Wagon Trains

What Was a Wagon Train?

A wagon train was a group of covered wagons that went west.  The wagons would travel in a straight single line.  The wagon train looked like a slow-moving train.  If the trail was wide enough they would spread out to get away from the dust.  At night the wagon master would have the wagons form a big circle for protection from hostile Indians, marauders and other dangers.  Sometimes the children would play inside the wagon circle after dinner and just before bed time.


The captain, also known as the wagon master led the caravan down the trail and made any decisions that affected the whole caravan. He made decisions like when and where they were going to camp for the night.  If there was a river nearby, the captain would decide when and how they would cross the river.  Captains were also in charge of waking up the members of the wagon train, deciding when they would stop for lunch, and making sure everything ran smoothly on the trail.


The scouts or trail guides usually had been fur traders or trappers.  They knew the routes for the destination of the wagon trains.  The scouts knew where to cross rivers, how to get through dangerous mountain passes, and how far the caravan should travel each day.  They also helped the captain take care of the members of the wagon train.  .


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