Oregon City is about 10 miles west of where we were staying in Barton Park and about 15 miles south of Portland. Although there were numerous cut-offs and branches to the Oregon Trail, Oregon City is the officially designated end of the trail. It is also the location of the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.
The center is located on land once owned by George Abernethy who arrived in Oregon by ship in 1840 as a Methodist missionary. He was in charge of the mission's mercantile business and later got involved in Oregon politics by becoming provisional governor of the territory.
When he arrived in Oregon, Abernethy claimed 640 acres that included a neck of land that extended to the Willamette River a little below Willamette Falls. The neck of land was called Abernethy Green and was the arrival site for many overland emigrants. Since the emigrants arrived in late fall or early winter, many of them wintered over at Abernethy Green. They headed out in the spring to search out land in places like the fertile Willamette Valley to the south.
Clackamas Heritage Partners operates the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, and admission to the heritage center also includes admission to the Museum of the Oregon Territory and the Stevens-Crawford House, which are also operated by Clackamas Heritage Partners.
The End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center is designed to suggest the appearance of covered wagons.
The Oregon Trail was one of the major migration routes across the North American Continent in the mid 1800s. The route started in Independence, MO and followed portions of routes established by Lewis and Clark during their 1804 to 1806 expedition as well as the routes of other explorers, trappers, missionaries, and traders. The eastern portion of the trail was also followed by other trails such as the California Trail and the Mormon Trail.
One of the first groups of emigrants to follow what was to become the Oregon Trail was the Bidwell-Bartleston Party of about 100 farmers and their families who started out in 1841 for California. Some of the group changed their minds en route and instead opted for Oregon.
The numbers of emigrants traveling the Oregon Trail fluctuated somewhat, but was up to several thousand a year by the mid 1840s. However, when gold was discovered in California in 1848, the number of emigrants skyrocketed to 30,000 in 1949. In 1850, there were 55,000 on the Oregon Trail.
The huge numbers of travelers dropped after the gold started to run out, but emigrants continued to use the trail until the transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869. The total number of emigrants to use the Oregon Trail is estimated at about 400,000.
It took four to six months to travel the Oregon Trail from Missouri to Oregon. Wagon trains would start out as early in spring as possible, but they had to wait until the grass started to grow so their animals would have enough to eat. If they started too late, they would be trapped by winter weather crossing the mountains.
Inside the interpretive center there are displays depicting early pioneer life. The photo below shows the type of clothing that may have been worn by hunters and trappers.
The next photo shows a simulated trapper's lean-to.
Most of the wagons that traveled the Oregon Trail were covered farm-type wagons with a flat bed 10 to 12 feet long capable of carrying about 2,500 pounds. The larger Conestoga wagons used in the east for the freight trade were too big for the Rockies. Horses and mules were not strong enough or durable enough, so most of the wagons were pulled by oxen. However, the horse-drawn buggy in the photo below did make it across the Oregon Trail in the late 1800s.
Speaking of wagons, they had an interesting hands-on display with a wagon bed and a stack of typical items that the emigrants might have carried with them. Visitors were invited to try to pack all the items into the wagon. All the items in the photo below, plus some that are hidden from view, were supposed to fit into the wagon. Paul started to give it a shot, but gave up when he saw all the canned goods on the shelf on the left.
There is also an excellent movie which includes excerpts from diaries and journals of people who actually traveled the Oregon Trail. We were struck by the hardships the pioneers faced when they left their homes back east and went searching for a new future in the west. Even though we took the tourist photo below with us looking like pioneers, we have trouble imagining we could have made the arduous trip across the country back then.
After the interpretive center, we headed north toward Portland to Otto's Sausage Kitchen, which was another restaurant we saw recently on the Food Network program Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Otto Eichentopf started the business in 1929, and it is currently run by Otto's grandson. They make 50 varieties of smoked and fresh sausages and wursts. They sell the sausages and other deli items in the store. There is also a lunch counter, which is the reason we went.
Outside on the street corner, they are grilling wieners, smoked pork sausage, and chicken sausage. There was a steady line at the charcoal grill and most of the picnic tables were filled.
We started with a wiener and a pork sausage, which we shared so we could both have a taste of each. In the next photo, Paul is about to take his first bite.
The smoked sausage was terrific - a nice smoky flavor with a hint of garlic. The wieners were excellent - a nice crispy skin from the charcoal fire, juicy inside, and not over-spiced. We bought some wieners to take back home with us. :-)
Inside, we perused the sandwich menu. The lunch counter is shown in the photo below.
We decided to split a Dakota Boy, which is a pastrami on rye with sauerkraut, melted Swiss cheese, horse radish, and mustard. It was yummy.
After our late lunch, we stopped by the Fabric Depot. Margery had picked up a brochure somewhere and since it was fairly close to Otto's, Margery wanted to check it out. The Fabric Depot store covers 1½ acres and has over 11,000 bolts of fabric. They also have special materials like upholstery fabric, shade cloth, embroidered overlays and appliques for wedding dresses, speaker cloth, billiard cloth, awning material, and more. The photo below shows just part of the inside of the store. There was also a large section outside where they had close-outs.
The next photo shows Margery looking at some of her favorite Thimbleberry quilt fabric.
Margery didn't have a quilt project in mind, so we made it out of the store with only buying a pair of knitting needles. From the Fabric Depot it was back to the motor home to get ready for our next adventure.