Unearthed Oregon Trail Journal Details Contentious Trail Mix Shortage, Cannibalism

BAKER CITY, OR–Researchers at the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center recently uncovered never before seen journal entries from the little-known Beaver-Berger Party. The expedition, led by Capt. Ted Beaver and “Pistol” Pete Berger departed from Peoria, Illinois, in May 1840. The Beaver-Berger Party’s whereabouts thereafter have remained a mystery all these years. That is, until the written accounts, told entirely from Pistol Berger’s point of view, were discovered at the former site of a Circuit City electronics store last month.

Based on the records, the journey started off smoothly enough. Capt. Beaver established a clear hierarchy, featuring Pistol as his second in command. Together, the two laid out ground rules for the 22-person expedition. Notably among these directives, Berger explicitly made mention of the “one handful of trail mix per day” rationing rule. A woman named Candace had generously compiled a trail mix featuring nuts, raisins, chocolate bits, and various seeds. Everyone was quite fond of Candace’s snack mix, and there was a legitimate concern they would consume it too fast without some structure. It seemed a fair enough agreement, and the party traveled amicably over the next several weeks.

By the time they hit Nebraska, a discontentment had been brewing below the surface for some time. Pistol Berger had picked up on an injustice within the trail mix rationing plan. The system favored those with bigger hands, because bigger hands equaled bigger handfuls. How could a handful be used as an unbiased measurement? It’s an entirely subjective metric. And Berger wasn’t the only party member to pick up on this discrepancy. Together with eight others, they had quietly formed the Berger Militia, a Beaver-Berger Party faction hellbent on establishing equal trail mix access for all.

On behalf of the Berger Militia, Pistol approached Capt. Beaver with his concerns. He opened with a personal observation, stating that “somebody is cherry-picking all the chocolate bits” out of the trail mix. The captain offered to “keep an eye out” but offered no guarantee that a resolution was achievable. Satisfied enough, Pistol followed that up by raising his concerns regarding the rationing problem but was met with swift rejection. “After all, Capt. Beaver has the most gargantuan hands of us all. Why should he seek to upend our trail mix dispersion system?” Pistol resentfully wrote.

With that, the Berger Militia began their silent protest. They would each take two handfuls of trail mix daily to expose the rule’s flaw. Others took notice, and within a week, taking double rations had become an unspoken agreement between everyone, Capt. Beaver included. Although they were on the same page, everyone was crotchety about it and passive aggressiveness flourished. Another month passed, and the Beaver-Berger Party had abruptly run out of trail mix. The protest extended to the rest of their food supply as well, so they were entirely out of food by August. Following a blow-up argument between Pistol and Beaver, it became clear that the Captain had no resolution.

Fears of starvation echoed throughout the party. Sensing an opportunity to take command, Pistol boldly slit Capt. Beaver’s throat and the Berger Militia began preparing him for supper. After overcooking the captain’s remains, and deciding the taste ultimately “wasn’t for us,” a party member named Jeremiah returned from a hunting excursion to announce his capture of a buffalo. Nobody had seen Jeremiah leave earlier.

The party continued to Oregon under Pistol Berger’s guidance. His great-grandson would later play baseball at Oregon State University.