Discover aspects of Oregon Trail you've never seen before
A new video series takes viewers along pieces of the Oregon Trail they probably haven't seen before.
Through 5- to 8-minute weekly "Discover Your Trail" free videos featuring stories told by American history experts, viewers can discover people and places important to the 19th century migration route that spanned over 2,000 miles of rugged terrain to Oregon City.
More than 20 new videos have already been produced and are being released each Friday. In "Forlorn Hope," learn about the 17 members of the 1846 Donner-Reed Party who left their snowy encampment in the high Sierras in an attempt to hike to safety and secure a rescue party to come to the aid of the trapped emigrants.
As another example, a recent episode featured Wyoming historian Kylie L. McCormick telling the story of Hog Ranch #1, which was located near the historic site of Fort Fetterman.
Hog Ranches were known for providing frontier soldiers with an off-post opportunities for whiskey, gambling and companionship. In the video, McCormick describes the site of the Hog Ranch to share stories from the brothel and the fatal demise of its proprietors.
For over 40 years, the Oregon California Trails Association has worked for the preservation of landmarks and artifacts along the overland western historic trails and to increase their accessibility. Born out of a concern for the necessity of preserving this part of American history, OCTA has seen thousands of volunteers to donate their time to the historic trails.
In releasing the videos, OCTA recognizes that reaching new audiences entails adopting and mastering new methods. The organization has long had a presence on social media with Facebook page, Instagram account and a YouTube channel, but putting a priority on outreach beyond existing members has not been the prime focus of the group.
Recently under the leadership of OCTA President John Briggs and Association Manager Travis Boley, OCTA has developed a marketing and communication strategy for historic trail awareness. Briggs issued a call to action to organization membership, and OCTA volunteers have taken up the task to promote the organization's mission.
OCTA leaders said the most important element in the new plan is a focus on providing social media consumers with entertaining, educational YouTube videos. YouTube has about 2.5 billion active users worldwide and 203 million active users in the U.S.
Briggs notes that while OCTA has produced over 40 videos prior to the current effort, many of them have been focused internally to provide education to members versus appealing to viewers who may not be aware of OCTA and its legacy in protecting historic trails.
OCTA's mission for the past 40 years has been to "protect the historic emigrant trails legacy by promoting research, education, preservation activities and public awareness of the trails, and to work with others to promote these causes," according to its website.
OCTA expects 100 videos to be filmed and produced during the next 12 months.
Oregon City's End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center has also produced virtual content that people can experience online. Bethany Nemec, End of the Oregon Trail interpreter, presents of Oregon Trail history talks, along with historian Dr. Stephen Beckham.
Unlike with OCTA, the interpretive center's full videos require a fee, but there are free previews available. Full videos can be accessed on the interpretive center's website, historicoregoncity.org, with a $10 viewing contribution.
The Oregon Trail like you've never seen it before
Watch free videos: youtube.com/@octatrails
Learn more: octa-trails.org
Interpretive center trailers: youtube.com/channel/UCXyZx7kd7h6ohLfeWjZvufw
Videos produced in OC:
1. "Barlow Road on the Historic Oregon Trail" recounts how the Oregon Trail was a long and arduous journey, but the last stretch was the most difficult by far. Samuel Barlow, Joel Palmer and William Rector set to explore a new and safer route across the Cascade Mountains. They created the Barlow Trail toll road. Dr. Stephen Beckham, a historian of the American West, recounts the journey and explains how the road came about, how it was used and what happened afterward.
2. "That Long Looked-For Place: The Oregon Trail Journey" is geared for all ages and is based on the school group presentation with new additional details, facts and stories that seek to be funny and engaging.
3. "Women of the West: Pioneer Women on the Oregon Trail" delves into the unique pioneer experience of women along the Oregon Trail, using quotes from real pioneer diaries to highlight the attitudes, responsibilities, hardships and ingenuity of pioneer women.
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