Oregon Trail Park
Just south of Westmoreland, on the east side of Highway 99, is a park honoring the memory of those thousands of hardy pioneers who camped in this area, near Scott Springs, on their way to a new life in Oregon. The wagon and team of oxen and the sign were built by local craftsman, Ernest White. The land was deeded to Pottawatomie County for one hundred years for $1.00 by descendants of the Scott family. The park and trails were designed by the Kansas State University Forestry Department. Restrooms and a shelter with picnic tables are available at this site. A handicap accessible walking trail (Little Dog Lost Trail) leads from the park, under the bridge to the other side of the highway and on toward the museum complex, a distance of approximately one mile.
About the Oregon Trail:
The Oregon Trail stretched more than 2,000 miles from Missouri almost to the Pacific Ocean and the Oregon coast. The U.S. government promised settlers a square-mile of land for almost nothing.
Rumors abounded about the wonders of the west. People called Oregon the “land of milk and honey.” They said the Oregon soil was bottomless and a man could become rich by farming. Life was hard for farmers living in the Midwest. Cholera and smallpox diseases killed thousands of people. Crops failed. Many people were eager to believe the stories about Oregon.
The settlers traveled in “wagon trains” for safety. They typically traveled about 15 miles a day. Children walked alongside the wagon most of the time. At night, the settlers would move the wagons into a circle for safety. They cooked dinner, sang songs, washed their clothing, and offered school lessons to the children.
The Oregon Trail was little more than two ruts on the prairie, but following it guaranteed some safety. Another trail split off from the Oregon Trail to California. One group of emigrants, the Donner Party, decided to try a new trail over the Sierra Mountains to California. An early blizzard trapped them in the mountains for five months. Only half of the 89 travelers survived.