Daddy's Christmas Angel

Sunday, January 8, 2012

How Brave Were Those Who Crossed by Wagon Train?

"Stormy Midwest" MM Sikes
As I researched wagon trains for my novel, A Rainbow for Christmas, I started to wonder how these brave people managed to cross the plains and rugged mountains to reach destinations in the far west. Getting over the mountains to California must have been an unbelievable journey. Looking down from the window of an airplane always convinces me how brave these people must have been. Or perhaps, they had no idea what they actually were facing as they crossed the amazingly beautiful yet sometimes terribly rough terrain.

As in my story, many of the wagons were filled with supplies in Independence, Missouri. I learned it cost about $1,000 (a lot of money then) for a man to cross with his family from the Mid-West to Oregon or California. The journey took about six months, traveling at two miles an hour with wagons that were most often pulled by oxen.

The canvas tops of the wagons had to be waterproofed with linseed oil. The wagons also were reinforced with iron at strategic points. However, they couldn't use too much iron or the wagons would be way too heavy for the oxen to pull. Those traveling sometimes brought along furniture and other items from their previous homes, but these were often discarded along the way. The travelers had to carry many pounds of flour, lard, beans, bacon, salt, and more and thus had little room for extras. They also needed cooking utensils and a shovel.

Although mules and horses were also used by the pioneers, I chose oxen for Meg to use to drive her wagon. These animals were the most popular because Native Americans were less likely to try to steal them. They were also less likely to stray away from the night encampment.

The new settlers continued on despite storms, attacks by Native Americans, sometimes savagery and trickery by their own people. They crossed raging rivers and much more. I admire their bravery and endurance. Those are the kinds of people who make America strong.

Thanks again to Diana Cosby for being a guest on my blog. Congratulations to Ashley, the winner of a copy of His Destiny.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've heard the percentage of how many never made it across the Rockies and it's a frightening number.

Monti said...

You're right, Alex. A large number never made it. I wonder if a lot of them would not have started out had they known their chances for not getting there!

Marian Allen said...

When I was in school, we were taught, "The cowards never started and the weak died on the way." I never would have started!

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monti said...

I love that, Marian! I'm afraid I like comfort too much to have started!!!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Monti - it's amazing how far people travelled and where they started from .. Norway for example!

Having seen the routes in South Africa .. and the challenges of travelling north - but populating a huge country like north America - I'd have been worried there was never an end ..

Life was tough then .. and so yet another hurdle was no hurdle as such .. for those brave enough to try as you mention ..

Interesting to do the research .. cheers Hilary