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
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