Home School Life Journal From Preschool to High School

Home School Life Journal ........... Ceramics by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

Pioneers, part 6: Everyday Life on the Trail

part 6: Everyday Life on the Trail

Monday: Timeline

Have your student add to his timeline: 1840-1870: Between 250,000 and 500,000 people went west on the Oregon Trail.

Tuesday: Cooking and Foods

Have your student research how the pioneers were able to cook food on the trail. What did they use for fuel?

Optional Hands-on Project: Cook Pioneer Foods

Have your student cook some of the foods the pioneers cooked on the trail, such as Fried Dough Cakes, Soda Bread, Johnnycakes, Dried Apple Pie or a Breakfast of Pancakes, Bacon and Coffee or Baked Beans with Slab Bacon.

Wednesday: Music

Find recordings of songs played and sung on the Trail or have your student learn to play and sing them himself, such as:
Buffalo Gals
Oh, Susanna
Sweet Betsy from Pike

Thursday: Letters Home

Pioneers were able to mail and receive letters to and from b family and friends at the forts along the way. Have your student write a letter home as his character in the role-play, describing some of the things that happened (what did they see, any difficulties such as illnesses, their feelings and thoughts).


Have your student tell about something that could have happened to them in their past. Have him be as dramatic as you can with the telling. He may want to rehearse before telling it to your family or group.

Friday: The Role-Play

(Note: There are many illnesses listed in chapter 6 of the role-playing game, Renaissance that can be applied to your role-play. It lists a description of the illness, how long it takes from contracting the illness to showing symptoms,  it's "potency" (the gamemaster / teacher makes an opposed Resilience roll against the Potency to find out whether the disease is contracted), Effect and Cure. For example:
The victim suffers from a raging fever. The victim feels that they are burning up or very cold, sweating or shivering,  in turn. The victim is also overcome with bouts of nausea.
Delay: 1D20 hours
Potency: 50
Effect : All skills are halved. Every time the character attempts a physical action, they must make a successful Resilience roll or their character be completely overcome by nausea for 1D4 -1minutes.
Cure: Use of healing herbs gives a +20% bonus.
You can use this method, or you can use the method outlined below, which was created to give the student more assignments, or some combination can be used. It is up to you, as the Games-Master / Teacher. )

You finally arrive at Fort Laramie in the evening. After dinner, everyone is in the mood for some music. If you have brought an instrument and play, people slip you coins to show their appreciation. Roll for how many coins you receive.

Fort Laramie is one of the few stops along the trail where you can buy supplies, mail and receive letters, receive expert advice on repairing wagons and get information about what is ahead on the trail. What do you want to do at this fort? Does anything need to be repaired? Are you buying supplies? If you buy supplies, you notice that they cost twice as much as they did at your starting point.  Do you mail any letters? If so, to whom? Do you receive any mail? From whom?

Price List Items for sale at Fort Laramie;
Boots, $1.80
Pants, $1.00
Cap, Beaver, $10.00
Cap, Woolen, .21
Coat, lined $16.00
Coat, regular  $3.20
Dress, $2.00
Gloves, .40
Hat, .60
Shirt, $5.20
Shoes, $3.20
Bible  $5.20
Candle .40/each
Crowbar, $2.00
Cooking kit, $4.00
Deck of Cards, $1.20
Flint and Tinder, .20
Hammer, $2.00
Lantern, $3.20
Mining Pick, $3.20
Oil (enough to fuel a lantern for two hours), $3.20
Pamphlet on Trails and Tips, .20
Pitchfork, $2.80
Rope, 30 feet, $10.00
Sack, large, $2.00
Sack, small, .80
Scythe $3.60
Shovel, $3.20
Tobacco, .80
Torch, .60
Writing kit, $3.60
Ale, .80
Bread, .20
Cheese, .80
Chicken,  .80
Eggs, 1 dozen, .80
Goose, $1.00
Meal, .80-$1.20
Pig, $1.00-$2.00
Sugar, .20/pound
Compass, $8.00
Fishing kit, $1.60
Gunner ' s kit, $2.40
Healing kit, $6.00
Musical Instruments, $1.00/each
Horse, $1.20
Mule, $1.00
Ox, .80
Horse feed, .20/day
Hatchet, .50
Hunting Knife, .20
Flintlock Rifle, $6.00
Revolver, $3.00

Your guide has been resting, purchasing a few supplies and asking questions about the trail ahead. The map indicates that the trail divides into three separate trails just west of the Fort. What do you do?
Your guide has found out that the shortest and fastest route is called Massacre Bluff Trail, but it is rumored to be the most dangerous. It is wild, rugged and lonely. There are no settlements before Chimney Rock. Most of the people you talk to tell of wagon trains that found only dry water holes, hostile Indians and huge rocks blocking the trail. One man reports that last year the commanding officer of the fort sent horse soldiers to punish the tribes along the trail and in this fight, many Indians were killed, including women and children. This cruel attack had angered the Indians and they were now fighting back
Last month a wagon train was attacked and they came limping back to the fort with half the people dead or severely wounded.
The Long Trail is much longer and passes through some rough country. Water, however, generally is no problem and the chance of attack is much less. Wagon trains almost always get through but one man tells you that last year a wagon train was attacked by Indians and suffered several casualties.
The reports about the third trail. The Prairie Trail,  are very confusing. One report is that hostile Indians are all along the trail and is as dangerous as the Massacre Bluff Trail. Another man, who claims to have just taken the trail a few months ago says that the trail is a safe shortcut around Massacre Bluff. He says that there were no signs of Indians.
What do you decide to do?

(If they  take the Prairie Trail) Roll a 6-sided die. If he rolls a 1, you tell him, "You fell into a large cactus when your wagon hit a large rock.  It takes you the rest of the day to extract the spines and you are sore for several weeks. 300 DPs (-1 to hit on attack rolls and anything else that takes strength and Constitution.)
Roll a 6-sided die. A one means: A member of your party has contracted cholera. People in other wagons are concerned that they will get the disease. Write a research paragraph on what cholera is, survival rated and contraction rates. 100 DP's for a good paragraph. 400 DPs for an acceptable paragraph and 800 DP's and 3 EFs for no paragraph turned in.

(If they take the Massacre Bluff Trail) As your wagon train rounds the bend, you find that a landslide has blocked the trail ahead. You must stop and clear the trail before you can continue. 100 DP's for each wagon in the wagon train without a shovel. 150 DPs for each wagon without a pickaxe.

(If they take the Long Trail.) The guide says that he is getting very low on food, particularly meat. South have spotted a herd of Buffalo about 5 miles southwest of the trail. They also report that a small band of Indians have been following your wagon train for the last three days. He is calling for a wagon train meeting to discuss whether to forget the buffalo, take the whole wagon train after the Buffalo or send out a hunting party. If they decide to forget the Buffalo, subtract 2 EFs for low rations. 500 DP's If they decide to take the wagon train after the Buffalo but add 2 EFs for the meat obtained and 2 additional EFs if you manage to cooperatively hunt with the Indians. If they send out a hunting party, 1 EF for the meat obtained. Roll a 6-sided die and if it is a 1 or 2, the hunting party cooperatively hunted with the Indians and they get 2 additional EFs.
Have each player roll a six-sided die. If it is a one nothing happens, otherwise, you tell them that one of their party suddenly got a fever during the night. If they roll a 6, this person dies and they need to stop the train for a day for burial.  Otherwise, you need to stop for a day to attend to the needs of the sick person, or they die.


  1. For some reason on this post in particular as I read I was thinking of the Oregon Trail computer game.

    1. Perhaps it is because I used to love that game!


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. It means so much.