How Did the Pioneers Travel?

Most pioneers traveled in a Conestoga wagon or a spring wagon.  Many of the pioneers chose oxen instead of mules or horses because the oxen were a lot stronger.  They would buy up to 4 oxen per wagon.  The father would drive the oxen by walking beside the wagon.  The children would walk behind of the wagon much of the time.

What Were Their Wagons Like?

The Pioneers traveled in a wagon called a covered wagon. The wagon was usually a wooden wagon made of hickory, oak, or maple.  A wooden piece made from hickory stuck out from the front of the wagon.  This piece called a tongue was connected to the yoke of the oxen, mules, or horses.

The wagon could not carry more than 2,000 pounds.  It had big wooden hoops, called bows that were bent from side to side.  There would be 4 to 7 wooden hoops on one wagon.  There was a canvas pulled across the hoops that would keep out the rain, wind, and the hot sunshine.  Pioneers would rub oil on the canvas to make it waterproof.  Inside the wagon there were many hooks that hung from the wooden hoops.  They could hang weapons, clothes, milk cans, and anything there was room for.  The front wheels of the wagon were smaller than the back wheels.  This helped the wagon turn.  Underneath the back wheels there was a bucket full of grease hanging from the axle. This was used to make the wheels run smoothly.  The conestoga wagons were called prairie schooners because from a distance the conestoga wagon looked like a ship sailing slowly across the green prairie.  Traveling in a wagon was not an easy trip.  There were many things that could go wrong.  For example some wagon wheels would break or there would be no water.  If  they ran out of food they would need to hunt.  When they were on the trail it was very noisy because all the pots and pans hanging off the wagons were clanging against each other.


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