Estimates vary widely on how many emigrants gathered in Jackson County, Missouri, in the spring of 1843 to organize a wagon train to Oregon. There were at least 500, and one pioneer said the party “numbered over one thousand souls, with one hundred and twenty wagons drawn by ox teams and over three thousand head of loose cattle and horses."
Among them were the three Applegate brothers, Jesse, Lindsay and Charles, who later blazed the Applegate Trail to Southern Oregon and from there north to the Willamette Valley.
After crossing the Kansas River, the 1843 emigrants elected their officers by having the nominees move into the prairie and turn their backs on the company. Supporters then lined up behind their favorite candidate, creating three long lines of men stretching into the prairie.
A stereotypical image of stern-faced pioneers doesn’t fit what happened next.
“The leaders, in jest, then proceeded to run across the prairie with their lines of supporters following like a long tail,” writes Stephanie Flora in her history titled Emigrants to Oregon in 1843. She said a hunter passing by later wrote, “Running for office is certainly performed in more literal fashion on the