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.

Bibliography

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

References in periodicals archive ?
Oxen were the overwhelming choice for freight wagon trains for a number of reasons.
Rick Bayne, 62, a descendant of the original migrants, has run his wagon train adventures for 13 years.
Covering the same territory, both literally and metaphorically, The Way West documents a journey taken by a wagon train traveling from Missouri across the plains and over the old Oregon trail to end at the Columbia River, the gateway to the promised land of the fertile Willamette Valley.
I confided in them that as a child one of my favorite television programs was the long-running "Wagon Train" series.
The suicide bomber is the likes of the yelping Indian attacking the peaceful wagon train.
"These wagon trains were democratic," Ahlrichs says.
You can even travel pioneer-style, by riding or walking (15 to 20 miles daily) with two state-sanctioned sesquicentennial wagon trains that are scheduled to retrace the route.
Now, a century later, the calls of "Wagons, ho!= 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.
First came the ice-age hunters from Siberia, followed by Spanish missionaries, then sodbusters in wagon trains from the east.
One local told me, proudly: "This is where the wagon trains set off on the Oregon and Santa Fe trails."
But rather than tracing a strict time line, our journey through the history of the Santa Fe Trail follows the dusty ruts of wagon trains west from the Missouri River.
For the next 30 years, black soldiers such as Jordan escorted wagon trains, chased down outlaws and fought Native-American warriors, including Geronimo of the Apaches and Satanta of the Kiowas.