up, the meal was used to make bread. Coffee was another important staple. It was drunk by man and beast, adult and child and the best way to disguise the taste of bitter, alkali water.
In the early days of the trail when game was more abundant near the trail, pioneers could often kill buffalo and antelope. However, a more dependable supply of fresh meat was to bring along a small herd of cattle and trail them behind the wagon. Many also brought along a cow for milking purposes. Milk could also be churned into butter by simply hanging it in pails beneath the bumpy wagon. By the end of the day fresh butter would be ready.
A wagon in process of being loaded with supplies for the trek west on display at the Trail Center.
Display of rifles and muskets at the Oregon Trail Center.