National Oregon/California Trail Center in Montpelier Idaho

TRAIL BASICS

Dangers

Indians proved not to be any real danger to most pioneers. Major threats to pioneer life and limb came from accidents, exhaustion, and disease. Crossing rivers were probably the most dangerous thing pioneers did. Swollen rivers could tip over and drown both people and oxen. Such accidents could cause the loss of life and most or all of valuable supplies. Animals could panic when wading through deep, swift water, causing wagons to overturn. Animals could cause very serious injury to their owners. People could be crushed by wagons or animals, thrown by horses.

In addition, lightning, hailstorms, stampedes, grassfires, could cause great injury and death. Surprisingly large numbers of pioneers were injured by accidental firearm discharges. It was usually safer to keep rifles unloaded. Children were very susceptible to being run over by heavy wagons.

Diseases and serious illnesses caused the deaths of nine out of ten pioneers. Such diseases as cholera, small pox, flu, measles, mumps, tuberculosis could spread quickly through an entire wagon camp.