On the Trail

Here is more of the partial list of supplies for a wagon train trip west  (See post: Would you make a good Pioneer? for more of this list)

Can you imagine going on a 5 month trip knowing you have to take enough clothing and groceries and other supplies to last the entire time? That’s what the pioneers faced when they headed out on a wagon train to Oregon or California. That fact caused wagon masters to come up with a recommended list of food and supplies that should be brought. There were few trading posts along the way so supply prices doubled or tripled if the travelers ran out of a necessity. The recommendations are based on a family of four.

Part of the list: 600 pounds of flour @.02 a pound, 80 pounds of cornmeal @.05, 400 pounds of bacon @.05  a pound,  160 pounds of sugar @.04 a pound, 60 pounds of Coffee @.10 a pound, 60 pounds of dried fruit @.06 a pound, 20 pounds salt @.06 a pound, 2 pounds saleratus (baking soda) @.12 a pound, 6 pounds pepper @.08 a pound, 200 pounds lard @.05 a pound, 8 pounds of tea @.55, 20 pounds rice @.05, 60 pounds beans @.06 a pound, Dried beef 100 lbs. @ 6.00, Vinegar @ .25 gallon and Molasses @.06 a pound. The average family carried about 1,600-1,800 pounds of supplies in just food alone.

Some people also brought whiskey or brandy, and medicines. Minimal cooking utensils included a cast iron skillet or spider, Dutch oven, reflector oven, coffee pot or tea kettle, and tin plates, cups, and knives, forks, spoons, matches, and crocks, canteens, buckets or water bags for liquids.

Clothing recommended: At least 2 extra Wool Dresses @ 3.00 each, 2 Buckskin Pants/Shirt @ 4.00 each, Rain poncho @2.00 (8.00 for each family member), Hat 1.25, Sun Bonnet 1.75, Shoes(women) 3.00, Boots 5.00 (It was recommended that each person bring at least 3 extra pair of shoes/boots because most people walked and they wore out quickly.) Also recommended was at least 3 changes of underwear @.50 to 3.00.

Wagons were packed with clothing, farm implements and food. Also bedding, tools, personal possessions and, occasionally, luxury items such as schoolbooks, a bible or a chamber pot. Travelers carried shoes and oxbows for the teams, chains to pull wagons out of muck, medical supplies and lanterns and tents for sleeping because there was seldom room in the wagon.

Weapons and Tools: Pistol 7.50, Rifle 10.00, Shotgun 10.00, Knife/Whetstone 2.50,  Professional tools used by blacksmiths, carpenters, and farmers were carried by nearly all. Shovels, crow bars, picks, hoes, mattocks, saws, hammers, axes and hatchets were used to clear or make a road through trees or brush, cut down the banks to cross a wash or steep banked stream, build a raft or bridge, or repair the wagon. In general, as little road work as possible was done. Travel was often along the top of ridges to avoid the brush and washes common in many valleys. Goods, supplies and equipment were often shared by fellow travelers. Items that were forgotten, broken or worn out could be bought from a fellow traveler, post or fort along the way.

The things I’ve listed are just an example of some of the things taken by the pioneers. Joining a wagon train was a big undertaking and many people died from sickness, accidents, snake bites, and several other reasons, but there were not as many Indian attacks as movies or books would lead one to believe.

Read Fiona’s Journey and see how Fiona Webb made the journey with her 8 year-old nephew, Clint and Rose Larson and the other families on the wagon train as she looks for a new life in the west. Fiona’s Journey available in ebook and trade paperback.







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2 Responses to On the Trail

  1. Elaine Walsh says:

    I have trouble packing for a week…our ancestors were brave, hardy people.