wagon train

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wagon train,

in U.S. history, a group of covered wagons used to convey people and supplies to the West before the coming of the railroad. The wagon replaced the pack, or horse, train in land commerce as soon as proper roads had been built. The first frontier region in which wagoning became highly developed was across the Allegheny barrier in the late 18th cent. There were few routes through the mountains, and in the days of the westward movement they were well-traveled by the migrants' wagons and by the wagon trains of professional wagoners carrying goods between the Ohio settlements and the cities on the coast. Used in this trade was the Conestoga wagonConestoga wagon
, heavy freight-carrying vehicle of distinctive type that originated in the Conestoga region of Pennsylvania c.1725. It was used by farmers to carry heavy loads long distances before there were railroads to convey produce to markets.
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, the most efficient freight carrier of the age. On the prairies of the Middle West and on the Great Plains, wagons could be used without the necessity of making roads, and there the covered wagon, or prairie schoonerprairie schooner,
wagon covered with white canvas, made famous by its almost universal use in the migration across the Western prairies and plains, and so called in allusion to the white-topped schooners of the sea. It was a descendant of the Conestoga wagon.
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, of the migrant predominated. It was in crossing the Great Plains that the typical wagon train was developed. The vast distances through unsettled country and the danger from Native Americans made it necessary to travel in large parties. Such a train was organized with an almost military discipline for defense. A contract, or constitutional paper, was drawn up, setting forth the objects of the migration, the terms of joining, the rules to be followed, and the officers to be elected. All joining signed this paper and then participated in the election of officers. Sometimes both a military captain and a president with civil powers were chosen. More often the offices were combined in one individual. Aides or lieutenants were elected, and a guide was usually hired for the more difficult parts of the route. The order of wagons both on the trail and in camp was strictly regulated. At night the wagons were drawn into a circular corral, and a strict guard was kept to prevent a surprise attack by hostile Native Americans. Freighters who supplied the early army posts and mining camps also usually traveled in parties for the same reason as the migrants. The wagon trains disappeared in the East in the 1840s and 50s, and the Western trails lost importance in the later 19th cent.


See H. P. Walker, The Wagonmasters (1966).

References in periodicals archive ?
Rick Bayne, 62, a descendant of the original migrants, has run his wagon train adventures for 13 years.
After a while, the initial novelties of both its idiosyncratic visual style and its minimalist narrative, which follows the meanderings of a small wagon train heading west to the Willamette Valley, wore thin.
Brauer teaches her students in a creative way, not just by reading about the pioneers in a book, but by imagining what life must have been like on a wagon train,'' said Danielle Fairlee, Matt's mom.
The suicide bomber is the likes of the yelping Indian attacking the peaceful wagon train.
Those on the pioneer wagon train had a clear choice between two dramatically different potential leaders.
Obviously, they had to choose between the wilderness, hunger, rattlesnakes, bears and scalp-hunting Indians on the warpath and attacking the wagon train .
Ohio has So much to Discover, from rural Amish family reunions and pioneer wagon trains and hot air balloons to fireworks and world-renowned music as we ring in our Bicentennial year celebrating 200 years of rich history.
Extension of rail loops to accommodate 360 wagon trains
Each fall, Noftsier leads wagon trains full of like-minded enthusiasts along roads and trails from his ranch at 60th Street East and Avenue G-8 to Avenue F-8 and then east to 120th Street East.
Joe in order to get enough money to make his way on one of the many wagon trains going west; Clem wants to try to find his father in California.
The first wagon trains made the difficult trek to Oregon in about 169 days (impatient travelers in 1849 shaved it to 129 days), but today you can track much of the route from major highways.
and the smell of beans and flap-jacks cooking over an open fire once again fill the air as wagon trains offer modern families a chance to relive that part of our heritage.