The Online Encyclopedia of Wyoming History

Thirteen ways to think about South Pass

Thirteen ways to think about South Pass

Quiz Yourself

Here are some questions to ask before you visit South Pass, while you’re there, and again after you return:

  1. How did South Pass get its name? What is a pass, anyway? What is “south” about this one?
  2. What is the Continental Divide? What does it have to do with South Pass?
  3. What Indian tribes were often here in the 1840s, 1850s and 1860s? Why is South Pass important to their history?
  4. Why is South Pass important to the history of the United States? (Hint: Read what Will Bagley has to say about it in his essay about South Pass.)
  5. Why is it important to the history of Great Britain? Mexico?
  6. Why is South Pass important to Wyoming?
  7. What was the Oregon Trail? The California Trail? The Mormon Trail?
  8. East of South Pass, they were all one road. West of South Pass, they began to be separate trails again. Why?
  9. If you could choose any of those three places to be traveling to—Oregon, California or Utah—which would you choose? Why?
  10. If you could choose any of three decades to be part of a wagon train coming across South Pass—the 1840s, the 1850s or the 1860s—which would you choose? Why?
  11. By the time they got here, how far had the pioneers come from, say, Missouri or Iowa?
  12. How much farther did they have to go?
  13. If you were one of those travelers, how do you think your shoes would be holding up by this point? Your clothes? Your oxen? Your wagon? Your food?

THERE ARE HUNDREDS of more good questions a person could ask about South Pass.

SEND US three interesting South Pass questions of your own. Be sure to identify your school and classroom teacher or note if you are home schooled when you send in questions. Contact editor@wyohistory.org for information on a 2014-2015 contest for submitting the most questions.

Note to teachers:

This lesson addresses a number of the Wyoming State Social Studies Standards detailed in the 2013 draft of Wyoming Social Studies Content and Performance Standards, benchmarked for the ends of grades 2, 5, 8 and 12. All are available at http://edu.wyoming.gov/sf-docs/publications/DRAFT_2013_Social_Studies_Standards.pdf?

More specifically, the lesson addresses Content Standard 4, Time, Continuity and Change, under which students analyze events, people, problems, and ideas within their historical contexts, and Content Standard 5, People, Places and Environments, under which students apply their knowledge of the geographic themes (location, place, movement, region, and human/environment interactions) and skills to demonstrate an understanding of interrelationships among people, places, and environment.

Under Content Standard 4, the lesson addresses standards SS5.4.4. SS8.4.4 and SS12.4.4, which call for students to discuss, identify or describe historical interactions between and among individuals, families, and cultural/ethnic groups, and standards SS5.4.5, SSD8.4.5 and 12.4.5, which call for students to understand the difference between primary and secondary sources, and how to use them in their research.

Under Content Standard 5, this lesson addresses the Human Place and Movement standards SS2.5.3, SS5.5.3 (which specifically mentions American Indians and the Oregon Trail), SS8.5.3 and SS12.5.3, and the Environment and Society standards SS2.5.4, SS5.5.4, SS8.5.4 and SS12.5.4, which call on students to understand how people in Wyoming adjust and have adjusted to their physical and geographical environment.