You Have Died of… Cannibalism | Oregon Trail


Well it’s the middle of November now, so
if you’re headed out Californi-way and you haven’t made it through the Sierra Nevadas
yet… I hope you have some fat friends with you. Before 1840…ish, if you wanted to get from
the United States out west, your only real option was to buy a $500 boat ticket and take
the 7 month, 15,000 mile trip around Cape Horn in South America. While cruises today are rather luxurious,
back in the 1840’s, when they still spelled Christmas like this … not so much. You could cut the time down by sailing to
Panama, trekking through the rainforest, and catching another boat, and assuming you didn’t
get eaten by a jaguar or catch diarrhea and die, you’d save yourself a whole $50. But in 1840, 13 people made the trip along
what would soon be known as the Oregon Trail… and this became by far the cheapest route,
costing between $150 and $200 per person, covering 2000 miles. While the Oregon Trail does technically refer
to this specific route, from Independence, Missouri to Oregon City, Oregon, it’s also
the collective name given to the Oregon Trail, California Trail, Bozeman Trail, Mormon Trail, and a
few stage coach and pony express routes. Since most of these trails all go along the
same route before splitting off… for our purposes, we’re going to refer to all of
them as the Oregon Trail. Quick side note, if you wanted to go out west,
you first had to travel through the Midwest. Which is the exact same reason why this place
is called the Middle East. By 1849, 18,847 people had crossed the Oregon
Trail. How do we know the exact number? Because a number of forts were established
along the way which kept track of the travelers and protected them from… well there’s
no easy way to say this… from the Native Americans. Whose land the settlers were technically trespassing
through so… you know… The forts also provided good old capitalists
with places to set up shops and sell supplies, snake oils, and trail guides (this becomes
important later). There were also a number of people known as
wagon masters, who made a living taking settlers back and forth along the trail. But in 1849, use of the trail exploded. Why… well you’re smart, you probably know the answer already. It’s gold. In January 1848, gold was discovered in Sutter’s
Mill, California. And since they didn’t have the internet
or ravens yet, it took a year for everyone else to find out. The sudden influx of migrants became known
as the 49ers, which is where the name of the football team comes from. There were hundreds of ships left abandoned
in San Francisco Harbor because people only intended on making a one-way trip to strike
it rich. Over the next decade, the amount of people
using the Oregon Trail skyrocketed to a total of 296,300. This is what it looks like when 300,000 people,
their wagons and their oxen, all travel through the exact same place. There are several spots along the trail that
still look like this over 150 years later, where the soft limestone was slowly carved
down by hundreds of thousands of travelers all staying in the same ruts. Even if there appears to be a much easier
path right over there. Seriously, I didn’t go somewhere else to
get this shot, this is only a few feet away, I don’t get it. But these aren’t the only remnants left
by the travelers. On several spots along the Oregon Trail people
felt compelled to carve their name into the rock as a way to say “so and so was here.” Old habits die hard I guess. This is one spot known as Register Cliff. Where people carved their names, where they’re
from, and what year it… see? This is why we can’t have nice things, because
people like this, 150 years later making it look like they made the trip too. Wait, what? Why is the 4 backwards? I mean I guess that makes sense since they
spell Christmas like this, but the 4 is the correct way around right here… at least
be consistently wrong! This is another register site known as Independence
Rock… Named that way because if you didn’t make
it there by July 4th, you probably weren’t going to make it through the Sierra Nevadas
in time. Which is exactly what happened to the Donner
Party. They made it to Independence Rock two weeks
too late, on July 17th 1846. Now you may not think that two weeks is that
big of a problem, sometimes winter arrives a bit late, but sometimes it arrives early,
but the Starks are always right in the end. This was complicated by the fact that George
Donner bought one of the aforementioned trail trail guides… Are you traveling out west? Want to avoid all of those pesky Indians and
Mexican tolls? Would you like to shave 400 miles and two
weeks off of the trip? Of course you would! Then you need The Emigrants’ Guide to Oregon
and California, the 1845 Pioneer’s Guide for the Westward Traveler, by Lansford W.
Hastings! Take the road less traveled. Call 1-800-55… You heard that right, the Hasting’s Cutoff
claimed to shave 400 miles off of the trip. Wyoming is 360 miles long end to end, so unless
the cutoff looked something like this… it obviously didn’t. In fact, it adds 150 miles. Combined with the fact that they were already
two weeks behind schedule… well… They made it to here by the beginning of November,
when they broke an axle and that very night were buried under snow drifts 60 feet high. A wagon train could travel 10-15 miles a day. They were only 2 or 3 days from the end of
the trail. On November 20, 1846, Patrick Breen starts
a diary which becomes the primary source of information for what happens next. It snows just about every day for the entire
month. By Thanksgiving, they have completely run
out of food. And on Christmas Eve, they draw
straws. Patrick Dolan loses, but being good Christians,
no one can bring themselves to actually do it. So they leave him to die to exposure. Which actually takes a lot longer than you
might think. The human body is incredibly resilient so
it doesn’t exactly happen overnight. On Christmas Day, Patrick Breen wrote:
“Offered our prayers to God this Cherimass morning. The prospect is appalling; but hope in God. Amen.” Mr. Dolan dies that night, and the next day,
they enjoy a nice Christmas feast. Crying and unable to look at each other the
entire time. Now you might be asking yourself why they
didn’t eat the people who had already died, and the answer is simple, the bodies were
buried and being good Christians, they didn’t want to dig up someone they already had a
funeral for… yet. They do later. Bodies are cut up and labeled so that nobody
accidentally eats their own family… because you know, you have to keep some sort of morals
right? They aren’t rescued until March 1847, 6
months later. Of the 89 people in the Donner Party, 41 died… 21 of them were cannibalized… including
George Donner, which makes sense I guess. Geez, did it get gloomy in here or what? In 1858 gold was discovered in Pike’s Peak
Colorado… yeah… yeah that’s happy right, everyone loves gold! This is where the Denver Nuggets get their
name. We seem to have a thing for naming sports
teams after things that happened over a hundred years ago. All of these gold rushes made the Oregon and
various other trails much more popular, at least until the 1860’s when two major events
happened. The first being the Civil War which you might
expect put somewhat of a damper on people traveling out west. But the second was the railroad, which followed
the same basic path as the Oregon and California trails. While it took almost a decade to complete,
the trail became heavily settled with a town springing up every 50 miles. The days of being a pioneer headed off into
the unknown beyond were numbered. When it was completed, it brought the trip
from several months down to only a few days, which basically ended the Oregon trail only
20 years after it started. These two simultaneous events just kind of
made the Oregon trail fall out of fashion. So those who could afford the few days railroad
trip out west obviously did. Why would you still take the over a thousand
mile trip on foot? Because you’re a Mormon. The tale of the Mormons is… interesting
– and probably deserves a video to itself *hint hint*. But the main point here is that they were
fleeing religious persecution and settled in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1847, which at
the time was outside of the United States. All through the 1850s and 60s, Mormons made
the trip from Nebraska to Utah, until they became the primary users of the trail. Especially for the poor European converts
who couldn’t afford to make the trip by rail. They were often so poor that they couldn’t
afford wagons and oxen and traveled by handcart instead. When we look back at history we often have
a problem with timescales. When talking about the fall of Rome, many
people take events that occurred over centuries and talk about them as if they all happened
within the same decade. With American History, we have the opposite
problem. The profession of cowboy only lasted 14 years…
although that doesn’t stop people from dressing up like one like it’s Halloween year-round,
but whatever. The Oregon Trail, for the most part, only
lasted about 20 years, and if we want to get fickle about it, was only in popular use for
about ten. While that might seem like a long time, it’s
still shorter than the war in Afghanistan so, you know, put some perspective on it. And the next time someone offers to sell you
a guide that will cut 400 miles off a trip by taking a shortcut, hopefully now, you’ll
know better. I want to quickly thank everyone who took
the survey I put up last week, your responses are great and I plan on putting out an analysis
on reddit in a few days. But in the meantime don’t forget to cannibalize
that subscribe button and follow me on facebook and twitter.

100 Replies to “You Have Died of… Cannibalism | Oregon Trail

  1. What's this, a video on a Wednesday? Yes, I'm planning on making this my new regular upload day, let me know what you think! Although to be fair, I hope to get them out a little earlier in the day from now on.

    Survey results will be on the subreddit in a day or two.

  2. "The actual profession of cowboy only lasted 14 years…"
    You need to replace "profession of cowboy" with "long cattle drives".

  3. Idk man, if I was thinking I might have resort to Cannabalism, I would want an Arnold Swarchenegger type of guy, that's alot more meat to fat ratio, although a fatty might be more moist and tender due to the protective layer of fat, am I putting to much thought into this?

  4. Wait they left out to die of exposer is a pretty cruel way to kill someone, and then they don't eat the dead first? I think these Christian's are confused, lol, about the procedure of Cannabalism

  5. Small point, how can you be trespassing on native american land? As Crowfoot and Sitting Bull were both quoted as saying that they cannot sell the land as it doesn't belong to them. Therefore, people should have easily been able to pass along the Oregon trail with no issue right? Why not?

  6. It’s to bad you can not stick to the facts, and leave your opinion turned off. I guess you think you are funny. While I think you are a progressive man who believes all in progressive values,, I think you all call it.

  7. Cowboys still exist you twit! Granted there aren't long trail drives now, but cattle are still herded and worked by COWBOYS.

  8. How can 21 people die from cannibalism? They died first. Also G Donner succumbed to the infection on his hand, then was presumably eaten by Lewis Keseberg.
    No one was murdered to be eaten, except for the two Miwok guides, and that's still debated.
    Great vid otherwise!

  9. Concerning the Indians – there was no "Indian land," no Indian nation. There were many tribes of Indians across the continent, none of whom owned the land they hunted and none of whom were in a nation. It was still anyone's land, and to the immigrants (which are still coming today, so let's keep that in mind), the land was wide open. One more point – conquest is the history of the world. This was just one more, so why the guilt?

  10. I don't think there's such a thing as people with enough rights to call other nationals tresspassers who do not use written language among the their lower cast. I would get into the cultures every Europian had a right to murder them over but those are all indium laws and following them made settlers lawful.

  11. If California is Far West, there is Midwest, then the East Coast is the Near West right? I mean, this shows me the Americans have a Eurocentric perspective on their Geography. By those times, the Near East was the Ottoman Empire, the Middle Est was Iran and the Far East was all lands East of Afghanistan up to Japan so between the Near East and the Near West was (Western Europe) and further East and West was the Middle East and the Midwest and even further from it was the Far East and the Far West

  12. You are very interesting, however, incorrect about cowboys. My grandmothers brother was a cowboy here in Central Texas during the 1920's. It was a job for share-croppers sons.

  13. The dasher, and blitzen parties both did much better, reaching their destination and feasting on reindeer on Cherimass

  14. "we seem to have a habit of naming thing after something that happened 100 years ago", so does that mean the redskins should really be named the scalpers?

  15. Yeah timescale can be tricky.
    I live in a small Swedish town, which is young at it's 400 years age.
    I can drive about 40 minutes to the north and look at well preserved rock carvings just a few inches of the main road, in a farmers field.
    Those rock carvings are art showing feet, like a trail, of maybe 3-5 prehistoric humans walked.
    Those were carved 2000 bce.
    We live in a old world and we're a people with amnesia.

    Great video!
    Greetings from Sweden.

  16. I've played this game its called Goldrush by Sierra came out in the late 80s. Oregon Trail was a brutal game as well on apple 2e. Played that in like 5th grade. So yeah both games were brutal.

  17. Always travel with fat friends when meandering through the woods in a precarious wagon train. There are many benefits, the best of which include: You don't have to outrun the bear, just outrun the fat folks, cannibalism and the fact that fat people generally run a higher body temp than fitter folks so you can just sleep in a circle of them to keep warm. Bring fat friends on your next gold mining or pioneering adventure, we're in America…there really is no shortage. X'D

  18. You can I guess die of cannibalism, sicknesses associated. But to die of being cannibalized seems better. Died of being eaten, settlers fed by cannibalism.

  19. The reason there's still a war in the middle east is because the bad actors of a certain religious organization outweigh the good ones in that area. They keep fueling up more than we can burn. The fire hasn't even gotten close to snuffed, they keep adding wood and stoking the flames.

  20. Your not technically trespassing, if nobody technically owns it. That's why it's considered to be a clash of cultures.
    Ya gotta keep it honest.

  21. your comments about cowboys is wrong, there is historical books written about cowboys and farmers in the 1900 and there are still plenty hoarse riding cattle chasing cowboys in Wyoming

  22. Personally I am grateful that I can go camping, hiking, or just step outside my house without having to worry about some jerk trying to kill me and cut my hair off, but that's just me.

  23. It was James reed, the original party leader, who made the decision to take the “short cut.” Other than that little mistake, excellent vid!

  24. Crying and not being able to look at each other is every holiday in my family. No cannibalism required just excessive dysfunctional behavior.

  25. I thought this was a game about going down a trail or something and getting cannibalised. I am thoroughly disappointed, but okay.

  26. God delivered millions of birds to the Israelites as they moved east from Egypt while they were going in circles through the desert for 40 years and these people ate each other?

  27. "Until now the Native American perspective has been left out of the telling of the Donner tragedy, not because the Wel Mel Ti did not remember the pioneers, but because they were never asked, or perhaps were not ready to share. Their oral tradition recalls the starving strangers who camped in an area that was unsuitable for that time of year. Taking pity on the pioneers, the northern Washoe attempted to feed them, leaving rabbit meat and wild potatoes near the camps. Another account states that they tried to bring the Donner Party a deer carcass, but were shot at as they approached. Later, some Wel Mel Ti observed the migrants eating human remains. Fearing for their lives, the area's native inhabitants continued to watch the strangers but avoided further contact. These stories, and the archaeological evidence that appears to support them, certainly complicated my interpretation of the Donner Party event. The migrants at Alder Creek were not surviving in the mountains alone—the northern Washoe were there, and they had tried to help."
    Who were the real savages?

  28. You have to admire these true pioneers who came before us! Also, “possession” and “land ownership” are distinctly European cultural practiced concepts natives had no senses of, and killed each other for no real good reasons as savages all the many years before they adopted European standards.

  29. Native Americans didn't have a word for ownership of land. They had territories that they control through Force. Lots of time they would war with each other, if they entered into their territory or needed women for population growth, etc. Our tribes was just a little different and better organized 😉.
    Technicallyit was the England that did wrong to the Indians because if you see how big are colonies was when we won our war with England and became America you would see that English was the one to be held responsible since they were our technical Masters at that time. And the English brought over a 90% of the slaves as well (side note).

  30. the four was a directional arrow pointing in the direction she was traveling. i personally think it is a brilliant piece of 170 year old graffiti. it shows some creativity and personality.

  31. Derp! Injuns didn’t have a country and own property. Please spare us the Facebook version of history.

  32. Maybe that easier area right next to it was filled with trees and thick bushes at the time. And since they did not have the manpower, resources or time to build and maintain thousand miles of easily traversed paths they decided to make a route with the least possible chance of random obstacles.
    I mean look at the limestone, it has been worn down. That kind of travel on flat ground and a few rainy days would make the 'easy' path nearly impossible to traverse for obvious reasons.

  33. I don't understand the comment about people continuing to dress like cowboys as if it's Halloween after the profession officially ended. What details about the outfits are uniquely relevant for herding cows?

  34. So tired of hearing white people stole native land…. Natives didnt believe in owning land.. Their loss quit bitching

  35. Also theres the old man that was travelling with the Donner party and at one point he went to a river to get a drink near the beginning of the journey, they just kinda left him there and he died because a few of the people thought he was too slow… some of the people in that wagon train were assholes lol, because theres plenty more where that came from

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