On the Oregon Trail

Part of the “fun” that I have with genealogy is learning more about our family’s and our country’s history.  The more I delve into our family, the more I want to learn about what they endured and/or thrived through.  Recently, I found a note that one set of my 4th great grandparents (on my mother’s side) headed west on the Oregon Trail! So, I thought I’d share what I found.

First the family…  Much of what I found was first reported by Gordon S. on the Find A Grave website for this family. I then went on to find additional and/or source information from the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management.

John Christian Emrich was born and baptised in the Spring of 1797 in Carroll County, Maryland to John and Elisabeth (Lorisch) Emrick (also spelled Emerick) who, it is believed, were of German descent. He later was known simply as Christian Emrick. Within a few years of the turn of the century, about 1804, the family moved to Columbiana County, Ohio. After John’s death in 1821, Elisabeth moved to Germantown, Pennsylvania where she died about 1845.

Christian married his wife whose name was either Catherine Weems or, as her daughter claimed, Mariah Catherine Venning in September 1818 in Ohio. Little is known of her ancestry at this time. They later moved to Illinois and a few years after that to Missouri.  I can’t help but wonder if they just wanted to get away from civilization!  The further west the country expanded, the farther west they moved.  You can view their travels on this map.


For whatever reason, they decided to travel the not quite 2200 miles from Missouri to the Oregon area. Remember, it did not even become an official territory of the United States until August 1848 and wouldn’t become a state until 1859.  This trip was expected to take between 4 and 6 months!

It seems that a major worry of the emigrants was attacks by the indians; but this was actually a rare occurance and, it is believed,  that the attacks that did occur were usually just white bandits. The American Indians were actually helpful to those that were in need.

The other major worry was cholera.  It is estimated that, of the 300,000-500,000 people that went to Oregon, 6-10% died due to disease. That is what happened to my 4th great grandmother.

However, she didn’t die of cholera; it is suspected that she died of Mountain Fever which is a catch all term for a variety of potential diseases. The NPS source states, “The diseases that fit these symptoms are: Rocky Mountain spotted fever, typhus, typhoid fever and scarlet fever.” She died a little over half way along the trail near Bear River in Wyoming (somewhere near the southwest corner of present day Wyoming) in 1848. She would have been about 47 years old.


Christian kept on after this tragedy. Ultimately he made it to Washington County, Oregon. Later, he obtained land near his son, Solomon, near Oregon City, Oregon. He died in 1851 just three years after making the trip to Oregon.  US, Indexed Early Land Ownership and Township Plats, 1785-1898 - Christian EMRICK

His daughter, my 3rd great grandmother, Sarah did not go to Oregon. By the time her parents and brother headed up the Oregon Trail she was on her second of three marriages. And, as it turned out, the 2nd marriage is the one that ultimately led to me!