Getting Ready for the Trip
Preparations & Decisions
Homesteaders making preparations to travel westward in the mid 1880s had to bid farewell to family and friends who they would often never see again, and procure supplies that would last not only for the long journey ahead, but for the first few months in their new home. Many families had to save for years to afford the trip, and had to sell off their lands, household goods and furnishings, and heirlooms to finance the journey.
Starting out many settlers banded together into parties, or companies, for safety and assistance while in transit. The goal in organizing a emigrant party was to insure that there would be plenty of people and supplies for any adversity that might arise.
Homesteaders had to pack all the essentials for life on the trail into the confined space of their wagons. They had to carry the vast majority of their food and basic staples which included flour, bacon, sugar, coffee, tea, dried fruit, corn meal, and rice. Settlers packed minimal utensils for cooking, often limiting themselves to a skillet, a coffee pot, tin plates and cups, a camp stove, and a few sets of flatware.
Also crucial to any overland journey was a rifle, pistols, powder, and lead, used both for hunting and for self-defense. Typically homesteaders would pack two or three changes of durable, warm clothing, as well as blankets and rubber mats for camping. Many settlers attempted to load books, furniture, and other treasured belongings into their wagons, but these were often left behind after a short time on the road, when draft animals became tired and the load needed to be lightened.
Because of the roughness of the trail and the length of the journey, spare wagon parts -- such as spokes, axles, and wheels -- were often slung under the wagon, while water buckets and water barrels were strapped to its sides. Some emigrants attempted to bring along milk cows and chickens, though the chickens were usually eaten and the cows often died of thirst or malnutrition along the way.
PREPARATIONS - Supplies
Below is a typical list of supplies that settlers where encouraged to purchase:
PREPARATIONS -Teams, etc.
3 good covered wagons, 9 yoke of good cattle, 1 tent
PREPARATIONS - Food
600 lbs flour, 300 lbs meat, 50 lbs beans, 100 lbs rice, 2 barrels crackers, 300 lbs bacon, 200 lbs ham, 50 lbs dry beef, 50 lbs cheese, 50 lbs butter, 400 lbs sugar, 20 gal syrup, 50 lbs black tea, 100 lbs coffee, 400 lbs dried apples, 100 lbs dried peaches, 20 lbs salt, 40 lbs dried raisens, pepper spices, vinegar, cod fish
1 everyday coat, 1 heavy coat, 2 pr. everyday pants, 2 good prs. shoes, 1 pr. good boots, 1 good undershirt, 1 good woolen undershirt, 2 good woolen outer shirts, 2 pr good drawers, 2 pr woolen mittens, 3 pr good woolen socks
1 pr good boots, 1 everyday coat, 1 heavy coat, 2 pr. everyday shoes, Woolen shirts, Woolen drawers, 2 everyday dresses, Stockings, 2 pr woolen mittens
Children (per child)
1 pr good boots, 1 everyday coat, 1 heavy coat, 2 pr. everyday shoes, Woolen shirts, Woolen drawers, 2 everyday pants or dresses, Stockings, 2 pr woolen mittens
Feather beds (packed), Indian Rubber Spreads, good blankets, quilts, pillows
PREPARATIONS -Cooking Utensils
Camp stove or Dutch oven, Camp kettles, Tin reflector, Frying pans, Bread pan, Milk pans, Table Dishes, sausage cutter, Matches, good brooms
PREPARATIONS -Washing Apperatus
wash tub, wash board, 2 flatirons, soap, concentrated lye to make soap, starch
small scale, candles, 5 gal.kerosene oil, 2 lamps with durable chimneys and extra chimneys, extra saddle, 5 boxes pistol cartridges, extra spectacles (if needed), looking glass, garden seeds, flower seeds, boxes window glass, needles, thread, yarn, Buck skin needles, pins, 2 reams good white letter paper, 1 ream fools cap letter paper, memorandum books, stamped envelopes, 2 bottles ink, 2 pens, box steelpens and holders, school books and slates, form book (plus forms), reading books, one or two good maps, 2 doz lead pencils, candle molds, candle wicks
PREPARATIONS -Tools and Livestock
cow, a few chickens, kegs assorted nails, assorted screws, 1 lb. shoe tacks, ox shoes and nails, tongue bolts, extra yoke and chains, waggon grease, tar, spirits of turpentine, whiskey for poisoned cattle, oxbows, tool chest and with assorted tools, (The chest may be used as a mess chest on the road), 2 shovels, pick, hoe, buck saw (not wood), several hand saw files, flat file, shot, 5 boxes pistol cartridges, powder, caps, extra pistol, good rifle
Want to learn more?
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children's WAGON TRAINS books!
Books about - Wagon Trains
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