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Pioneer Journal
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Pioneer Journal

Pioneer Journal


            In this activity you will role play one of the many types of people who were part of the westward expansion movement in the United States, from the years 1820-1860. From 1840-1860, over 50,000 people moved into Oregon. The tracks of the many wagon trails can still be seen to this day! It is your job to try and capture in writing the trials and tribulations of the courageous people who exhibited the spirit of exploration and the American concept of Manifest Destiny.  You must pick a role to play, either of a real, well known explorer, or you will become one of many common people, and explain the kind of things these common folks went through in their travels out west. You may use your text book, internet or library resources to live the life of an American explorer. You should look for real journals or autobiographies of real people, which will make your job very easy to do. Some of your journal may be speculation, in which you infer how people would react to their situation, but most of you accounts should be based on fact. To get an idea of this journal writing, check out the Critical Thinking Skills piece of you textbook, on page 355.





1.      Pick a role, either a real person from history or a common man who doesnt really exist but represents people of the era and are part of the westward movement in some way.

2.      Write a journal for this person (either as an autobiography or as a roaming reporter who shadows the person) for the period of one week.  Give this person a name. Describe the clothing and living conditions of this person. Each day in the life of this person should include specific details about something the person did. IT would be expected that each day is encapsulated in approximately 250 words.

3.      Prepare a brief oral presentation (2 minutes) summarizing the ordeals of you character. You do not need to include any posters or pictures, but expect one or two questions from the crowd.

4.      You must include at least three sources as reference for you traveling story.

5.      You will be asked to generate three questions, which will be part of a quiz that we will have on this unit.

6.      All students who listen to the presentation must be ready to take notes, which they may use on their quiz.

7.      I would like each role to be filled before any role is repeated. See your teacher for first come first served.

8.      Roles are listed on the back of this sheet.






1.      What is your name?

2.      Describe yourself, clothes, gender, age, education, race, background, and personality.

3.      What sights did you see on the way?  

4.      What adventures did they face?

5.      What hazards did you have to overcome?

6.      What type of people did you encounter?

7.      What things did you encounter that were fun and exciting?

8.      What things scared you?

9.      How did your supplies of food and water hold out? What did you do if you ran out?

10.  Did you accomplish the goals that you set out for?


ROLES TO CHOOSE FROM : (If you have another role idea, please discuss it with your teacher)

1.       James Beckwourth, a daring mountain man, who actually wrote of book of exploits.

2.       A week in the life of female mountain woman, Marie Dorion.

3.       A week in the life of William Ashley, fur trapping entrepreneur.

4.       Marcus or Narcissa Whitman, who were missionaries trying to convert native Americans of Oregon County to Christianity.

5.       Dr. Joseph Barnard, a Chicago doctor who moved to Texas to help out in the Texas rebellion.

6.       Davy Crockett, famed Tennessee senator who fought for Texas at the Alamo.

7.       The adventures of Wiliam Becknell, American merchant, adventurer and entrepreneur.

8.       A week in the life of Ms. Roseline Willard Peck, settler in Wisconsin.

9.       You are James Marshall, and you have found gold in Sutters Mill in California.

10.    A week in the life of a make believe mountain man, who was connected to William Ashley.

11.    A week in the life of Mormon leader Joseph Smith.

12.     A week in the life of a Buffalo Hunter, William F. Buffalo Bill Cody, a railroad worker and hunter.

13.    A week in the life of the famous western outlaw, Kid Curry.

14.    A week in the life of ALVIN A. COFFEY, a black man along for the ride in the California gold rush

15.    A week in the life of Theodore Judah, the man who developed the Pacific Railroad.

16.    A make believe mountain man, give him any name you choose, spend a week in the mountains.

17.    A make believe mountain man, returning to town with a large collection of pelts.

18.    A father of a family of four, traveling from St. Louis to Oregons Willamette Valley.

19.    A 13 year old girl, a member of a family traveling from St. Louis to Oregons Willamette Valley .

20.    A poorly trained country doctor, making the trip with settlers on their way to Oregon.

21.    A poor black man who stayed in Texas to protect American rights at the Alamo.

22.     A housewife-pioneer on a farm in Ohio, explains things she does and uses to keep the farm working smoothly.

23.     A week in the life of a man panning for gold in California in 1848.

24.     The journal of fourteen-year old Solomon Hook (Jacob Donner's step-son), a member of the Donnor Party.

25.     A struggling Mormon farmer trying to get the area around the Great Salt Lake to Blossom As a Rose.

26.     A week in the life of a man who is a rider on the short lived, Pony Express

27.     A week in the life of a cowboy, riding heard in the 1850s.

28.      A week in the life of a cook on a cattle drive, cooks were very important and served many tasks,

29.    A week in the life of a Buffalo Soldier a man dedicated to the safety of cattle drives and settler movements.

30.    A week in the life of a woman, who goes to California to  See the Elephant herself.