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 ?
We followed the Oregon Trail in from the east, past Independence Rock, where the wagon trains stopped to let emigrants carve their names in splintered granite.
Larger wagon trains carried not only tools and spare parts, but often a blacksmith with wheel-repair experience.
Time your Oregon City visit to take in the Oregon Trail Pageant, which includes Oregon Fever, a lively outdoor music and dance show depicting a wagon train journey (with a cast of horses, homing pigeons, and 45 actors).
Cost: $50 to register, $15 a day for a seat on the wagon train. Meals about $15 a day.
County commissioners will delve into a bit of history Wednesday when they decide whether to declare June 5 National Trails Day and throw their support behind a bill in Congress that could add a Lane County wagon train route to the federally recognized Oregon National Historic trail.
Obviously, they had to choose between the wilderness, hunger, rattlesnakes, bears and scalp-hunting Indians on the warpath and attacking the wagon train .
He starred in Roger Corman's 1957 "She Gods of Shark Reef." He appeared on TV shows including "Wagon Train," "Perry Mason," and "Maverick" before being cast in the pilot for Four Star's "Johnny Ringo," which became the first series produced by Aaron Spelling.
A wagon train survivor, a photographer and a dentist are spotlighted in "Ahead of Their Time: Three Pioneering Women," an exhibit of artifacts and photographs at the Springfield Museum.
Thomas Holl also appeared on TV shows including "Dragnet," "Wagon Train," "Death Valley Days" and "The Adventures of Superman."
Because of a dozen surviving journals and memoirs, it's one of the best documented and most dramatic episodes of the wagon train era.
Grey also had nearly 40 TV credits, including roles in "Marcus Welby, M.D.," "Bonanza" and "Wagon Train."
OAKRIDGE - History came alive Sunday at the 45th annual Pioneer Days celebration at Greenwaters Park in Oakridge, where the festivities centered on a detailed re-enactment of the infamous Lost Wagon Train of 1853.