It Happened on the Oregon Trail reviews:

Adding to the plethora of books published recently on the Oregon Trail, Tricia Martineau Wagner has compiled a collection of interesting anecdotes about the individuals who made the trek westward in the first half of the 1800s. 

"It Happened On the Oregon Trail" (TwoDot/Guilford Books. $12.95) contains 29 short accounts of the trail adventures of an assortment of men and women who headed west to start new lives in either California or Oregon.

 In the book's introduction Wagner dispels a few common myths about the migration west before she gets into the stories she wishes to share.  For example, the Hollywood movie image of a single file line of wagons lumbering along the trail is not very accurate. Wagner points out that whenever possible the settlers' wagons spread out one abreast of the other to avoid the choking dust. Also, she emphasizes that although the Indians weren't thrilled with the hoards of intruders crossing their land, actual armed hostile acts were rather rare.  

The entertaining stories you'll discover in this inexpensive paperback include the trailside nuptials of a young couple and the shenanigans that made their wedding night quite unforgettable and a Fourth of July celebration at Independence Rock that offered pie in the sky. Another memorable tale explains how family tragedy and the perils of the Columbia River inspired two men to find a safer, alternative route (The Applegate Trail) to the Willamette Valley. 

For those who enjoy trivia, Wagner's final chapter - "A Potpourri of Oregon Trails Facts" - offers five pages of fascinating minutia.  You'll discover that the average overland trip in a covered wagon took between four and five months.  Today the route can be driven in four to five days! The wagon’s speed was between one and two miles per hour. Averaging between 10 and 15 miles a day, it took a week to go about 100 miles. 

And although the movie folk ignored this fact, Wagner states that there were more fatalities from accidentally discharged guns than from confrontations with Indians. The first recorded death from one of these accidents on the trail was a man named John Shotwell.  John made the fatal mistake of taking his rifle out of his wagon muzzle first!  

Copyright © January 1, 2005 by Bob Walch

Coast Impressions Online Magazine for the Central Oregon Coast 
Published by Newport Internet


St. Ursula grad shares her book at Christ the King 
by Pat Todak

Her own journey West and a nearly missed flight were the sparks that ignited Tricia Martineau Wagner to write a book about the Oregon Trail.

A Toledo Saint Ursula Academy graduate, Ms. Wagner was in the Toledo area last month to share Tales of the Trail. While here, she visited two schools 
that are close to her heart- Little Flower, the elementary school she attended, and Christ the King, where she was a reading specialist.

The idea for a children's book came to Ms. Wagner during a plane ride as her family was relocating to California from Chicago. "We barely made the plane," she recalls, "I was exhausted trying to manage two little kids and everything else." After settling into her seat, Wagner said, "I looked down and saw valleys, mountains and hills, and I thought, 'How on earth did those pioneers do it?'"

A fan of the Little House on the Prairie books, Ms. Wagner set out to write her own children's book on the Oregon Trail. She sent her manuscript to a variety of publishers. One publisher, The Globe Pequot Press, wrote they loved her book, they didn't publish children's books. Would she be interested in writing one for adults?" I said, 'Of course I would.' And I did."

Released last October, It Happened on the Oregon Trail is the result of two years of research including reading old manuscripts and journals left behind by those who traversed the trail. She then wrote the book, a collection of 29 short stories about the pioneers who traveled the 2,000-mile journey from the Missouri River westward to Oregon and California.

Since her book was published, Ms. Wagner has been spending much of her time traveling to schools and giving presentations on the Oregon Trail. Dressed in pioneer attire, she brings with her about 70 artifacts, including lanterns, medicine bottles, a washboard and children's primer books. She also brings pioneer clothing for the children to try on to add to the impact to her presentation.

Catholic Chronicle, November 4, 2005  
Vol. 71, No. 17, page 6