Narrative History of Overlanders’ First Year in Oregon, 1840-1869

For the National Park Service (NPS), HRA wrote First Year in Oregon, 1840–1869: A Narrative History. HRA historians prepared a 200-page narrative report on the reactions and activities of overlanders on the Oregon Trail upon their arrival, first winter, and first year in the Oregon Country, including how and where they dispersed to settle after reaching the Willamette Valley. The final report was richly illustrated with historic maps and images. HRA historians also drafted a three-page, plain-English summary of findings for the NPS to post on its website as an introduction to the full report.

HRA historians conducted primary and secondary research in numerous repositories for this report, tapping into a wealth of digitized journals, letters, and historic newspapers from this era.

This project helped to fill in gaps in NPS interpretive storytelling regarding what happened after travelers reached Oregon, since many of the journals and sources traditionally associated with the Oregon Trail stop at the journey’s end without mention of that first winter in Oregon. Through original historical research, HRA helped to piece together what life was like for settlers during the months after they arrived in the Willamette Valley or other points across Oregon. Primary sources showed that as life became easier for white settlers, those same people made it more and more difficult for individuals of color to live in Oregon.

For a summary of the report, and to request the full report, visit