The Overland Trail

When the pioneers traveled to the American West in the 19th century, one of the trails that they took was called the Overland Trail.

Where Was the Overland Trail?

The Overland Trail went from Nebraska, as part of the Oregon Trail, and followed the south bank of the South Platte River past Julesburg, Colorado, and past Cache la Poudre river, and into Wyoming.  The trail then went back to the Oregon Trail at Fort Bridger.

Oregon Trail

The Oregon Trail was part of a 2,000-mile trail that was found in the wilderness.  This trail ran from Missouri to Oregon and had more than 5,000 people that traveled on it.

The 2,000-mile trail went for so long that it almost went to the Pacific Ocean.  Settlers traveled on this trail because the government had promised them that they would get a piece of land for almost nothing and so they traveled on the trail in hopes to find a piece of land to settle on.

The settlers traveled in wagons and the wagons were so many lined up that many people called them wagon trains.  They would travel for around 15 miles each day and then they would stop.  Sometimes the children had to walk beside the wagon and so it made it hard for them to travel too far at one time.

At night, the wagons would park in a circle so that they would be safe, and the people would sing songs and would talk and eat together.

The Oregon Trail was important because there was a rumor that the soil in Oregon was so good that it was bottomless and that people could become rich by using this soil for farming and so many of the people wanted to move there.

Who Opened the Overland Trail

The Overland Trail was first opened in the middle of the 1820’s because people wanted to use the trail to trade furs.

This trail was important and was used for many things such as rail lines, the Overland Stage Company and was a place for people to be able to migrate to other parts of the land.

What Was the Overland Trail Used For?

Besides travel and migration, the Overland Trail was also used as a mail delivery route.  Many companies would come and use the trail and they would do it in order to deliver goods and mail to people.

One company, the Central Overland Company, made improvements to the mail delivery business by using wagons and coaches instead of horses to deliver the mail and he would send the delivery people 1,100 miles on the trail.

Later, the company was taken over by Holladay and he renamed the company the “Pony Express,” and he would also allow people to hire his company to take them down the trail by stagecoaches where they would travel to the west.

Why the Overland Trail?

During this period of time, there were many different routes where people could travel in order to go to the west and during this period of time, there were tensions with the Native Americans who lived along the trails.

Holliday decided that he would use a southern route to deliver mail and to travel to the west.

Since this trail started in Kansas and went westward to Nebraska, the Overland Trail followed through an area where they could take this trail and then switch to another trail if they wanted to go even further west.

Stops Along the Overland Trail

There were a few different stops through the Overland Trail including:

  • Oketo Cutoff which went from Marysville, Kansas to Oketo, Kansas and from Nebraska into Odell.
  • Fort Halleck which was called the Territory of Idaho and was used to protect the mail delivery on the Overland Trail.
  • Latham, Colorado which went to Denver, Colorado and other mining cities.
  • Fort Morgan which went to Denver.
  • LaPorte Station which was on the northern part of the trail.

Travelers of the Overland Trail

The Overland Trail was the most popular travel route from 1862 until 1868 and it is believed that more than 20,000 people traveled this trail during that time.

Native Americans

During the late 1800’s, there was a lot of tension between the Native Americans and the government and so there were times where there were attacks that happened on the Overland Trail between wagons and coaches and the Native Americans.

After the Civil War ended in 1865, the United States built the transcontinental railroad and the Overland Trail become less necessary because people decided to ride on trains instead.

Last Stagecoach

The last stagecoach went on the Overland Trail in 1870 after it reached Denver, Colorado.

More Facts About the Overland Trail:

  • Holliday made the Overland Trail a telegraph line and this made the Pony Express not needed anymore.
  • Holliday sold the Overland Trail to Wells Fargo who bought it for $1.8 million dollars.
  • There are some landmarks and museum along the Overland Trail but that is pretty much all.
  • Mark Twain wrote about the Overland Trail in his book, “Roughing It.”
  • Today, highway I-80 runs along the Overland Trial route and so does the railroad.

What Did You Learn?

What is the Overland Trail?
The Overland Trail is a trail that ran from Kansas all the way to Wyoming.

What were other trails that were connected to the Overland Trail?
The Oregon Trail was part of the Overland Trail.

What kind of things happened on the Overland Trail?
The Overland Trail was a place for migration, travel and for mail delivery.

What was a problem with the Overland Trail?
The problem with the Overland Trail was that the Native Americans and the United States Army had tension during the time of the Overland Trail so there were times that there were attacks on the trail.

Who did the trail get sold to?
The Overland Trail was sold to Wells Fargo.