You probably would have to leave it all behind
Even though they were moving west to start a new life, people setting off on the Oregon Trail were advised to pack as lightly as possible. This meant no furniture or other big possessions and only a few essentials. According to most historians of the era, the typical pioneer would keep the total weight of the goods they packed onto their wagons below the 2,000 pound-mark. Of this, around 90% would be food, leaving only a bit of space for clothes, tools and perhaps a personal memento or two. Packing more than this would place excess strain on the oxen pulling the carts and not just threaten to slow down your progress, but potentially ruin your journey altogether. Wealthier pioneers would send large items, including furniture, by ship to the West Coast. Those without the necessary funds, however, were forced to leave it all behind.
As is human nature, however, many people simply packed too much. Understandably, people found it hard to leave behind either valuable possessions or items with sentimental value. Most would soon learn the error of their ways. As the journey progressed and both the people and the oxen or horses started to tire, possessions would start to be shed. In fact, this was so common that there was even a term for abandoned possessions on the Trail. They were known as âleeverites’, taken from the fact that the travelers had to “leave âer right here”. In some instances, whole piles of leeverites sprang up along the length of the trail.
These discarded possessions rarely went to waste, however. Towards the later years of the Oregon Trail, entrepreneurs cashed in on the fact emigrants couldn’t take it all with them. The Mormon communities of Utah in particular became adept at salvaging what was left behind. The goodies were then taken to Salt Lake City and sold on for a profit. As you might expect, such profiteering was frowned upon by the pioneers and there was bad blood between the Oregon settlers and the Mormons for years after.