“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Vale in Malheur County, Oregon — The American West (Northwest)

Cutoff Fever

Oregon History

Cutoff Fever Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, June 28, 2017
1. Cutoff Fever Marker
Map Legend
Meek's Trail (green dots)
Elliott's Trail (blue dots) Macy's Trail (orange dots) Oregon Trail (small gray dots)
Inscription. Eager to save time on the Oregon Trail, emigrants often attempted shortcuts. Between 1845 and 1854, three wagon trains left this campsite seeking a cutoff to the Willamette Valley.

The Meek Cutoff of 1845

Frontiersman Stephen Meek persuaded over 1,000 people with 200 wagons to avoid the notorious Blue Mountains, Cayuse Indians, and Columbia River by turning west up the Malheur River into Central Oregon. Unable to find water west of Wagontire Mountain, the train turned north and rejoined the Oregon Trail at The Dalles. Hunger and illness led to 23 deaths on the trek.

The Elliott Cutoff of 1853

Elijah Elliott convinced over 1,000 people with 215 wagons to attempt a shortcut over the partially completed Free Emigrant Road which had been explored in 1852. Elliott's party followed Meek's route as far as the Harney Valley before striking a different course around Malheur and Harney Lakes. Continuing westward, they became disoriented and desperate. Scouts eventually found the Free Emigrant Road in the Cascade Mountains and reached the Willamette Valley settlements. The settlers soon organized a rescue party to help the stranded emigrants.

The Macy Cutoff of 1854

In 1852, the road districts of Benton,
Cutoff Fever Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, June 28, 2017
2. Cutoff Fever Marker
Lane, and Linn Counties had jointly hired William Macy to find a route between Skinner's (now Eugene) and the distant Malheur River. Macy crossed the Cascade Mountains and followed the Deschutes River north until he turned east on the Meek Cutoff. A skirmish with Snake Indians in the Harney Valley forced the party to abandon the search. The venture led to the eventual construction of the Free Emigrant Road. In 1854, Macy led 121 wagons over much the same route as Elliott's without recorded difficulty.
Erected by Oregon Travel Information Council, Malheur County Historical Society.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Oregon Beaver Boards, and the Oregon Trail marker series.
Location. 43° 58.962′ N, 117° 13.968′ W. Marker is in Vale, Oregon, in Malheur County. Marker is at the intersection of A Street East (U.S. 26) and Washington Street East (U.S. 26), on the left when traveling east on A Street East. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 489 A Street East, Vale OR 97918, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 6 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Vale Oregon Trail Kiosk (approx. 0.2 miles away); John D. Henderson (approx. 0.8 miles away); Stephen Meek's Cutoff (approx. 0.8 miles away); Vale (approx. 0.8 miles away); Under the Wagon Cover (approx. 5.8 miles away); First People of the Land (approx. 5.8 miles away); Imagine a Day's Journey (approx. 5.8 miles away); In Search of a Dream (approx. 5.8 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Vale.
Categories. Roads & VehiclesSettlements & Settlers
Credits. This page was last revised on February 11, 2018. This page originally submitted on August 15, 2017, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. This page has been viewed 137 times since then. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on August 15, 2017, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California.
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