How Did the Pioneers Travel?
Most pioneers traveled in a conestoga wagon or a spring wagon. Many of the pioneers chose oxen instead of mules or horses because the oxen were a lot stronger. They would buy up to 4 oxen per wagon. The father would drive the oxen by walking beside the wagon. The children would walk behind of the wagon much of the time.
What Were Their Wagons Like?
The Pioneers traveled in a wagon called a covered wagon. The wagon was usually a wooden wagon made of hickory, oak, or maple. A wooden piece made from hickory stuck out from the front of the wagon. This piece called a tongue was connected to the yoke of the oxen, mules, or horses.
The wagon could not carry more than 2,000 pounds. It had big wooden hoops, called bows that were bent from side to side. There would be 4 to 7 wooden hoops on one wagon. There was a canvas pulled across the hoops that would keep out the rain, wind, and the hot sunshine. Pioneers would rub oil on the canvas to make it waterproof. Inside the wagon there were many hooks that hung from the wooden hoops. They could hang weapons, clothes, milk cans, and anything there was room for. The front wheels of the wagon were smaller than the back wheels. This helped the wagon turn. Underneath the back wheels there was a bucket full of grease hanging from the axle. This was used to make the wheels run smoothly. The conestoga wagons were called prairie schooners because from a distance the conestoga wagon looked like a ship sailing slowly across the green prairie. Traveling in a wagon was not an easy trip. There were many things that could go wrong. For example some wagon wheels would break or there would be no water. If they ran out of food they would need to hunt. When they were on the trail it was very noisy because all the pots and pans hanging off the wagons were clanging against each other.
Click here to learn more about the conestoga wagon.
What Was a Wagon Train?
A wagon train was a group of covered wagons that went west. The wagons would travel in a straight single line. The wagon train looked like a slow-moving train. If the trail was wide enough they would spread out to get away from the dust. At night the wagon master would have the wagons form a big circle for protection from hostile Indians, marauders and other dangers. Sometimes the children would play inside the wagon circle after dinner and just before bed time.
The captain, also known as the wagon master led the caravan down the trail and made any decisions that affected the whole caravan. He made decisions like when and where they were going to camp for the night. If there was a river nearby, the captain would decide when and how they would cross the river. Captains were also in charge of waking up the members of the wagon train, deciding when they would stop for lunch, and making sure everything ran smoothly on the trail.
The scouts or trail guides usually had
been fur traders or trappers. They knew the routes for the destination of the wagon
trains. The scouts knew where to cross rivers, how to get through dangerous mountain
passes, and how far the caravan should travel each day. They also helped the captain
take care of the members of the wagon train. A famous scout was Jim Bridger. Click on his name to learn more about his life.
|Who were the Pioneers?|
|Why did they travel to the frontier?|
|Where did the pioneers travel to?|
|What are some of the trails they used?|
|What did they take with them?|
|How did they travel?|
|What were their wagons like?|
|What was a Wagon Train?|
|Who led the Wagon Train?|
|What were their lives like on the trail?|
|What did they do after reaching their new homes?|
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