Friday, November 25, 2016

Oregon Trail Outfits

The excerpt below is from "The Journal of Travels over the Rocky Mountains" by Joel Palmer ©1847 In this book he gives a good description on the type of wagon one should take on their trip.

FOR BURTHEN WAGONS, LIGHT FOUR HORSE OR HEAVY TWO horse wagons are the size commonly used. They should be made of the best material, well seasoned, and should in all cases have falling tongues. The tire should not be less than one and three fourth inches wide, but may be advantageously used three inches; two inches, however, is the most common width. In fastening on the tire, bolts should be used instead of nails; it should be at least 5/8 or 3/4 inches thick. Hub boxes for the hubs should be about four inches. The skeins should be well steeled. The Mormon fashioned wagon bed is the best. They are usually made straight, with side boards about 16 inches wide, and a projection outward of four inches on each side, and then another side board of ten or twelve inches; in this last, set the bows for covers, which should always be double. Boxes for carrying effects should be so constructed as to correspond in height with the offset in the wagon bed, as this gives a smooth surface to sleep upon.

Ox teams are more extensively used than any others. Oxen stand the trip much better, and are not so liable to be stolen by the Indians, and are much less trouble. Cattle are generally allowed to go at large, when not hitched to the wagons; whilst horses and mules must always be staked up at night. Oxen can procure food in many places where horses cannot, and in much less time. Cattle that have been raised in Illinois or Missouri, stand the trip better than those raised in Indiana or Ohio; as they have been accustomed to eating the prairie grass, upon which they must wholly rely while on the road. Great care should be taken in selecting cattlle; they should be from four to six years old, tight and heavy made.

For those who fit out but one wagon, it is not safe to start with less than four yoke of oxen, as they are liable to get lame, have sore necks, or to stray away. One team thus fitted up may start from Missouri with twenty-five hundred pounds and as each day's rations make the load that much lighter, before they reach any rough road, their loading is much reduced. Persons should recollect that every thing in the outfit should be as light as the required strength will permit; no useless trumpery should be taken. The loading should consist of provisions and apparel, a necessary supply of cooking fixtures, a few tools, &c. No great speculation can be made in buying cattle and driving them through to sell; but as the prices of oxen and cows are much higher in Oregon than in the States, nothing is lost in having a good supply of them, which will enable the emigrant to wagon through many articles that ae difficult to be obtained in Oregon. Each family should have a few cows, as the milk can be used the entire route, and they are often convenient to put to the wagon to relieve oxen. They should be so selected that portions of them would come in fresh upon the road. Sheep can also be advantageously driven. American horses and mares always command high prices, and with careful usage can be taken through; but if used to wagons or carriages, their loading should be light. Each family should be provided with a sheet-iron stove, with boiler; a platform can easily be constructed for carrying it at the hind end of the wagon; and as it is frequently quite windy, and there is often a acarcity of wood, the stove is very convenient. Each family should also be provided with a tent, and to it should be attached good strong cords to fasten it down.

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