Hi everyone. Jennifer Uhlarik here. Have you ever thought of what traveling along the Oregon Trail is like? While I am fascinated with the idea of our forefathers traveling months along the path to make a life in the wilds of Oregon or other western places, the thought of being that far from civilization—particularly someplace to replenish supplies—is a frightening one. Keeping it real here: I live 2 miles from the grocery store, and it’s waaaaayyyyyy too easy for me to wait until 5 pm some nights to decide what I’m making for dinner, then rush off to the store for supplies. Our ancestors on the Oregon Trail didn’t have such luxuries! They had to pack enough stores to do life until they reached a trading post or fort to buy more.
So how did these trading posts get their start and what were they like?
As early as the 1500’s, French and English fishermen were sailing to the coast of Newfoundland to fish for cod. It was here that they encountered some local Indian tribes who were anxious to trade for metal goods. In order to obtain the iron pots, pans, knives and tools they coveted, the Indians offered beaver pelts, which they could provide in great quantities. It took the fishermen little time to sell the pelts once they returned home, and people quickly realized that the soft underfur of a beaver pelt made a wonderful felt for hat-making. With a growing demand for beaver pelts, both France and England began to explore North America with the intent to colonize it. Not long after, France began setting up trading posts in Quebec. Of course, England’s Hudson Bay Company moved into the area as well, sending traders and trappers across parts of Canada and the American frontier. Wherever they went, Hudson Bay Company set up trading posts to barter with the native population.
As life on the frontier changed from a focus on the fur trade to a focus on Westward Expansion, many of the old trading posts lived on. The owners of the posts continued to trade with the Indian tribes, but they also became outposts where white travels and settlers could get supplies. These small outposts provided staples like coffee, tea, rice, tins of hardtack biscuits, dried fruit, or canned goods. They also offered tools and utensils, such as cast iron pots, kettles, knives, and axes, saddles, and flint and steel for starting fires. Customers could trade for textiles, such as beaver-felt hats, blankets, bandanas, ribbon, thread, needles, and fabric. Ornamental or decorative supplies were commonly found, anything from silver to beads and beyond. And of course, guns, ammunition, and other shooting supplies were a common item found in these trading posts.
I’m sure you can imagine, life on the frontier could be lonely and supplies might be hard to come by. You had to learn to live with what you had…and make do until you could restock. Often, these trading posts were lifesavers, keeping people from starving or doing without until they reached the next major stop on their journey west. Or they might have prevented settlers from having to make a long trek to the nearest town or city, which might be days or weeks away. They certainly weren’t as convenient as today’s 7-Eleven, but I’m betting they were welcome stopovers to more than a few of our ancestors.
It’s your turn: If you had lived in times past, would you have liked to live on the frontier where a trading post might be your nearest source of supplies, or would you have preferred to live in a town or city? I’ll be giving away one paperback copy of The Oregon Trail Romance Collection to one reader who leaves a comment.
Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has finaled and won in numerous writing competitions, and been on the ECPA best-seller list several times. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers, Women Writing the West, and is a lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, college-aged son, and four fur children. Follow Jennifer at bit.ly.UhlarikNews
The Oregon Trail Romance Collection
Nine romantic adventures take readers along for a ride on the Oregon Trail where daily challenges force travelers to evaluate the things that are most precious to them—including love. Enjoy the trip through a fascinating part of history through the eyes of remarkably strong characters who stop at famous landmarks along the way. Watch as their faith is strengthened and as love is born despite unique circumstances. Discover where the journey ends for each of nine couples.
Click HERE to buy