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Actual Photo of Wagons on the Oregon Trail

R.M.Wade & Co. was founded by Robert Marshall Wade, who was born in Missouri in 1835. He crossed the Oregon Trail in 1850 arriving in Oregon the fall of that year. He left home in 1855 and went to Yreka California. He was married to Anne Howard, who had been on the same wagon train. In 1862 he founded his first store in The Dalles.

Percentage of Labor Force in Farming in 1850 – 64%


The Oregon Trail

Robert M. Wade (age 15) and his family crossed the Oregon Trail in 1850 and settled on a donation claim in Clackamas County near Estacada. He lived in Estacada for three years before leaving home.

The Oregon Trail migration, more correctly known as the Oregon-California Trail migration, is one of the most important events in American History. The Oregon-California trail was a 2,170 mile route, from Missouri to Oregon and California, that enabled the migration of the early pioneers to the western United States. The first emigrants to make the trip were Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, who traveled the trail in 1836. However, the first mass migration did not occur until 1843 when a group of approximately 1000 pioneers made the journey.

This trail was the only feasible land route to the West Coast. From 1843 until 1869, when the first transcontinental railroad was completed, over 500,000 people made the trip in covered wagons, which were pulled by mules and oxen. Some went to Oregon to farm and others went to California to search for gold. The trip usually took four to six months, traveling fifteen miles a day by wagon. The only other route to the West Coast was by sea around the horn of South America, taking a full year.


"Crossing The Plains" by Robert M. Wade

Robert M. Wade wrote a poem in 1897 called "Crossing the Plains" that described his experiences on the Oregon Trail as a young man in 1850. The original copy of the poem is below with a "translation" for easier reading.

"Crossing the Plains"
June 1, 1897
By R.M. Wade

This meeting of Oregon Pioneers
Calls to fading memory now
After forty and seven fleeting years
Our plans to raise wherewith and how

For leaving the grand old Missouri State
And for crossing the mighty plains
By the way of South Pass and Barlows gate
With some big cow and oxen trains

How father’s old wooden mould boarded plows
And mothers live wheels and her loom
Were traded off for a yoke of black cows
For which in our team there was room

A little money too we obtained
For our improvements on some land
And every available resource strained
The needed outfits to command

Poor people, tis some, have very poor ways
Some where you have heard or read it
No doubt the author of it lived those days
And just feels it when he said it

But people have always found a sure way
By hard work and push and hustle
And the means were ours on one happy day
To begin the westward tussle

Two yokes of five cows and four yokes of steers
And two wagons stoutly covered
Two big buckskin whips to awaken fears
Should laziness be discovered

Provisions, medicines of staple kinds
Guns pistols and ammunition
Most essential things the Pioneer finds
For an injun peace commission

Yes happy were we on that starting day
And our train a “thing of beauty”
Where we popped our whips and rolled away
With a mission and a duty

If you should believe the poor patient steers
Are dull and ignorant cattle
Observe the emotion that in them stirs
When they hear the ox yoke rattle

And when the dread yoke the neck has pressed
And the bows are through and keyed
Great sighs will convulse the ponderous chest
And deep sorrow is theirs indeed

But when the blistering buckskin cracker
Loudly proclaims its dreaded name
As when wielded by the expert “whacker”
Then they get there just the same

After we had crossed the great river leave
We headed westward and with the sun
With no count, no judge not taxes no law
Having no need for either one

Cholera was raging along the Plattes
Claiming its victims day by day
To bury in hasty graves on the flats
Grief shoots along the great “Hero Way”

Animals perished as well as men
Horses oxen and cows and mules
And wagons were often abandoned them
Along with harness yokes and tools

Relics of men the long road beside
Some portions into carts were made
Because the teams having got alkalied
Had died the sorry owners said

Necessity then drove us to invent
And some were forced to “foot it”
And to sleep in blankets without a tent
Or a beast on which to put it

Some begged to work their passage across
A charity called labors
Their worldly all being a total loss
And all pioneers were neighbors

Midst the howling of wolves night –serenaders
Had thunder storms and hurricanes
Had the red mans presence savage raiders
Seeking scalps and stampeding trains

We steadily measured step by step
The great Missouri valleys length
And across the grand Rocky Mountains crept
With bracing hope but waning strength

Then o’er Green Rivers desolate waste
We ( ?) fork and across to Snake
Awful slowly making haste no haste
Or hustle like jaded cattle make

We passed the cyclones breeding ground
And our mightiest rivers heads
Among the snow peaks stationed around
Upon the “Rockies” water sheds

We found many clean springs both hot and cold
Close beside each other flowing
And passed rich fields of silver and gold
Their whereabouts never knowing

We saw the Injuns Blackfeet Crows and Sioux
Who made their grave yards up in trees
Also wandering Flatheads (?) very few
And the snakes and the Shoshones

The latter were a degenerate lot
Clad in sun tanned injun hides
Many other garments they all had not
Than nature to all men provides

Some aristocrats wore a twisted string
Jauntily tied around the waist
With a napkin under with downward swing
Then up behind, attractive, chaste

Across this napkin each was a straddle
One end in front and the other behind
When on horseback it was a saddle
Of which they had no other kind

We passed them by without any muss
To boast of and be repented (?)
And our own fears of them and theirs of us
Some great fights no doubt prevented

On down along Snake River we crawled
Through hot sand and desolation
Doubling up our teams when one got stalled
On great mountain elevations

The sand and the dust and the alkalies
And the hot winds blistering heat
Mixed a burning moultan in our eyes
And went in with the food we ate

But when clean off of our good wagon sheet
The howling winds would lift the dust
Our stenciled boast our gaze would meet
“Bound for Oregon now or bust”

Then bye bye Snake River Burnt River too
Then Powder River and Grand Ronde
Thence on across the Blue Mountains blue
And the great Columbia was found

Yet onward and over the grand Cascades
T’was our last great spurt and rally
By way of the wonderful Barlow grades
Into the Willamette Valley

You may boast to me of the banquet hall
And monarchs mad dissipations
Roast Canvass Back oysters Champagne and all
For the grandest of the nations

But give unto me for the stomach’s grief
See its wailing complaints to hush
That same kind of boiled potatoes and beef
At the Foster ranch in the brush

We rested and we feasted there one day
While sweet Oregon showers fell
And washed our alkali dust away
And absorbed our sage brush smell

Then all bright and new we all felt next day
With Oregon spread all around
Uncle Sam just giving the land away
And we just accepted the ground

Uncle Sam had hung out our “Old Glory”
With our eagle screaming on high
But now here ends my plains crossing story
And with my blessing now good bye!



Yreka, California Store

When he was 18 years old, R.M. Wade left Estacada and moved to Yreka, California, where he established a tent store to sell supplies to the gold miners. One story of Mr. Wade's time in Yreka is that he would sell eggs to the miners for $1.00 each ($27.00 each in 2010 dollars) a very high price indeed, but the miners were wealthy from their lucrative claims in the Yreka area.



R.M. Wade Marries Ann Howard Williams

September 19, 1858

On September 19, 1858 Robert M. Wade married Ann Howard Williams, who had come west in 1850 on the same wagon train as R.M. Wade. Her family had settled in Yamhill county. She moved to Yreka after the wedding and the story is that on the day she arrived, the townspeople were dragging the body of a horse thief up the main street of the town. This did not impress the new Mrs. Wade.



Oregon Becomes a State

February 14, 1859

Oregon becomes the 33rd state to be admitted to the union.



Store Opened in The Dalles

R. M. Wade opened a store in The Dalles that was similar to the tent store he had established previously in Yreka, California.


Letters from R.M. Wade to his wife Ann

Letter from R.M Wade to his wife, May 12, 1862
Letter from R.M Wade to his wife, March 20, 1862

The Dalles   May 12, 1862

Dearest Ann,

I received yours of the 2nd instead of yesterday and was glad to hear that you were all well.

This leaves me quite well and getting along finally. I expect to start to Portland day after tomorrow for more goods. I have been enlarging my tent and will soon have a very respectable store.

You need not be uneasy about me and the tent arrangement on Grand Ronde either, its all a humbug about the massacre in Grand Ronde. It was gotten up by the Walla Walla and Lewiston folks to turn the Powder River prospectors back and bring them through those places and on to Salmon. They are afraid of the Grand Ronde route and of course are doing all they can to prevent prospectors from going there for fear they will find a route from Grand Ronde to Salmon and make it a rival road to the great injury of Walla Walla and Lewiston. A good many are returning from Powder River and pronouncing it a humbug. The fact is they have rushed up there into the snow and not being able to prospect the bars on account of high water nor the hills and ravines for snow and cold weather they have got out of grub and some of them are turning back but they all acknowledge that they could not prospect much of course one half of them will return without working much be the mines ever so rich.

If the Powder River mines turn out bad I don’t wish to go to Grand Ronde but I want to get a hold up here somewhere and I intend to stick to the tent and do the best I can until I see an opening and then I will take a good holt and hang on.

I hope you will keep up spirits and have confidence in my plans. I don’t know what better I can do than what I am doing until I get acquainted with the Portland merchants and see an opening to get a house to sell goods in or a partner.

I have had the horses out on the range until yesterday I let a Yreka man have them on the shares he got a load to Deschutes this morning of miners baggage and I think will be able to make them bring in something for us both.

Oscar Wirthersill and George are here they have a money bank in company with two Yreka Spaniards. I got them both a little down on me because I would not keep George at big wages and let Oscar lay around and eat apples and cheese and to drink cider. They don’t bother me much now as a change has taken place yet in anything here no news from yours __?__ or George. Hoping to hear from you every week I remain as ever your affectionate Husband.

R.M. Wade

May 15, 1862

P.S. I did not send this as will see as soon as I expected. I was waiting until I started to Portland. I am going tomorrow morning. I will take what money I have down with me and leave the tent and goods and 3 horses and a wagon here but I don’t suppose anything will happen to me any way.

The river here is getting pretty high some of our big merchants have been driven out of their stores by the water and are now stuck up on the bluff in tents no better off than me. I want to get as many goods up when possible before the big rise comes as I think the Dalles will all be washed away and the chance to make something will be pretty good.

Glorious news from the East – New Orleans taken and Yorktown abandoned by the rebels and followed by the Federals besides other important and successful advances into the southern states.

Write often and don’t let Walter forget me kiss the baby for me Poor little fellows I would give all I have made here if I could only have you and them here

Yours, Robert


The Dalles   Mar 20th 1862

Dear Ann

We arrived at this place day before yesterday. Your pa & George have gone out home with the boy I will go out there tomorrow. I stopped in town last night expecting to sell my horse but I have not been able to do so yet – Great numbers of men are crowding up here every day and & the town is quite lively. I have been trying to get a partner today but have been unsuccessful. I believe it will be impossible to get into business in this place as the houses are all occupied and everyone who has goods here thinks he has the best thing on selling them for a good price. I shall wait a few days until the river is open up to Walla Walla & until the roads are in condition to team and then if I can’t sell my horse and wagon I will start a team on the portage from Dalles to Deschutes until the Indian troubles are settled. I think it safe to go to Grand Ronde. But it is impossible to tell what one will do here as all is excitement & confusion & a person liable to be led a different direction by some new discovery. Jeff & George will not start until the snow goes off a little more which is very plenty here and about a foot deep on eight-miles out (so they say) but the south sides of the hills are bare in some places. I think it is a month too soon to go to the mines & probably to go at anything else beyond this place. David & Peter have three hundred & forty head of cattle left. They have lost in about the same proportion that others have so I have been told. I will write again when I get out there. Kiss the children for me & believe me as ever your

Robert own

P.S. Tell Cochran I will see about his sheep when I go out in the country. The people are all crazy up here. They ask $200 for yoke for cattle & $200 each for little broke down mules and sixty to 125 for cayuses that can hardly stand alone but it is nothing more than I expected. Good horses are not much in demand but they will be high as soon as the roads are in condition for teaming.

R.M. W.

Write to Dalles
Wasco Co. Oregon


Auburn Store

R.M. Wade opened a store in Auburn, Oregon located in Baker County. The store was sold it in 1865 when he moved to Salem.