Pioneers tried to avoid the D’s

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By JERRY McGEE
for the Keizertimes

The pioneers who came over the Oregon Trail developed a close bond based primarily upon their shared experiences on “The Trail.”

They never missed an opportunity to gather to retell their stories. Weddings, funerals, barn raisings and yes, even a hanging were all reasons to gather together to swap yarns.

It is said that the pioneers seldom talked about what they referred to as the “three D’s:” Dust, Disease and Death. Every wagon train had its share of each. Invariably one memory was always recalled. In most diaries kept by the pioneers there will be mention of one specific camp. The unusual thing about this campsite was that they observed that the water from the spring ran west, not east or south. This was very significant to them because it told them that they had indeed crossed the “Great Divide.” They were through the Great Stony Mountains (the Rockies). And since’ the boundary of the Oregon Territory was determined to be the crest of the Rockies, they were now officially in Oregon. One pioneer who had contracted Laramie fever rose up from his wagon bed and asked, “Is it true that the water is running west?” He was assured that it was true. “Then I made it to Oregon I” He died a short while later and he was buried in Oregon.

The spring is aptly named Pacific Springs and its water runs into Pacific Creek which runs into the Little Sandy River in the present state of Wyoming. Eventually the water from this spring reaches the Pacific Ocean in theory at least.

Although the pioneers were still a thousand miles from their destination in the Willamette Valley, the sight of the water flowing west was a much needed morale booster.

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