Pioneer Life

When Was the Best Time to Leave?

When the pioneers decided the time of year to leave on their journey, they needed to consider several things.  They had to plan ahead. Some of the things they had to consider were possible bad weather along the trail, food for their livestock, and a supply of water.

How Far Would a Wagon Train Travel in One Day?

On many days the caravan would only travel ten to fifteen miles.  On rainy and muddy days they might only travel one mile!  It would take them five to seven days just to travel the distance we can drive a car in a single hour.

The people would have to get up very early each morning in order to prepare for their daily travels.  It was usually dark on these mornings.  They would have to start the fire, prepare breakfast, gather the livestock, reload the wagon, and hitch the oxen or mules before getting started.

What Did They Do Each Day On the Trail?

Each morning the pioneers would get up before daylight and gather their livestock and cook breakfast.  Many times they would go ahead and prepare lunch as well.  After breakfast around 7:00 a.m. they hitched up the oxen and started down the trail.  Since the wagon was so bumpy the pioneers who were not driving the wagon would walk behind or next to it much of the time. They would stop at lunchtime and rest for an hour or two.  After a rest period they would travel down the trail until about four or five p.m.  At night they would circle the wagons for protection.  The women would fix the dinner and the men would prepare the livestock for the night.  After supper they would gather around the campfires and sing songs, dance, tell stories and visit.  Sometimes they slept inside the wagon but they also slept under the wagon, in a tent, and sometimes under the stars.

What Types of Chores Did Children Do?

Children had lots of chores that included milking their cows, fetching water from a stream or a river that was nearby, helping their parents cook food, washing dishes, collecting buffalo chips or wood for the fire, shaking out dusty blankets and quilts, and hanging beef jerky to dry in the sun.

What Did They do After Reaching Their New Homes?

One of the first things the pioneers did when they got to their new homes was buy land.  Although land cost about two dollars an acre in many areas, that was very expensive to some pioneers.  After they bought their land they had to clear the rocks and tree stumps so they could build their houses and plant crops. The first spring and summer they did little, other than working the land.  Their first home was a lean-to.  It looked like an open shed that faced the fire.  Most of the pioneer women and children made quilts for the beds.  If they didn’t buy land where there was a stream, the men would build a well.  When a group of pioneers lived near each other they would often build a stockade, or fort to protect themselves from Indians.

(source – written by nine and ten year old students at Floresville Elementary School in south Texas)