Wagon Train

Wagon Train

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In the 1830s some American politicians began to argue that the United States to absorb all of North America. Lewis Linn, the senator for Missouri, called for the British to be pushed out of Oregon. In an attempt to persuade Americans to settle in Oregon he introduced a bill into the Senate granting free land as a reward for those prepared to travel across the Rocky Mountains to claim it. Other politicians argued that this legislation would result in a war with Britain and the bill was defeated.

There were several reasons why people were willing to risk the long journey to California and Oregon. Emigrants stressed the importance of escaping from the fever-infested swamps of Missouri and Mississippi. Early visitors to the west coast pointed out that the health of people living in this area seemed to be good. Antoine Robidoux claimed that he had never seen anyone in California with the fever or ague.

Francis Parkman, who interviewed a large number of emigrants and claimed that many mentioned a desire to escape from unpleasant weather conditions: "The bad climate seems to have been the motive that has induced many of them to set out."

Stories also circulated about the high quality of the crops that could be grown in California and Oregon. Potential emigrants were told that wheat "grew as tall as a man, with each stalk sprouting seven kernels", clover was so dense that the "farmer could barely get into the field to harvest it" and turnips were "five feet tall".

Another commentator claimed that: "The motives which thus brought the multitude together were, in fact, almost as various as their features. They agreed in one general object - that of bettering their condition." They were spurred on by the comments of Richard Henry Dana. In his book, Two Years Before the Mast, he claimed that people living in California were lazy. He wrote: "In the hands of an enterprising people, what a country this might be!"

The overland journey from the Mid-West to Oregon and California meant a six month trip across 2,000 miles of difficult country. It was also an expensive enterprise. It was estimated that the journey cost a man and his family about $1,000. He would also need a specially prepared wagon that cost about $400. The canvas top would have to be waterproofed with linseed oil and stretched over a framework of hoop-shaped slats. Although mainly made of wood, iron was used to reinforce the wagon at crucial points. However, iron was used sparingly in construction since it was heavy and would slow down and exhaust the animals pulling the wagon.

The wagons were packed with food supplies, cooking equipment, water kegs, and other things needed for a long journey. These wagons could carry loads of up to 2,500 pounds, but the recommended maximum was 1,600 pounds. Research suggests that a typical family of four carried 800 pounds of flour, 200 pounds of lard, 700 pounds of bacon, 200 pounds of beans, 100 pounds of fruit, 75 pounds of coffee and 25 pounds of salt.

The wagon also had to carry a shovel and cooking utensils. Some emigrants took furniture but this was often abandoned on the trip. There was little room in the wagon for people and so only small children or senior citizens rode in the wagon. The rest of the party walked beside the slow moving vehicle or rode on the back of a horse.

The four wheels of the wagon were made of wood (strengthened with iron). The front wheels were usually smaller than those at the back. The wagon train would travel at around two miles an hour. This enabled the emigrants to average ten miles a day. With good weather the 2,000 mile journey from Missouri to California and Oregon would take about five months. However, heavy rains would increase this by several weeks.

These wagons rarely had springs. This was not a major problem for the passengers as the wagon travelled very slowly. Nor did the wagons have brakes and this caused serious problems when travelling downhill. One solution was to use chains to lock at least one wheel. Another strategy was to cut down a tree and haul it behind to supply drag.

The emigrants used horses, oxen and mules to pull their wagons. The most popular animal with emigrants was the ox. It was cheaper, stronger and easier to work than horses or mules. They were also less likely to be stolen by Native Americans on the journey and would be more useful as a farm animal when you reached your destination. Oxen were able to exist on sparse vegetation and were less likely to stray from camp. The main argument against oxen was that they could become reckless when hot and thirsty and were known to cause stampedes in a rush to reach water.

In 1840 John Bidwell established the Western Emigration Society and published news that he intended to take a large wagon train from the Missouri River to California. The idea was very popular and soon the society had 500 names of people who wanted to take part in this momentous event. Missouri shopkeepers, fearing a rapid decline in customers, decided to mount a campaign against the idea. Local newspapers published stories about the dangers of travelling overland to California. A great deal of publicity was given to Thomas Farnham's Travels in the Great Western Prairies. In the book Farnham described in detail the hardships people would face on the journey.

Bidwell later admitted that the party included no one who had ever been to California: "Our ignorance of the route was complete. We knew that California lay west, and that was the extent of our knowledge." So when Bidwell heard that a group of missionaries, led by Pierre-Jean De Smet, and guided by the experienced Tom Fitzpatrick, were also intending to travel to Fort Hall, it was decided to wait until they arrived at Sapling Grove.

Fitzpatrick agreed to take Bidwell's party to Fort Hall. Bidwell later claimed that was a most important factor in the the party's survival: "it was well we did (wait for Fitzpatrick), for other wise probably not one of us would ever have reached California, because of our inexperience". Even with Fitzpatrick's leadership the wagon train suffered considerable problems on the journey and of the 69 people in Bidwell's party who set out from Sapling Grove, only 32 people reached California.

Between 1840 and 1860 more than half of the animals used to pull the wagons were oxen. Probably the major reason for this was that an ox cost $25 in the 1840s whereas mules were $75. During the early stages of this migration, mules were the second most popular animal with the emigrants. Later, horses replaced mules as the second choice for pulling wagons.

When the party stopped for any length of time the wagons were arranged, end to end, in a circular or square compound. This served both as a corral for the animals and as protection against a possible attack from Native Americans.

Emigrants to the West assembled at various outfitting towns in Missouri such as Independence and St. Joseph. Each party would elect a captain who commanded the wagon train and maintain law and order on the journey. Most wagon trains employed guides who knew the journey to California. This usually meant mountain men such as Kit Carson, Tom Fitzpatrick, Jim Baker, Stephen Meek, Joseph Walker, James Bridger and William Sublette.

Many writers warned against the dangers of going overland to California and Oregon. In 1843, Horace Greeley, the editor of the New York Tribune wrote: "It is palpable homicide to tempt or send women and children over this thousand miles of precipice and volcanic sterility to Oregon."

Accidental shootings was the main cause of death on the overland trails. The second major problem was drowning. More than 300 people died in this way between 1840 and 1860. Nineteen emigrants drowned crossing the River Platte near Fort Laramie in 1849. The following year forty-nine emigrants drowned at North Fork.

In the years between 1840 and 1848 an estimated 11,512 migrated overland to Oregon and 2,735 to California. One survey showed that only about 50 emigrants returned home before reaching their destination during this period. The main reasons given for this was poor health and fear of Native Americans.

It has been estimated that in 1846 around 250 wagons and 1,500 people assembled at Independence to journey to California and Oregon. This was also the year of the Donner Party, the worst disaster in wagon train history, when forty-two emigrants and two Indian guides died on the journey.

About 3,000 African Americans reached California by 1850. However, the passing of anti-black legislation made them into second-class citizens and most decided to move on to Canada.

In March, 1857, Alexander Fancher and his wagon train left Fort Smith, Arkansas, for California. The party included 50 men, 40 women and 50 children. On 7th September, Fancher's party was attacked by local Native Americans. Fancher corralled their wagons and were able to defend themselves against these attacks. Mormons approached the Fancher party and offered to lead them to safety. However, it was a trick and all the party, except for 17 infants, were murdered. John D. Lee, the Mormon leader, was eventually executed for his role in the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

In 1862 Congress passed the Homesteads Act. This legislation stated that a head of a family could acquire land consisting of 160 acres, settle it, and cultivate it for five years. At the end of the five year period the head of the family was granted the land. The Homesteads Act had a dramatic impact on persuading people to migrate to California and Oregon. By 1890 all available federal land had been settled by these pioneers.

For what, then, do they brave the desert, the wilderness, the savage the snowy precipices of the Rocky Mountains, the weary summer march, the storm-drenched bivouac, and the gnawings of famine? Only to fulfil their destiny! There is probably not one among them whose outward circumstances will be improved by this perilous journey.

Oregon is mountainous and rugged; its plains are dry and barren, nothing but sun in summer; very few fertile valleys, and those of very limited extent, and no navigable rivers to compare with the great watercourses of the Mississippi valley. This is Oregon. In truth, no man of information... in his right mind would think of leaving such a country as this (Missouri) to wander over a thousand miles of desert and five hundred miles of mountain to reach such as that.

The author long having had an anxious desire to visit those wild regions upon the great Pacific, which had now become the topic of conversation in every circle, and in reference to which, speculations both rational and irrational were everywhere in vogue, now determine to accomplish his desired object: for which purpose he repaired to Independence, which place was the known rendezvous of the Santa Fe traders, and the trappers of the Rocky mountains. Having arrived at Independence, he was so fortunate as to find, not only the Santa Fe traders, and the Rocky mountain trappers, but also a number of emigrants, consisting of families and young men who had convened there with the view of crossing the Rocky mountains, and were waiting very patiently until their number should be so increased as to afford protection and insure the safety of all, when they contemplated setting out together, for their favorite place of destination, Oregon territory. The number of emigrants continued to increase with such rapidity, that on the 15th day of May, our company consisted of one hundred and sixty persons, giving us a force of eighty armed men, which was thought ample for our protection. Having organized, and having ascertained that all had provided themselves with the necessary quantum of provisions and ammunition, as well as such teams and wagons as the company had previously determined to be essential, and indispensable, and all things else being in readiness, on the 16th day of May, in the year 1842, all as one man, united in interest, united in feeling, we were, en route, for the long desired El Dorado of the West.

As we pushed rapidly past the wagons, children's faces were thrust out from the white coverings to look at us; while the care-worn, thin-featured matron, or the buxom girl, seated in front, suspended the knitting on which most of them were engaged to stare at us with wondering curiosity. By the side of each wagon stalked the proprietor, urging on his patient oxen, who shouldered heavily along, inch by inch, on their interminable journey. It was easy to see that fear and dissension prevailed among them; some of the men - but these, with one exception, were bachelors - looked wistfully upon us as we rode lightly and swiftly past, and then impatiently at their own lumbering wagons and heavy-gaited oxen. Others were unwilling to advance at all until the party they had left behind should have rejoined them. Many were murmuring against the leader they had chosen, and wished to depose him; and this discontent was fermented by some ambitious spirits, who had hopes of succeeding in his place. The women were divided between regrets for the homes they had left and apprehension of the deserts and the savages before them.

We soon left them far behind, and fondly hoped that we had taken a final leave; but unluckily our companions' wagon stuck so long in a deep muddy ditch that, before it was extricated, the van of the emigrant caravan appeared again, descending a ridge close at hand. Wagon after wagon plunged through the mud; and as it was nearly noon, and the place promised shade and water, we saw with much gratification that they were resolved to encamp. Soon the wagons were wheeled into a circle; the cattle were grazing over the meadow, and the men with sour, sullen faces, were looking about for wood and water. They seemed to meet with but indifferent success. As we left the ground, I saw a tall slouching fellow with the nasal accent of "down east," contemplating the contents of his tin cup, which he had just filled with water.

We had already left the Little Blue and were getting closer to the Platte River. Gradually the luxuriant grass of the regions of the Kansas disappeared; the grass became shorter and was of a different kind. The night before we had camped not far from the Little Blue and hoped to reach the Platte during the day or early the next morning. Ripstein shouldered his rifle and said he wanted to go upstream along the Little Blue River. Maybe he would succeed in bagging a deer or an antelope. He would meet us again somewhere along the road. We warned him about the Indians, for we had been told that somewhere along the Little Blue there was a large camp of Pawnees, whose hostility toward the whites was generally feared. Ripstein was tall, courageous, and strong and an excellent runner, never seeming to tire.

We continued our journey at the usual time through the open prairie and were caught by dusk before coming in sight of the Platte River. Since we had some firewood with us, we made camp near several water holes, which were full of mosquitoes, though we could use the water for coffee and tea after straining it through a clean handkerchief.

A noble sight. The eighteen wagons with their snow white coverings, winding down the long hill, followed by the immense train of horses, mules and cattle of all kind, their drivers walking by their sides, merrily singing or whistling, to beguile their way. As Dr White stood on an elevation, he cast his eyes forward towards the wastes and wilds of the savage world they were to traverse, and back to his own loved, pleasant land, and it need not be enquired whether his reflections were of a very joyous nature.

Now all was high glee, jocular hilarity, and happy anticipation, as we thus darted forward into the wild expanse, of the untrodden regions of the 'western world.' The harmony of feeling, the sameness of purpose, and the identity of interest, which here existed, seemed to indicate nothing but continued order, harmony, and peace, amid all the trying scenes incident to our long and toilsome journey.

About five or six thousand of the Blackfoot Sioux, under a great war chief, appeared. By this immense multitude the train was compelled to halt and be inspected by band after band of the curious savages. They were especially curious to look at the women of the train.

The night of our arrival at Fort Platte was the signal for a grand jollification to all hands ... who soon got most gloriously drunk yelling, screeching, firing, shouting, fighting, swearing, drinking and such like interesting performances, were kept up without intermission... The scene was prolonged till near sundown the next, and several made their egress from this beastly carousal minus shirts and coats - with swollen eyes, bloody noses and empty pockets.

The edge of the wood, for several miles along the river, was dotted with the white covers of emigrant wagons, collected in groups at various camps, where the smokes were rising lazily from the fires, around which the women were occupied in preparing the evening meal, and the children playing in the grass; and herds of cattle grazing about in the bottom, had an air of quiet security, and civilized comfort, that made a rare sight for the traveller in such a remote wilderness.

The boys could not see what was going on in the camp, as a wagon intervened; but soon Billy heard the scream of a child as if in death-agony, and the simultaneous shriek of a woman. Leaping from his entrenchment, he called to Jess to stay there and cover his attack, whilst he sprang away, pistol in one hand and a small Spanish dagger in the other, directly towards the camp. At this moment the Indians essayed to drive them from their defense. Billy met them more than half way and fought his way through a half-dozen of them. He had emptied his revolver, and had no time to load it. Clubbing his pistol he rushed on, and, dodging a blow from a burly Indian, he darted under a wagon and fell on a prairie axe.

Billy afterwards said he believed that his howl of delight frightened those Indians so that he and Jess won the fight. He emerged on the other side of the wagon. A glance showed him the three men and all the women and children but one woman and one little girl, ensconced behind the other two wagons, and partly protected by a jutting rock. One woman and the little girl were lying, apparently lifeless, on the ground. With yell on yell Billy fell among the reds with his axe. He never missed hearing every crack of Jess' rifle, and in three minutes there was not a live Indian in sight. Eight "good" ones slept their last sleep. Billy's face, hands, and clothing, the wagons, the camp furniture, and the grass were bespattered with blood and brains.

Turning to the campers, the boys discovered that the little girl had received a fracture of the skull in an attempt, by an Indian brave, to brain her, and the mother had fainted. All three of the men were wounded. One was shot through the abdomen and in the shoulder. It is doubtful if he survived. The other two were but slightly hurt. Billy had the heel of his boot battered, his gun shot to pieces, and received a wound in the hand.

A few miles before reaching the city, the road again emerges into an open plain. Ascending a table ridge, we spied in an extended valley to the northwest, occasional groups of trees, skirted with verdant corn and wheat fields, with here and there a square block like protuberance reared in the midst. A little further, and just ahead of us to the north, irregular clusters of the same opened to our view. 'Oh, we are approaching the suburbs!' thought I, on perceiving the cornfields, and what I supposed to be brick-kilns scattered in every direction. These and other observations of the same nature becoming audible, a friend at my elbow said, 'It is true these are heaps of unburnt bricks, nevertheless they are houses - this is the city of Sante Fe'.

Five or six days after our arrival, the caravan at last hove in sight, and wagon after wagon was seen pouring down the last declivity at about a mile's distance from the city. To judge from the clamorous rejoicings of the men, and the state of agreeable excitement which the muleteers seemed to be laboring under, the spectacle must have been as new to them as it had been to me. It was truly a scene for the artist's pencil to revel in. Even the animals seemed to participate in the humor of their riders, who grew more and more merry and obstreperous as they descended towards the city. I doubt, in short, whether the first sight of the walls of Jerusalem were beheld by the crusaders with much more tumultuous and soul-enrapturing joy.

The arrival produced a great deal of bustle and excitement among the natives. 'Los Americanos !' - 'Los carros!' - 'La entrada de la caravana!' were to be heard in every direction; and crowds of women and boys flocked around to see the newcomers; while crowds of leperos hung about as usual to see what they could pilfer. The wagoners were by no means free from excitement on this occasion. Informed of the 'ordeal' they had to pass, they had spent the previous morning in 'rubbing up'; and now they were prepared, with clean faces, sleek combed hair, and their choicest Sunday suit, to meet the 'fair eyes' of glistening black that were sure to stare at them as they passed.

There was yet another preparation to be made in order to 'show off' to advantage. Each wagoner must tie a bran new 'cracker' to the lash of his whip; for, on driving through the streets and the plaza pliblica, every one strives to outvie his comrades in the dexterity with which he flourishes this favorite badge of his authority.

Our wagons were soon discharged in the ware-rooms of the Custom-house; and a few days' leisure being now at our disposal, we had time to take that recreation which a fatiguing journey of ten weeks had rendered so necessary. The wagoners, and many of the traders, particularly the novices, flocked to the numerous fandangoes, which are regularly kept up after the arrival of a caravan. But the merchants generally were anxiously and actively engaged in their affairs - striving who should first get his goods out of the custom-house, and obtain a chance at the 'hard chink' of the numerous country dealers, who annually resort to the capital on these occasions.

The arrival of a caravan at Santa Fe changes the aspect of the place at once. Instead of the idleness and stagnation which its streets exhibited before, one now sees everywhere the bustle, noise and activity of a lively market town. As the Mexicans very rarely speak English, the negotiations are mostly conducted in Spanish.

One of the axle-trees of the wagon broke today; was a little rejoiced, for we were in hopes that they would leave it, and have no more trouble with it. Our rejoicings are in vain for they are making a cart of the back wheels this afternoon and lashing the forewheels to it - intending to take it through in some shape or other.

Just after we crossed the bridge, and where there is a sudden turn in the road, as it winds around the mountain, we saw where two men had been killed and two wagons burned last week. The tire became loose on a wheel of the next to the last wagon in a freight train, the men stopped to tighten it, while the rest of the train moved on, not thinking of danger, and was out of sight in a few minutes. An hour later some of the men came back to see what kept them. There they were - dead and scalped - horses gone, and wagons on fire. The Indians had taken all the freight they could use, piled wood under the wagons, and set it on fire. We saw quantities of white beans scattered over the ground, also the irons from the wagons.

The three great trails across the trans-Mississippi West, therefore, before the building of the transcontinental railroads, were the SantaFe Trail, the Oregon Trail, and the California Trail. The Santa Fe Trail continued across from the Rio Grande valley to the Pacific as the Old Spanish Trail to Los Angeles, the Gila river being a less-used alternative to San Diego. An even more southerly trail was developed from Memphis across Arkansas, the Indian Country (Oklahoma) and Texas to El Paso, Yuma, and San Diego, to be used as the route of the overland stage coaches. The outbreak of the Civil War soon put an end to its usefulness. It was too roundabout ever to have been an emigrant trail. It carried mail, important small-bulk freight, and affluent or expense-account passengers at considerable speed and in great discomfort.

Far distant upon the boundless prairies stretching away toward the setting sun, and over four hundred and fifty miles from the border towns of the Missouri River, this letter is written for the amusement and instruction of your readers. The author, dressed in a soiled suit of corduroy, and with a ventilated slouched hat upon his head, is seated upon the tongue of a wagon, with a five-gallon vinegar-keg for his writing-desk, while at the same moment the first teams of Colonel F. W. Lander’s South Pass Wagon-road Expedition are entering the water at the crossing of the South Fork of the Platte.

At the present date both banks of the river are lined with the wagons and animals of the emigrants; and the happy owners of those which have successfully "passed over Jordan" may well cast their eyes across the swelling flood and gaze with Christian resignation upon the toiling and struggling pilgrims who have yet to prove their faith and endurance. The water rushing over the wagons, the plunging and kicking of the mules, and the imprecations of the teamsters, render the scene one of peculiar interest; and to add to it, Dog Belly, chief of the Ogallalah band of the Sioux tribe of Indians, with a small party of his braves, are grouped around Colonel Lander’s carriage, smoking the pipe of peace. Mr. Albert Bierstadt, of Boston, the artist of the expedition, is engaged in sketching their appearance. And it is to his pencil we are indebted for the illustrations accompanying this article.

During the past ten days we have met thousands of the deluded and suffering gold-seekers retracing their steps to the quiet farms of the West. Many of them were in a starving condition, barefooted, ragged, and penniless; and it has caused much delay in the progress of the expedition, and materially diminished our supply of provisions to feed these hungry, home-bound strollers. We counted upon one day ninety-three wagons, and the following one eighty-four, to each of which was attached from six to ten men; and besides these, hundreds of others who were wandering along without any mode of conveyance. Up to this point of our journey we have probably passed five thousand desponding and disappointed men returning to the States, and this number is but small compared to those who have pressed on toward California.

On the Smoky Hill Fork route the suffering has been much more extensive and aggravated. Of one party some twelve or fifteen died in a state of starvation, and in some instances the survivors preserved their own lives by eating the dead bodies of their former companions. I conversed with a returning emigrant who saw and spoke to the insane survivor of three brothers by the name of Blew, from Whiteside County, Illinois, who had eaten the dead bodies of his brethren, and was found by the Indians in a dying state, and by them carried to the nearest passing train. These reports are confirmed by old and reliable mountaineers, and there is no reason to doubt that the full story of the emigrants’ wrongs and suffering is yet to be told.

Circles of white-tented wagons may now be seen in every direction, and the smoke from campfires is circling upwards, morning, noon and evening. An immense number of oxen and horses are scattered over the entire valley, grazing upon the green grass. Parties of Indians, hunters, and emigrants are galloping to and fro, and the scene is one of almost holiday loveliness. It is difficult to realize that we are in a wilderness, a thousand miles from civilization. I noticed the lupin and a brilliant scarlet flower in bloom.

We shall pass Fort Laramie tomorrow, where I shall leave this to be take to the States. It will probably be the last time I can write until I get to my journey's end, which may take till the middle of October.

We have had uncommon good health and luck on our route, not having had a case of sickness in the company for the last four weeks. Not a creature has died, not a wagon tire loosened, and no bad luck attended us.

The country is becoming very hilly; the streams rapid, more clear, and assuming the character of mountain streams. The air is very dry and clear, and our path is lined with wild sage and artemisia.

We had a fine celebration today, with an address by Mr. Sexton, which was very good; an excellent dinner, good enough for any hotel; and the boys drank toasts and cheered till they are now going in all sorts around the camp.

I often think of home and all the dear objects of affection there: of George; dear Mother, who was sick; and of yourself and poor little Sister. If it were consistent, I should long for the time to come when I shall turn my footsteps homeward, but such thoughts will not answer now, for I have a long journey yet to complete and then the object of the journey to accomplish.

I am hearty and well, far more so than when I left home. That failing of short breath which troubled me at home has entirely left me. I am also more fleshy. Notwithstanding these facts, I would advise no man to come this way to California.

In 1865 we emigrated from our homes in Missourri by the overland route to Virginia City, Montana, taking five months to

make the journey. While on the way the greater portion of my time was spent in hunting along with the men and hunters of the party, in fact I was at all times with the men when there was excitement and adventures to be had. By the time we reached Virginia City I was considered a remarkable good shot and a fearless rider for a girl of my age. I remember many occurrences on the journey from Missourri to Montana. Many times in crossing the mountains the conditions of the trail were so bad that we frequently had to lower the wagons over ledges by hand with ropes for they were so rough and rugged that horses were of no use. We also had many exciting times fording streams for many of the streams in our way were noted for quicksands and boggy places, where, unless we were very careful, we would have lost horses and all. Then we had many dangers to encounter in the way of streams swelling on account of heavy rains. On occasions of that kind the men would usually select the best places to cross the streams, myself on more than one occasion have mounted my pony and swam across the stream several times merely to amuse myself and have had many narow escapes from having both myself and pony washed away to certain death, but as the pioneers of those days had plenty of courage we overcame all obstacles and reached Virginia City in safety.

Everything was at first weird and strange in those days, but custom made us regard the most unnatural events as usual. I remember even yet with a shiver the first time I saw a man buried without the formality of a funeral and the ceremony of coffining. We were sitting by the camp fire, eating breakfast, when I saw two men digging and watched them with interest, never dreaming their melancholy object until I saw them bear from their tent the body of their corade, wrapped in a soiled gray blanket, and lay it on the ground. Ten minutes later the soil was filled in, and in a short half hour the caravan moved on, leaving the lonely stranger asleep in the silent wilderness, with only the winds, the owls, and the coyotes to chant a dirge. Many an unmarked grave lies by the old emigrant road, for hard work and privation made wild ravages in the ranks of the pioneers, and brave souls gave up the battle and lie ther forgotten, with not even a stone to note the spot where they sleep the unbroken, dreamless sleep of death. There was not time for anything but the ceaseless march for gold.

After a time the hard traveling and worse roads told on our failing oxen, and one day my husband said to me, "Unless we can lighten the wagon we shall be obliged to drop out of the train, for the oxen are about to give out." So we looked over our load, and the only things we found we could do without were three sides of bacon and a very dirty calico apron which we laid out by the roadside. We remained all day in camp, and in the meantime I discovered my stock of lard was out. Without telling my husband, who was hard at work mending the wagon, I cut up the bacon, tried out the grease, and had my lard can full again. The apron I looked at twice and thought it would be of some use yet if clean, and with the aid of the Indian soap-root, growing around the camp, it became quite a respectable addition to my scanty wardrobe. The next day the teams, refreshed by a whole day's rest and good grazing, seemed as well as ever, and my husband told me several times what a "good thing it was we left those things; that the oxen seemed to travel as well again".

I rode through (the canyon) in three days at the risk of my life, on horseback, having lost my wagon and all that I had but the horse I was on. Our families were the first that started through the canyon, so that we got through the mud and rocks much better than those that followed. Out of hundreds of wagons, only one came through without breaking. The canyon was strewn with dead cattle, broken wagons, beds, clothing and everything but provisions, of which latter we were nearly destitute. Some people were in the canyon two or three weeks before they could get through.

Dec. 8th. We met three families packing and one family with a wagon. They tell us they have had nothing to eat today - the children are crying for bread: we let them have fifty pounds of flour.

Dec. 10th. There are three families here that are in a very bad situation; their teams have given out, and they have no provisions. Mr Campbell let them have some flour. I feel for them; it is hard for me to pass them, but when I know there are other helpless families among hostile Indians, I am bound to go on and assist them.

We found the roads hard frozen on setting out in March from the headwaters of the Wabash and the road good at first. We camped at night with settlers and fed our stock well. We also took care that we should be in the best of strength and heart, as well as the stock.

The camp was usually near some water and in the shelter of the woods. Mother cooked the supper and made a potful of steaming coffee while the men cared for the horses, and unyoked the cows and oxen and fed them some of the corn and hay that we had brought from home.

Then all sat down in the genial warmth of the fire and feasted on fried eggs and bacon and piping hot corn bread that had been baked over the coals. There was milk for the coffee, and a cupful for baby sister and each of the boys. What appetites we had after the long cold ride in the lumbering wagons!

We young ones fell asleep almost as soon as supper was over, much as we wanted to keep awake and hear the wonderful stories that would be told by the smouldering camp fire. For several weeks after we started the weather was so cold that we slept in the covered wagons, on mother's soft feather beds.

We found St. Joseph after nearly two months' steady tramp and solid tread of the honest old oxen, a sea of tents. For miles and miles up the Missouri and down were to be seen the white tents, white covered wagons and busy people passing and surging to and fro. It was now the middle of May. The weather was warm and we could sleep in the tents instead of the covered wagons. So we rested here for several days while papa purchased food and other things that we needed.

We had two big heavily laden wagons, with eight yoke of oxen to each, a carriage and two horses for mother and baby sister, and a single horse for the three boys to ride. This was particularly convenient, especially at the crossing of the swollen streams, when all three could climb on together and get lots of fun and often times a little wetting; for we all had learned to swim in the dear old Tippecanoe, and we did not mind a bit if we all rolled off together in the middle of the stream.

Here and there we saw Indians along our route, but only once or twice did they attack us. Most of them were very decent, tall, fine fellows; they stood by or sat their ponies in line and marveled at the continuous stream of people - the innumerable multitude. How feeble and indifferent was our Government fifty or sixty years ago! No sort of assistance or suggestion or information of any sort to this tumultuous mass of world builders. No statistics. No attempt to enumerate them. Why, they were civilized in Europe in the days of Exodus. Moses would have made a better President than the ones we had then, in the early fifties.

The proud and erect Indian men would refuse all presents, but the Indian women, with their babes at their backs refused nothing, although they did not beg at all as they do now.

They were very fond of the white children and all the time wanted to touch and fondle them. Mother seemed afraid they would steal her little girl. She, in her eagerness to learn about the land we were about to traverse, had read a yellow book telling women all about how Indians would steal little girls! The Indian women were all the time trying to lay hands on my little brother Jimmy's great shock of frousy yellow hair, but he would run away from them and hide under the wagons.

The migration of a large body of men, women, and children across the Continent to Oregon was, in the year 1843, strictly an experiment not only in respect to the numbers, but to the outfit of the migrating party.

Before that date two or three missionaries had performed the journey on horseback, driving a few cows with them. Three or four wagons drawn by oxen had reached Fort Hall, on Snake river, but it was the honest opinion of most of those who had traveled the route down Snake river that no large number of cattle could be subsisted on its scanty pasturage, or wagons taken over a route so rugged and mountainous.

The emigrants were also assured that the Sioux would be much opposed to the passage of so large a body through their country, and would probably resist it on account of the emigrants destroying and frightening away the buffaloes, which were then diminishing in numbers.

The migrating body numbered over one thousand souls, with about one hundred and twenty wagons, drawn by six ox teams, averaging about six yokes to the team, and several thousand loose horses and cattle.

The emigrants first organized and attempted to travel in one body, but it was soon found that no progress could be made with a body so cumbrous, and as yet so averse to all discipline. And at the crossing of the "Big Blue," it divided into two columns, which traveled in supporting distance of each other as far as Independence Rock, on the Sweet Water.

From this point, all danger from Indians being over, the emigrants separated into small parties better suited to the narrow mountain paths and small pastures in their front.

A train of wagons were coursing their westward way, with visions of the future bright as our own. Sometimes a single team might be seen traveling alone. Our party were among the many small squads emigrating to the land of promise.

The day on which our doomed family were scattered and killed was the 12th of July, a warm and oppressive day. The burning sun poured forth its hottest rays upon the great Black Hills and the vast plains of Montana, and the great emigrant road was strewed with men, women, and children, and flocks of cattle, representing towns of adventurers.

We looked anxiously forward to the approach of evening, with a sense of relief, after the excessive heat of the day.

Our journey had been pleasant, but toilsome, for we had been long weeks on the road.

Slowly our wagons wound through the timber that skirted the Little Box Elder (tributary of the North Platte), and, crossing the stream, we ascended the opposite bank.

We had no thought of danger or timid misgivings on the subject of savages, for our fears had been all dispersed by constantly received assurances of their friendliness.

At the outposts and ranches, we heard nothing but ridicule of their pretensions to warfare, and at Fort Laramie, where information that should have been reliable was given us, we had renewed assurances of the safety of the road and friendliness of the Indians.

At Horseshoe Creek, which we had just left, and where there was a telegraph station, our inquiries had elicited similar assurances as to the quiet and peaceful state of the country through which we must pass.

Being thus persuaded that fears were groundless, we entertained none, and, as I have mentioned before, our small company preferred to travel alone on account of the greater progress made in that way.

The beauty of the sunset and the scenery around us filled our hearts with joy, and Mr. Wakefield's voice was heard in song for the last time, as he sang, "Ho! for Idaho." Little Mary's low, sweet voice, too, joined in the chorus. She was so happy in her childish glee on that day, as she always was.

She was the star and joy of our whole party. We wended our way peacefully and cheerfully on, without a thought of the danger that was lying like a tiger in ambush in our path.

Without a sound of preparation or a word of warning, the bluffs before us were covered with a party of about two hundred and fifty Indians, painted and equipped for war, who uttered the wild war-whoop and fired a signal volley of guns and revolvers into the air.

This terrible and unexpected apparition came upon us with such startling swiftness that we had not time to think before the main body halted and sent out a part of their force, which circled us round at regular intervals, but some distance from our wagons. Recovering from the shock, our men instantly resolved on defense, and corralled the wagons. My husband was looked upon as leader, as he was principal owner of the train. Without regard to the insignificance of our numbers, Mr. Kelly was ready to stand his ground; but, with all the power I could command, I entreated him to forbear and only attempt conciliation. "If you fire one shot," I said, "I feel sure you will seal our fate, as they seem to outnumber us ten to one, and will at once massacre all of us."

Love for the trembling little girl at my side, my husband, and friends, made me strong to protest against any thing that would lessen our chance for escape with our lives. Poor little Mary! from the first she had entertained an ungovernable dread of the Indians, a repugnance that could not be overcome, although in our intercourse with friendly savages, I had endeavored to show how unfounded it was, and persuade her that they were civil and harmless, but all in vain. Kelly bought her beads and many little presents from them which she much admired, but she would always add, "They look so cross at me and they have knives and tomahawks, and I fear they will kill me." Could it be that her tender young mind had some presentiment or warning of her horrid fate?

Finally, there appeared before our eyes several high, fenced enclosures (corrals) into which the cattle are driven, either to select them for slaughter or to brand them. And there was a house, too, with two beautiful young American females at the open window. This place belonged to a Scot named Sinclair, who held the position of justice of the peace. One of the women was his wife. This house was near the open banks of the smooth but wide American River, and since we could find no trace of a ferry, we waded through its clear but not deep waters. On the opposite bank we found ourselves on lowland, which is often entirely under water during the rainy season. Farther back from the river we reached higher and drier land, where we came upon a lone Indian sod-covered hut. A quarter of a mile to the left of the road we saw a fairly long, wide adobe structure, the walls of which contained many embrasure like openings. On the east were two small houses and a few steps farther on was a deep pond, which gets its water from the American Fork only during high water. This place was Sutler's sheepfold, with which I had ample opportunity to become acquainted two years later. The land over which the road led was considered unproductive at that time, but to our right not far from the road was a beautiful large piece of bottomland where Sutter had his wheat fields, which yielded magnificent harvests. After we had walked about a mile beyond the river, we saw from a slight elevation the long wished for Fort Sutter or New Helvetia.

A thousand pioneers head West as part of the Great Emigration

The first major wagon train to the northwest departs from਎lm Grove. Missouri, on the Oregon Trail.

Although U.S. sovereignty over the Oregon Territory was not clearly established until 1846, American fur trappers and missionary groups had been living in the region for decades, to say nothing of the Native Americans who had settled the land centuries earlier. Dozens of books and lectures proclaimed Oregon’s agricultural potential, piquing the interest of white American farmers. The first overland immigrants to Oregon, intending primarily to farm, came in 1841 when a small band of 70 pioneers left Independence, Missouri. They followed a route blazed by fur traders, which took them west along the Platte River through the Rocky Mountains via the easy South Pass in Wyoming and then northwest to the Columbia River. In the years to come, pioneers came to call the route the Oregon Trail.

In 1842, a slightly larger group of 100 pioneers made the 2,000-mile journey to Oregon. The next year, however, the number of emigrants skyrocketed to 1,000. The sudden increase was a product of a severe depression in the Midwest combined with a flood of propaganda from fur traders, missionaries, and government officials extolling the virtues of the land. Farmers dissatisfied with their prospects in Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee, hoped to find better lives in the supposed paradise of Oregon.

On this day in 1843, some 1,000 men, women, and children climbed aboard their wagons and steered their horses west out of the small town of Elm Grove, Missouri. The train comprised more than 100 wagons with a herd of 5,000 oxen and cattle trailing behind. Dr. Elijah White, a Presbyterian missionary who had made the trip the year before, served as guide.

The first section of the Oregon Trail ran through the relatively flat country of the Great Plains. Obstacles were few, though the river crossings could be dangerous for wagons. The danger of Native American attacks was a small but genuine risk. To be on the safe side, the pioneers drew their wagons into a circle at night to create a makeshift stockade. If they feared Native Americans might raid their livestock—the Plains tribes valued the horses, though generally ignored the oxen—they would drive the animals into the enclosure.

The pioneers quickly learned that they were more likely to be injured or killed by a host of more mundane causes. Obstacles included accidental discharge of firearms, falling off mules or horses, drowning in river crossings, and disease. After entering the mountains, the trail also became much more difficult, with steep ascents and descents over rocky terrain. The pioneers risked injury from overturned and runaway wagons.

Yet, as with the 1,000-person party that made the journey in 1843, the vast majority of pioneers on the trail survived to reach their destination in the fertile, well-watered land of western Oregon. The migration of 1844 was smaller than that of the previous season, but in 1845 it jumped to nearly 3,000. Thereafter, migration on the Oregon Trail was an annual event, although the practice of traveling in giant convoys of wagons gave way to many smaller bands of one or two-dozen wagons. The trail was heavily traveled until 1884, when the Union Pacific constructed a railway along the route.

Three Mixed-race Families and a Wagon Train Attack: A Story of Frontier Survival

Bullets splintered the wagon box. Arrows shredded the wagon’s canvas cover. Two pregnant women huddled together in the wagon, trying to make their toddlers lie down. The travelers in this 12-wagon train, circled against their Lakota Sioux attackers, were outnumbered 20 to one and losing fast.

Then, from the meager protection of the wagons, one of the women, eight months pregnant and impeded by her bulk, strode out into the midst of the battle. She had recognized some of the attackers—she knew them personally. She shouted at the Indians to stop their attack or her brother, their own Hunkpapa Sioux war chief, Gall, would take vengeance.

Woman Dress Lamoreaux and her relatives

At the time of the attack, the travelers were near Split Rock on the Oregon Trail, about a day’s travel west of Devil’s Gate in what’s now central Wyoming.

How did one of their attackers’ own people, Woman Dress Lamoreaux, come to be in this wagon train on the way from Fort Laramie to the South Pass area in March and April 1868? It was an atypical group: Of the 26-member party, about half were American Indians, mixed-bloods or white men who had married Indians.

In the early and mid-1800s, many white traders—often French-speaking, with roots in French Canada or the Mississippi Valley—married Cheyenne, Sioux and Shoshone women, gaining important business alliances by these unions. At least three such extended families were traveling in this wagon train.

The most prosperous member of the wagon train was Fort Laramie trader Jules Lamoreaux five of the 12 wagons were his. Lamoreaux was born in Canada at Hyacinthe, Quebec, in 1836. He worked at Fort Laramie for James Bordeaux before opening his own store there, marrying Woman Dress in 1862. At the time of the 1868 journey to South Pass, they had two children, Lizzie and Richard, ages about 5 and 3.

The Lajeunesses

The largest group was the clan of Charles Lajeunesse, also known as Seminoe, who operated a trading post at Devil’s Gate from 1852 to 1856, and at other times and points along the Oregon Trail. Lajeunesse's grown, half-Shoshone sons, Mich, Noel and Ed, were escorting their pregnant younger sister, Louisa Lajeunesse Boyd, along with her husband, William Henry Harrison Boyd, and their daughter, Martha, approximately 3 years old. Boyd was from Tennessee and had come west in about 1859 where he worked for and was educated by Charles Lajeunesse, eventually becoming his partner, and marrying his daughter about 1864.

Mich and Noel had fought at the July 1865 Battle of Platte Bridge near present Casper, Wyo., where Mich killed High Backed Wolf, a Cheyenne chief. High Backed Wolf had killed their father a few weeks previously, and Louisa and the other Shoshone women at Platte Bridge celebrated this revenge by dancing and singing, wearing High Backed Wolf's scalp-decorated, bloodstained shirt.

The Ecoffeys

Yet another mixed-blood couple, Julia Bissonette Ecoffey, a half-Sioux, and her husband Frank Ecoffey, were also with this expedition. Julia's father, Joseph Bissonette, was a trader, government interpreter and partner of Charles Lajeunesse and William Boyd on Deer Creek about 1864. Bissonette had been in the trading business along the trails at least since 1842, when he had accompanied the explorer John C. Fremont as an interpreter from Fort Laramie to Red Buttes near present Casper. Ecoffey, a French-Swiss, arrived at Fort Laramie in 1855, clerking for Bissonette and Lajeunesse in the early 1860s. In 1865, about two years before he married Julia, he had a store at Platte Bridge and helped defend it during the battle that July.

Survival in a fast-changing world

All of these mixed-blood families had been established at Fort Laramie before deciding to move to the area of South Pass, planning to set up business near the soon-to-be-booming gold camps where significant finds had been made in 1867. Once-profitable trade with Indians and with white emigrants was waning.

The Union Pacific Railroad, building west, spawned towns and stores filled with cheap manufactured goods that cut into the traders' business. As buffalo herds dwindled, many Indians had become impoverished and were settling on the reservations, or were increasingly hostile—especially the Sioux and Cheyenne—as they chose to defend their lands. These were the years of Red Cloud’s War along the Bozeman Trail to the northeast, and of many raids and skirmishes along the Oregon and Overland trails across what’s now Wyoming.

Along with vanishing economic opportunities, mixed-race people faced a decline in their social status. At the peak of trading between whites and Indians, mixed-bloods connected the two cultures, facilitating commerce and political ties.

But more and more white newcomers despised the white men who married Indians as "squaw men" and their children as mongrels their children belonged wholly to neither one world nor the other. These people had limited options: They could settle on a reservation, continue the losing battle for the American West alongside their full-blood Indian relatives or assimilate into white culture.

The attack on the 1868 wagon train exacerbated the uneasy situation of these mixed-blood people, so it was perhaps all the more remarkable that a full-blood Indian woman stopped it. The Lakota Sioux ceased firing and called to Woman Dress that they would talk to her if the men of the wagon train also stopped shooting. The Indians became cowed and respectful, escorting the wagon train farther along the trail before dispersing to warn off other bands of marauding Sioux.

Into the 20th century

At the end of their 300-mile, six-week journey from Fort Laramie, the Lamoreaux, Lajeunesse, Boyd and Ecoffey families camped in willows where the Oregon Trail crossed Willow Creek, a few miles east of South Pass City. The night they arrived, April 25, 1868, Woman Dress Lamoreaux gave birth to her son, named Willow.

Mich and Noel Lajeunesse, having escorted their sister Louisa and her family to their destination, returned by prior plan to Fort Laramie and their own wives and children. They lived for the rest of their lives in the Platte Valley near Fort Fetterman, on the river about 50 miles east of Platte Bridge. Their brother Ed worked as a teamster near the South Pass mines.

The Lamoreaux, Lajeunesse and Ecoffey families settled for a time in Atlantic City, four miles north of South Pass City, where feeling against Native people was high in the wake of Sioux and Arapaho attacks on the South Pass miners. Eventually they all moved to the new town of Lander, successfully integrating themselves into white culture there.

Frank Ecoffey, one of the founding fathers of Lander, became the U.S. Army beef contractor for Camp Stambaugh and Fort Brown (later Fort Washakie). Eventually he and his family moved to the Pine Ridge reservation for Sioux in South Dakota to join Julia's people.

Jules Lamoreaux was elected the second mayor of Lander, and Woman Dress, in the midst of bearing and raising their 17 children, worked to improve the town. She was so respected that when she died in 1908, at about 63, Lander businesses closed in her honor. Their eldest, Lizzie, was voted the most popular girl in Lander five years after Crazy Horse and the ferocious Gall, her uncle, defeated Custer at the Little Bighorn in 1876. Lizzie married Ed Farlow, a local cowboy, and became president of the Pioneer Association, which built and operated the Pioneer Museum, now at 1443 Main Street in Lander. In 1913, Lizzie and Ed’s mixed-blood son, Stub, was photographed riding a bucking bronc, and this image was at least one of the models for the well-known Wyoming cowboy design on automobile license plates.

Will and Louisa Lajeunesse Boyd were legally married on Feb. 15, 1873, in Atlantic City, thus conforming to the mores of white culture. Will established a large ranch and also operated a business on Main Street in Lander. The Boyds built a house in Lander and hosted the town's first interdenominational Sunday school there. Nine of their children survived infancy, and in 1908 their son Will, Jr., traveled to Washington, D.C., as part of an official Shoshone/Arapaho delegation to defend tribal property against the U.S. government. Other Boyd children became active in tribal politics. Louisa who, in her late teens, had danced in High Backed Wolf's bloody shirt, was honored as the oldest Wind River valley pioneer before she died in 1927, at approximately age 79.

Thus, these three prominent mixed-blood families gained acceptance by their dual cultures and became leaders for both a fitting conclusion to a dangerous journey of a small wagon train, rescued by a courageous Sioux woman.

Interesting Facts About Wagon Train

Wagon Train is a western TV series which aired on NBC from 1957 to 1962 and on ABC from 1962 to 1965. It starred Ward Bond, John McIntire, Michael Burns, Robert Horton, Robert Fuller, Frank McGrath, Scott Miller, and Terry Wilson. The show became a big hit back in the days that’s why in this article, we are going to find out some facts about this famous western TV show during the 60s .

  • Wagon Train was inspired by a movie – It was a 1950s movie entitled Wagon Master which sparked the flames to create this iconic TV series. The said film was directed by John Ford and it starred Harry Carrey Jr, Ben Johnson, and also Wagon Train’s lead star, Ward Bond.
  • Wagon Train had a total of eight seasons – The western TV show had a total of eight seasons with 284 episodes that aired from September 18, 1957, to May 2, 1965.
  • The show helped promote colored TV sets – For most of its run, Wagon Train was in black-and-white but during the show’s fifth season in 1961 to 1962 in NBC, the network briefly aired five of the show’s episodes in colored to promote the sales of it RCA’s color television sets. But on its sixth season, the show returned to its original black-and-white format. Making it the first series that switch to color then revert to black and white.
  • Wagon Train had three theme songs – During the first season of the show, it had an instrumental theme song entitled “Wagon Train” which was written by Bob Russell and Henri Rene. The show introduced a fresh tune during the second season and it’s entitled “(Roll Along) Wagon Train” which was written by Jack Brooks and Sammy Fain and performed by Johnny O’Neill. The following season, Wagon Train introduced a new theme song entitled “Wagons Ho!” and this song stuck around the show until its final episode.
  • An episode in Wagon Train featured Ward Bond in crutches – This was after the actor suffered an injury in a car accident where he was hit by a car while he was on his way to John Wayne’s wedding. But this tough man didn’t let his friend down because he was still able to perform his best man duties on crutches.
  • Ward Bond was part of the approval process for Wagon Train’s scripts – Wagon Trains associate producer Frederic Shore happily recalls that they have to submit every script in advance to get the approval of the censors and NBC which included Ward Bond. He also said that Bond was the one that toned down the violence in the show and helped steered it in a family-friendly direction.
  • John Ford directed an episode of Wagon Train – Legendary director John Ford directed the season four episode of the show entitled “The Colter Craven Story.” Which became one of his few TV credits. Apparently, Ford used some footage from the movie Wagon Master as stock photos on the said episode.
  • Ronal Reagan’s made his last acting appearance on Wagon Train – Ronald Reagan was said to be winding down his acting career when he guested on Wagon Train’s episode two of season seven entitled “The Fort Pierce Story.” Two years after his guesting, Reagan announced that his campaign for governor of California.
  • Leonard Nimoy portrayed a Spanish man, a Native American, and Mexicans on Wagon Train – Before playing the role of Spock in Star Trek, Leonard Nimoy was seed as Cherokee Ned, Bernabe Zamora, Emerterio Vasquez, and Joaquin Delgado in four episodes of Wagon Train between 1959 and 1962.
  • Creator Gene Roddenberry pitched Star Trek as “Wagon Train to the stars” – The show’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, pitched and explained Star Trek to studio executives as “Wagon Train in space” and that powerful and promising line helped the studio executives to wrap their heads and interests around the irregular concept.
  • Ward Bond died midway through the show’s fourth season – Bond reportedly died of a heart attack on November 5, 1960, and during Wagon Train’s fourth season. The show gave no explanation for Major Adam’s disappearance and replaced him with John McIntire.

Those are some of the fun facts about Wagon Train that we gathered for you. Which one did you like the most?


SeasonEpisodesOriginally airedRankRating
First airedLast airedNetwork
139September 18, 1957 ( 1957-09-18 ) June 25, 1958 ( 1958-06-25 ) NBC2327.7
238October 1, 1958 ( 1958-10-01 ) June 24, 1959 ( 1959-06-24 ) 236.1
337September 30, 1959 ( 1959-09-30 ) June 22, 1960 ( 1960-06-22 ) 238.4
438September 28, 1960 ( 1960-09-28 ) June 21, 1961 ( 1961-06-21 ) 234.2
537September 7, 1961 ( 1961-09-07 ) June 13, 1962 ( 1962-06-13 ) 132.1
637September 19, 1962 ( 1962-09-19 ) June 5, 1963 ( 1963-06-05 ) ABC2522.0
732September 16, 1963 ( 1963-09-16 ) April 27, 1964 ( 1964-04-27 ) N/A N/A
826September 20, 1964 ( 1964-09-20 ) May 2, 1965 ( 1965-05-02 ) N/A N/A

Titles, credits, and air dates are taken from Wagon Train — The Television Series by James Rosin [10]

Season 1 (1957–58) Edit

Guest actors: Mark Stevens (Nels Stack). Joanne Dru. Kevin Hagen, Frank McGrath, John Day, Terry Wilson, Irene Corlett, Tom Selden, Charles Stevens, Dale Van Sickle, Bill Rae. Uncredited: Carol Henry.

Guest actors: Agnes Moorehead (Mary Halstead). Tom Pittman, Vaughn Taylor, Tom Laughlin, Walter Coy, Gregg Palmer, Jack Lambert, Robert Patten. Paul Sorenson, Frederick Ford, Terry Wilson, Frank McGrath, Craig Duncan, Ruth Lee, Fred Coby. Uncredited: Ted Mapes.

Guest actors: Nina Foch (Clara Beauchamp). Shepperd Strudwick. Richard Garland, Mike Ragan, Will J. White, Terry Wilson, Frank McGrath, Robert Swan. Irene Windust, Ellen Hardies, Robert Roark, John Merrick, Monte Blue, Robert Riordan. Uncredited: Carol Henry.

Guest actors: Keenan Wynn (Luke O'Malley).

Guest actors: George Montgomery (Jesse Cowan).

Guest actors: James Whitmore (Gabe Carswell).

Guest actors: Cesar Romero (Honorable Don Charlie).

Guest actors: Linda Darnell (Dora Gray).

Guest actors: Jeannie Carson (Annie MacGregor).

Guest actors: Macdonald Carey (Bill Tawnee).

Guest actors: Tom Tryon (Mark Hanford).

Guest actors: Debra Paget (Marie Dupree).

Season 2 (1958–59) Edit

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
401"Around the Horn"Herschel DaughertyTed SherdemanOctober 1, 1958 ( 1958-10-01 )
Guest stars Osa Massen, William Bendix, Ernest Borgnine
412"The Juan Ortega Story"David SwiftStory by : Frank Waldman
Teleplay by : David Swift, Peggy Shaw, Lou Shaw
October 8, 1958 ( 1958-10-08 )
Guest star Dean Stockwell
423"The Jennifer Churchill Story"Jerry HopperRobert Yale LibottOctober 15, 1958 ( 1958-10-15 )
Guest stars Rhonda Fleming, Andy Clyde
434"The Tobias Jones Story"Herschel DaughertyHarry Von Zell, Jeffrey ShorlingOctober 22, 1958 ( 1958-10-22 )
Guest star Lou Costello
445"The Liam Fitzmorgan Story"Herschel DaughertyRobert E. ThompsonOctober 28, 1958 ( 1958-10-28 )
Guest star Cliff Robertson
456"The Doctor Willoughby Story"Allen H. MinerHarry Von Zell, A. O. Van ZantNovember 15, 1958 ( 1958-11-15 )
Guest stars Jane Wyman, Alan Marshall
467"The Bije Wilcox Story"Abner BibermanDorothy M. Johnson, Milton KrimsNovember 19, 1958 ( 1958-11-19 )
Guest star Chill Wills, Onslow Stevens
478"The Millie Davis Story"Jerry HopperLeo TownsendNovember 26, 1958 ( 1958-11-26 )
Guest star Nancy Gates, Evelyn Rudie, James Coburn
489"The Sakae Ito Story"Herschel DaughertyGene L. CoonDecember 3, 1958 ( 1958-12-03 )
Guest star Sessue Hayakawa
4910"The Tent City Story"Richard BartlettNorman JolleyDecember 10, 1958 ( 1958-12-10 )
Guest stars Audrey Totter, Wayne Morris, Slim Pickens, Bill Henry
5011"The Beauty Jamison Story"Richard BartlettFrank L. MossDecember 17, 1958 ( 1958-12-17 )
Guest stars Virginia Mayo, Russell Johnson
5112"The Mary Ellen Thomas Story"Virgil W. VogelGene L. Coon, Harry W. JunkinDecember 24, 1958 ( 1958-12-24 )
Guest star Patty McCormack
5213"The Dick Richardson Story"David ButlerMartin Berkeley, Clark E. ReynoldsDecember 31, 1958 ( 1958-12-31 )
Guest stars John Ericson, Betty Lynn, Lyle Talbot
5314"The Kitty Angel Story"James NeilsonLeonard PraskinsJanuary 7, 1959 ( 1959-01-07 )
Guest stars Anne Baxter, Henry Hull
5415"The Flint McCullough Story"Allen H. MinerHarry Von Zell, E. Jack NeumanJanuary 14, 1959 ( 1959-01-14 )
Guest stars Rebecca Welles, Everett Sloane
5516"The Hunter Malloy Story"Allen H. MinerStory by : Thomas Thompson
Teleplay by : Gene L. Coon and Thomas Thompson
January 21, 1959 ( 1959-01-21 )
Guest stars Lloyd Nolan, Luana Patten, Troy Donahue
5617"The Ben Courtney Story"Abner BibermanGene L. Coon, Hendrik VollaertsJanuary 28, 1959 ( 1959-01-28 )
Guest stars Stephen McNally, John Larch, Judith Ames
5718"The Ella Lindstrom Story"Allen H. MinerAllen H. MinerFebruary 4, 1959 ( 1959-02-04 )
Guest star Bette Davis
5819"The Last Man"James NeilsonLarry MarcusFebruary 11, 1959 ( 1959-02-11 )
Guest star Dan Duryea
5920"The Old Man Charvanaugh Story"Virgil W. VogelArthur Browne, Jr.February 18, 1959 ( 1959-02-18 )
Guest star J. Carrol Naish
6021"The Annie Griffith Story"Jerry HopperKathleen HiteFebruary 25, 1959 ( 1959-02-25 )
Guest stars Jan Sterling, John Dehner
6122"The Jasper Cato Story"Arthur HillerRobert Yale LibottMarch 4, 1959 ( 1959-03-04 )
Guest star Brian Donlevy
6223"The Vivian Carter Story"Joseph PevneyPeggy Shaw, Lou ShawMarch 11, 1959 ( 1959-03-11 )
Guest stars Phyllis Thaxter, Patric Knowles, Lorne Greene, Jane Darwell
6324"The Conchita Vasquez Story"Aaron SpellingHarry Von ZellMarch 18, 1959 ( 1959-03-18 )
Guest star Anna Maria Alberghetti
6425"The Sister Rita Story"Joseph PevneyGerry DayMarch 25, 1959 ( 1959-03-25 )
Guest stars Vera Miles, Frances Bavier
6526"The Matthew Lowry Story"Jack ArnoldPaul DavidApril 1, 1959 ( 1959-04-01 )
Guest stars Richard Anderson, Cathleen Nesbitt, Dorothy Provine
6627"The Swift Cloud Story"Virgil W. VogelDonald S. SanfordApril 8, 1959 ( 1959-04-08 )
Guest star Rafael Campos, Henry Brandon
6728"The Vincent Eaglewood Story"Jerry HopperDavid SwiftApril 15, 1959 ( 1959-04-15 )
Guest star Wally Cox, Guinn Williams
6829"The Clara Duncan Story"Jerry HopperRichard Collins, Warren WilsonApril 22, 1959 ( 1959-04-22 )
Guest star Angie Dickinson
6930"The Duke LeMay Story"Virgil W. VogelRobert M. FrescoApril 29, 1959 ( 1959-04-29 )
Guest star Cameron Mitchell
7031"The Kate Parker Story"Tay GarnettLeonard PraskinsMay 6, 1959 ( 1959-05-06 )
Guest stars Virginia Gregg, Royal Dano
7132"The Steve Campden Story"Christian NybyRobert Yale LibottMay 13, 1959 ( 1959-05-13 )
Guest stars Ben Cooper, Torin Thatcher
7233"Chuck Wooster, Wagonmaster"Virgil W. VogelNat Tanchuck, Arthur Browne, Jr.May 20, 1959 ( 1959-05-20 )
Guest star Harry Carey Jr.
7334"The Jose Maria Moran Story"Tay GarnettPaul King, Joseph StoneMay 27, 1959 ( 1959-05-27 )
Guest stars Robert Loggia, Anthony Caruso
7435"The Andrew Hale Story"Virgil W. VogelJean HollowayJune 3, 1959 ( 1959-06-03 )
John McIntire in dual roles
7536"The Rodney Lawrence Story"Virgil W. VogelGerry DayJune 10, 1959 ( 1959-06-10 )
Guest star Dean Stockwell
7637"The Steele Family Story"Christian NybyJean HollowayJune 17, 1959 ( 1959-06-17 )
Guest star Lee Patrick
7738"The Jenny Tannen Story"Christian NybyKathleen HiteJune 24, 1959 ( 1959-06-24 )
Guest star Ann Blyth

Season 3 (1959–60) Edit

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
781"The Stagecoach Story"William WitneyJean HollowaySeptember 30, 1959 ( 1959-09-30 )
Guest stars Debra Paget, Clu Gulager
792"The Greenhorn Story"Bretaigne WindustJean HollowayOctober 7, 1959 ( 1959-10-07 )
Guest stars Mickey Rooney, Ellen Corby, Byron Foulger
803"The C.L. Harding Story"Herschel DaughertyStory by : Howard Christie & Jean Holloway
Teleplay by : Jean Holloway
October 14, 1959 ( 1959-10-14 )
Guest stars Claire Trevor
814"The Estaban Zamora Story"Bretaigne WindustHalsey MeloneOctober 21, 1959 ( 1959-10-21 )
Guest star Ernest Borgnine
825"The Elizabeth McQueeny Story"Allen H. MinerAllen H. MinerOctober 28, 1959 ( 1959-10-28 )
Guest star Bette Davis
836"The Martha Barnham Story"James NeilsonJames A. Parker, Howard Christie, Dale Eunson, Katherine EunsonNovember 4, 1959 ( 1959-11-04 )
Guest star Ann Blyth, Henry Brandon
847"The Cappy Darrin Story"Virgil W. VogelStanley KallisNovember 11, 1959 ( 1959-11-11 )
Guest star Ed Wynn
858"The Felizia Kingdom Story"Joseph PevneyLeonard Praskins, Sloan NibleyNovember 8, 1959 ( 1959-11-08 )
Guest star Judith Anderson
869"The Jess MacAbbee Story"David ButlerHoward Christie, James A. ParkerNovember 25, 1959 ( 1959-11-25 )
Guest stars Andy Devine, Glenda Farrell
8710"The Danny Benedict Story"Herschel DaughertyHarold SwantonDecember 2, 1959 ( 1959-12-02 )
Guest star Brandon deWilde, Onslow Stevens
8811"The Vittorio Bottecelli Story"Jerry HopperJean HollowayDecember 16, 1959 ( 1959-12-16 )
Guest stars Gustavo Rojo, Elizabeth Montgomery, Edgar Barrier
8912"The St. Nicholas Story"Bretaigne WindustJean HollowayDecember 23, 1959 ( 1959-12-23 )
Guest stars Elisabeth Fraser, Robert Emhardt, Henry Brandon, J.M. Kerrigan
9013"The Ruth Marshall Story"Richard H. BartlettJean HollowayDecember 30, 1959 ( 1959-12-30 )
Guest star Luana Patton
9114"The Lita Foladaire Story"Jerry HopperJean HollowayJanuary 6, 1960 ( 1960-01-06 )
Guest star Diane Brewster
9215"The Colonel Harris Story"Virgil W. VogelStory by : Virgil W. Vogel & Gene L. Coon
Teleplay by : Gene L. Coon
January 13, 1960 ( 1960-01-13 )
Guest star John Howard
9316"The Maidie Brandt Story"Virgil W. VogelMilton KrimsJanuary 20, 1960 ( 1960-01-20 )
Guest star Jean Hagen
9417"The Larry Hanify Story"Ted PostHarold SwantonJanuary 27, 1960 ( 1960-01-27 )
Guest star Tommy Sands, Pierre Watkin
9518"The Clayton Tucker Story"Virgil W. VogelStory by : George Shorling
Teleplay by : Thomas Thompson
February 10, 1960 ( 1960-02-10 )
Guest star Jeff Morrow
9619"The Benjamin Burns Story"Virgil W. VogelGene L. Coon, Virgil W. VogelFebruary 17, 1960 ( 1960-02-17 )
Guest stars J. Carrol Naish, James Franciscus
9720"The Ricky and Laura Bell Story"Allen H. MinerAllen H. MinerFebruary 24, 1960 ( 1960-02-24 )
Guest stars June Lockhart, James Gregory
9821"The Tom Tuckett Story"Herschel DaughertyJean Holloway
based on Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
March 2, 1960 ( 1960-03-02 )
Guest stars Ben Cooper, Robert Middleton
9922"The Tracy Sadler Story"Ted PostStory by : Norman Jolley & Eric Norden
Teleplay by : Norman Jolley
March 9, 1960 ( 1960-03-09 )
Guest star Peter Lorre
10023"The Alexander Portlass Story"Jerry HopperLeonard Praskin & Dick NelsonMarch 16, 1960 ( 1960-03-16 )
Guest star Peter Lorre
10124"The Christine Elliot Story"Herschel DaughertyJean HollowayMarch 23, 1960 ( 1960-03-23 )
Guest star Phyllis Thaxter, Henry Daniell
10225"The Joshua Gilliam Story"Virgil W. VogelStory by : Ralph Winters
Teleplay by : Gene L. Coon
March 30, 1960 ( 1960-03-30 )
Guest star Dan Duryea
10326"The Maggie Hamilton Story"Allen H. MinerAllen H. MinerApril 6, 1960 ( 1960-04-06 )
Guest star Susan Oliver
10427"The Jonas Murdock Story"Virgil W. VogelNorman JolleyApril 13, 1960 ( 1960-04-13 )
Guest star Noah Beery Jr.
10528"The Amos Gibbon Story"Joseph PevneyGene L. CoonApril 20, 1960 ( 1960-04-20 )
Guest star Charles Aidman
106 10729 30"Trial for Murder"Virgil W. VogelJean HollowayApril 27, 1960 ( 1960-04-27 ) May 4, 1960 ( 1960-05-04 )
Guest stars Henry Hull, Marshall Thompson, Henry Daniell
10831"The Countess Baranof Story"Ted PostStory by : Lee Karson
Teleplay by : Norman Jolley
May 11, 1960 ( 1960-05-11 )
Guest star Taina Elg
10932"The Dick Jarvis Story"Jerry HopperFloyd BurtonMay 18, 1960 ( 1960-05-18 )
Guest stars Tom Nolan, Bobby Diamond
11033"The Dr. Swift Cloud Story"Virgil W. VogelFloyd BurtonMay 25, 1960 ( 1960-05-25 )
Guest star Rafael Campos, Henry Brandon
11134"The Luke Grant Story"Christian NybyDonald GordonJune 1, 1960 ( 1960-06-01 )
Guest stars Joan O'Brien, Donald Woods
11235"The Charlene Brenton Story"Virgil W. VogelFloyd BurtonJune 8, 1960 ( 1960-06-08 )
Guest star Sean McClory
11336"The Sam Livingston Story"Joseph PevneyHarold SwantonJune 15, 1960 ( 1960-06-15 )
Guest stars Charles Drake, Onslow Stevens
11437"The Shad Bennington Story"Joseph PevneyFred CassidyJune 22, 1960 ( 1960-06-22 )
Guest star David Wayne

Season 4 (1960–61) Edit

Season 5 (1961–62) Edit

This was the last season to air on NBC. Some season 5 episodes were shown in color.

Elijah Elliot’s Lost Wagon Train

Elijah Elliot promised a wagon train of 1,000 men and women that his route to Oregon would save them time and energy. He actually had never seen the route.

By 1853, many travelers had emigrated west via the Oregon Trail. The next step was making the route easier and creating new destinations. Entrepreneurs in the Willamette Valley of Oregon started one such venture. Some businessmen commissioned John Diamond, W. M. Macy, Joseph Meadows, Alexander A. King, W. T. Walter, J. Clarke, William Tandy, and Elijah Elliot to explore the middle fork of the Willamette River for a route over the Cascade Mountains. The route would leave the Oregon Trail at Nyssa on the Oregon border and travel west through the Bend area to end at Eugene, 75 miles further south than the end of the main trail.

While Diamond and his friends blazed the new trail, Elliot traveled east along the Columbia River. He arrived at Boise to meet a wagon train that was bringing his family to Oregon. Elliot bragged about the new route, claiming it would cut three hundred miles off their trip. He said it would be easier since there weren’t as many mountains and a milder climate. He claimed there was plenty of grass for the animals. What he didn’t tell them was that he had never seen the route they would travel. Lured by the promise of an earlier arrival in the Willamette Valley, approximately 250 wagons carrying 1,000 people decided to take a chance on Elliot.

Elliot struck west about September 1, 1853. For the first few days, he led the wagons over the same route followed by Stephen Meek, another pioneer trailblazer. This part of the trip was uneventful, though the travelers did have to cross the Malheur River several times. By the fourth day the travelers were making good time and passed Harper and then Westfall.

At first there was ample grass along the river. But after few days, the route turned rough and rocky. There was very little water. In some places they had to double-team the oxen to haul the wagons. Yoked oxen dropped in their tracks and refused to travel further. When the wagon train reached Malheur Lake, Elliot led the wagons around the lake to the south. Unfortunately, marshes lined the route making it slippery and soggy. The wagons were delayed for several days getting through this area.

Once they passed the lake, they struggled across a dry desert. Many streams were dried up. The livestock collapsed and died from dehydration or wandered off and never came back. Some travelers abandoned their heavy furniture and family heirlooms to lighten the load.

Elliot headed toward Diamond Peak, but didn’t reach it until October 2. Unfortunately, the road he expected to be built was not there. Several problems with the developers delayed work on the eastbound road. So the pioneers had to hack their way through the forest. The emigrants quickly used all their remaining staples. The game was quickly disappearing. Though there were edible plants, the emigrants were afraid to try any of them. Everything not needed for survival was abandoned to lighten the load for the remaining animals. It wasn’t long before they abandoned the wagons. Each person took what he or she could carry.

Elliot sensed the desperation of the situation and sent out another scouting party. Martin Blanding made it to a town named Lowell, a few miles southeast of Eugene. A young boy discovered the exhausted man collapsed in a field. Men from Lowell organized a rescue party.

The emigrants were too weak to travel right away, so the rescuers returned to Lowell several times for food. When the emigrants recovered some strength, they followed their rescuers to Lowell. Despite the arduous journey, about 1,000 people, 4,000 cattle, and 2,000 other livestock animals were alive to be rescued.

'Wagon Train' had three theme songs.

The instrumental first season theme "Wagon Train" was written by Henri René and Bob Russell. The following season, a fresh tune was introduced, "(Roll Along) Wagon Train," written by Sammy Fain and Jack Brooks and sung by Johnny O'Neill. Halfway through the season, the vocals were scrapped. The following year, yet another theme, "Wagons Ho!," would be introduced. That one stuck around until the end. We are fans of the vocal version. How about you?

Wagon Train - History

Wagon Train: The Willy Moran Story

Wagon Train is an American Western series that ran on NBC 1957 – 1962 and then on ABC 1962 – 1965, although the network also aired daytime repeats, as Major Adams, Trailmaster and Trailmaster (post-1961 episodes without original series lead Ward Bond), from January 1963 to September 1965. The show debuted at #15 in the Nielsen ratings, rose to #2 in the next three seasons, and peaked at #1 in the 1961-62 television season. After moving to ABC in the autumn of 1962, the ratings began to decline, and Wagon Train did not again make the Top 20 listing. The series initially starred veteran movie supporting actor Ward Bond as the wagon master, later replaced upon his death by John McIntire, and Robert Horton as the scout, subsequently replaced by lookalike Robert Fuller a year after Horton had decided to leave the series. The series was inspired by the 1950 film Wagon Master directed by John Ford and starring Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr. and Ward Bond, and harkens back to the early widescreen wagon train epic The Big Trail (1930) starring John Wayne and featuring Bond in his first major screen appearance playing a supporting role. Horton’s buckskin outfit as the scout in the first season of the television series resembles Wayne’s, who also played the wagon train’s scout in the earlier film.

Wagon Train is an American Western series that ran on NBC 1957–62 and then on ABC 1962–65, although the network also aired daytime repeats, as Major Adams, Trailmasterand Trailmaster (post-1961 episodes without original series lead Ward Bond), from January 1963 to September 1965. The show debuted at #15 in the Nielsen ratings, rose to #2 in the next three seasons, and peaked at #1 in the 1961–62 television season. After moving to ABC in the autumn of 1962, the ratings began to decline, and Wagon Train did not again make the Top 20 listing.

The series initially starred veteran movie supporting actor Ward Bond as the wagon master, later replaced upon his death by John McIntire, and Robert Horton as the scout, subsequently replaced by lookalike Robert Fuller a year after Horton had decided to leave the series.

The series was inspired by the 1950 film Wagon Master directed by John Ford and starring Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr. and Ward Bond, and harkens back to the early widescreen wagon train epic The Big Trail (1930) starring John Wayne and featuring Bond in his first major screen appearance playing a supporting role. Horton’s buckskin outfit as the scout in the first season of the television series resembles Wayne’s, who also played the wagon train’s scout in the earlier film.

The show chronicles the adventures of a wagon train as it makes its way from Missouri to California. There were 284 episodes in 8 seasons: the first aired on September 18, 1957, and the final segment was broadcast on May 2, 1965. Some of the actors appearing onWagon Train included Ward Bond as wagon master Major Seth Adams (seasons 1–4),Robert Horton as scout Flint McCullough (seasons 1–5), John McIntire as wagon master Christopher Hale (seasons 4–8), Robert Fuller as scout Cooper Smith (seasons 7–8), Denny Scott Miller as Duke Shannon (seasons 5–7), Michael Burns as Barnaby West (seasons 4–8), Frank McGrath as Charlie Wooster (cook, seasons 1–8), and Terry Wilsonas Bill Hawks (seasons 1-8). McIntire replaced Bond as wagon master upon Bond’s death at age 57, and Fuller replaced Horton as scout a season after Horton opted to depart, an obvious choice since Fuller had already played a lead in another western series (Laramieon NBC) and physically resembled Horton. Horton and Fuller even shared the same birthday, albeit nine years apart.

Ward Bond was billed above Robert Horton in the opening credits, but Horton was later billed above relative newcomer John McIntire, and McIntire and Fuller rotated top billing from episode to episode when Fuller joined the series in the seventh season. During the sixth season, Horton had left and Fuller had not yet replaced him, so McIntire carried the show with the supporting cast. Neither Bond nor McIntire, both veterans of dozens of supporting roles in films, routinely played the lead in theatrical films, although Bond did in at least one B-picture. Rivals Bond and Horton frequently quarreled on the set, an extensively publicized development at the time, lending an element of verisimilitude to their disputes within the episodes themselves.

The series aired for most of its run in black-and-white, except for five color episodes (October 4, 1961 – Polly Bergen – “Kitty Albright Story”, November 1, 1961 – Carolyn Jones – “Jenna Douglas Story”, December 6, 1961 – Dana Wynter – “Lizabeth Ann Calhoun Story”, February 7, 1962 – Gary Clarke – “Lonnie Fallon Story”, and March 14, 1962 – Paul Fix – “Amos Billings Story”) during the fifth season (1961–62) on NBC (to help promote the sales of parent company RCA’s color television sets). The series returned to its original black-and-white format for the remainder of its run on ABC, damaging the ratings, until its final season in 1964, when it again began to telecast its episodes in color. (ABC did not begin broadcasting in color until 1964.)

The series used the cut-down, shortened wagons common to television series budgets, as opposed to the full-length oxen-drawn Conestoga wagons prominent in a forerunner of the show, the 1930 wagon train film The Big Trail, which features 27-year-old Ward Bond (occasionally film clips from Hollywood movies, showing a train of Conestogas, were edited into the episodes).

    as Major Seth Adams (1957–61, seasons 1–4). Bond died of a heart attack at age 57 on November 5, 1960, in the middle of the fourth season, and was replaced by John McIntire as wagon master. No explanation was ever given on the show. as Flint McCullough (1957–62, seasons 1–5). as Christopher Hale (1961–65, seasons 4-8). McIntire had guest starred in a Season 3 episode in the role of Andrew Hale. as Cooper Smith (1963–65, seasons 7–8). Fuller and McIntire rotated top billing from week to week on the series. as Charlie Wooster (1957–65, seasons 1–8). as Bill Hawks (1957–65, seasons 1–8). as Barnaby West (1960–65, seasons 6–8). asDuke Shannon (1961–64, seasons 5–7).

Notable Guest Stars

    carried the lead in “The Conchita Vasquez Story” (1959), cast as part of a gang of Comancheros who intend to attack the wagon train to steal rifles headed to the United States Army. Conchita decides to leave the Comancheros and move west after she falls in love with the scout Flint McCullough, but she is killed by bullet from her own people when they ambush the wagon train.
    appeared in the 1958 episode “The Sacramento Story” in his later familiar role of “Old Timer”. appeared during the show’s first four episodes appeared as Martha Leeds in “The Annie Duggan Story” (1963), credited as Sally Bliss , as Will Rudge in “The Levi Hale Story” (1962), as Sheriff Lund in “The Lily Legend Story” and as Henry Ludlow in “The Antone Rose Story” (both 1963) , in the second season, played a sea captain who had shanghaied Adams and Wooster in “Around the Horn”. and Roger Smith, five months before he was cast on 77 Sunset Strip, appear in “The Daniel Barrister Story”, which aired on April 16, 1958 (Season 1, Episode 29). In this segment, Daniel Barrister, played by Bickford, objects to medical treatment for his wife, Jenny, the victim of a wagon accident. Meanwhile, Dr. Peter H. Culver, played by Smith, has successfully fought a smallpox epidemic in a nearby town. He is brought to the wagon train by scout Flint McCullough to treat Mrs. Barrister. Viewers never know if Barrister yielded to allow Dr. Culver to treat Jenny.
    appeared in “The Dr. Denker Story”, season five, episode 14, in the role of a traveling musician who is transporting a mysterious shipment of dynamite to San Francisco for the United States Army. appeared five times on Wagon Train, including twice as “Willy Moran.” In the pilot episode on September 18, 1957, Borgnine’s Moran is revealed as a former boxer consumed by alcoholism but seeking sobriety. Michael Winkelman guest starred as young “Ben Palmer” in this episode, as he was beginning his regular role as Little Luke McCoy on ABC’s The Real McCoys.On October 1, 1958, Borgnine reprised the role of Willy Moran in the episode “Around the Horn.” Major Adams had fought with Moran at the Battle of Gettysburg.
    , appeared as Louis Roque in “The Jose Morales Story”, Season 4, episode 5.
    and Beulah Bondi highlight “The Prairie Story”, written by Jean Holloway, which examines how the forbidden prairie, particularly the strong wind, plays havoc on the lives of the women on the wagon train. This theme is also examined in the novelThe Wind by Dorothy Scarborough. Robert Horton carries the lead in this episode which aired on February 1, 1961, three months after the death of Ward Bond.
    appeared as the title character in one of his last roles, “The Tobias Jones Story” (1958). It was written by Harry Von Zell, the announcer and comedian from the Burns and Allen television series, who also appeared in that episode. Von Zell also appeared in the 1964 episode “The Link Cheney Story”. , one of the narrators of the 1955-56 Frontieranthology series on NBC, appeared five times on Wagon Train between 1957 and 1964. , child actor best known for his role as Mark McCain on The Rifleman, appeared in “The Sally Potter Story” (1958). guest-starred in “The Link Cheney Story” (1964). , then a child actor, appeared in the episode “The Greenhorn Story”. He was later a regular on Room for One More and The New Phil Silvers Show. guest starred in “The Dora Gray Story” (January 29, 1958) as an attractive young woman trying to reach San Francisco. Dora is traveling west with an unsavory peddler, played by John Carradine, who is selling guns to the Indians. Robert Horton carries this episode, with Mike Connors and Dan Blocker portraying corrupt U.S. Army officers.
    appeared in three episodes as different characters as Bettina May (1961), Ella Lindstrom (1959) and Madame Elizabeth McQueeney (1959). played the title character in “The Cassie Vance Story” episode. plays the lead in “The Isaiah Quickfox Story” (January 31, 1965), a mystery set in a ghost town amid a stunning bat cave. Andrew Prine and John Doucette guest star in the roles of Eric Camden and Bert Enders, respectively. Cast members Robert Fuller and Frank McGrath carry this episode.
    portrays the lead role in “The Clara Duncan Story” (1959). played the title character in the 1964 episode, “The Link Cheney Story.”
  • Guest stars Dan Duryea and Jane Wyman with John McIntire, 1962. made seven appearances on the series, his first role being that of the title character in “The Cliff Grundy Story”, broadcast on December 25, 1957. Cliff Grundy, an old friend of Flint McCullough’s, joins with the Wagon Train in time for a Buffalo hunt. After an accident, Cliff and Flint are stranded in the wild, trying to survive until they can reach a small town. This was one of Dan Duryea’s rare “sympathetic” roles, and one that he would reprise for the final Wagon Train episode of the same season. In his fourth appearance on Wagon Train, he played a mentally unstable man obsessed by demons and superstitions in “The Bleymier Story”, broadcast November 16, 1960, eleven days after the death of Ward Bond. Samuel Bleymier opposes the interest shown to his daughter, Belle, portrayed by Elen Willard, by a young pioneer, Justin Claiborne, played by James Drury, some two years before the start of his The Virginian series. The episode is filmed mostly in the dark or during heavy rains, high winds, and a cyclone and involves pioneers passing through a Sioux burial ground. appeared three times. In 1961 she was featured in “The Jenna Douglas Story” with guest star Carolyn Jones. In 1962 she was featured in “The Amos Billings Story” guest-starrng Paul Fix. And in 1964 she appeared in support of Joseph Wiseman in “The Santiago Quesada Story.” appeared twice in the 1957 episodes “The John Cameron Story” and “The Julia Gage Story.” appeared in the lead in 1957 in “The Les Rand Story”, and James Philbrook had a minor role in the same episode. appeared as the title character in “The Clara Beauchamp Story.” appeared as different characters in two Season 3 episodes. appeared as Major Adams’ country cousin in “The Horace Best Story”, the Season 4 premiere episode. appeared in “The Christine Elliot Story” (1960). appeared as Dr. Quinn in “The Dan Hogan Story” (1958). appeared three times on Wagon Train as Lansing in “The Willy Moran Story” (1957) and as Claymore in “The Nels Stack Story” (1957) and “The Annie MacGregory Story” (1958). appeared three times on Wagon Train in 1962 and 1963: “The Daniel Clay Story”, “The Wagon Train Mutiny”, and in the title role “The Tom O’Neal Story”, with Myron Healey cast as his father. appeared in the title guest-starring role in “The Clay Shelby Story” in December 1964. Celia Kaye played Ann Shelby, and Richard Carlson and Mort Mills were cast as military officers. , a child actor, appeared in March 1964 as Benjie Diel in the 75-minute episode “The Ben Engel Story.” , another child actor, appeared three times on Wagon Train, including the role of Danny Blake in “Those Who Stay Behind”, along with Peter Brown and Bruce Dern (November 8, 1964). appeared as the title character in “The Emmett Lawton Story,” March 1963.
    , as Padre in “The Don Alvarado Story”, June 21, 1961, with Ed Nelson as Sheriff Donovan
    appeared as the title character in “The Geneva Balfour Story,” which was originally broadcast on January 20, 1964.
    and her husband, Robert Sterling, play a couple with an unusual “half-marriage” courtship arrangement brought about by an attack of the fever in the episode “The Julie Gage Story”, the fourteenth episode of the series broadcast on December 18, 1957.
    and Susan Oliver in the title role appear in the November 9, 1960, episode “The Cathy Eckhardt Story”, with Johnson cast as Will Eckhardt.
    appeared ten times, not in the lead role of an episode.
    appeared during the show’s first four episodes. appeared five times on Wagon Train, his last as a lieutenant in “The Sandra Cummings Story” (1963). appeared as Albert Farnsworth in “The Albert Farnsworth Story”. (1960) as the title character in “The Alexander Portlass Story” (March 1960). appeared in three episodes: as Maj. Barham in “The Martha Barham Story” (NBC, 1959), as T.J. Gingle in “The John Turnbull Storey” (NBC, 1962) and as the Rev. Philip Marshall in “The Myra Marshall Story” (ABC, 1963), with Suzanne Pleshette in the title role. appeared as Mexican bandit Jose Morales in the Season 4 episode “The Jose Morales Story.” After 20 episodes he appeared as newly hired wagonmaster Jud Benedict in the Season 4 episode that introduced the Chris Hale character, “The Christopher Hale Story.”
    appeared six times on Wagon Train, including a two-part 1960 episode “Trial for Murder.” played the title character in “The Nancy Palmer Story” (1961). appeared three times: as Martha Williams in “The Conchita Vasquez Story” (1959), as Rheba Polke in “The Jed Polke Story” and as Melaine in “The Artie Matthewson Story” (both 1961). appeared in the title role of “A Man Called Horse” (season one, ep 26, trans March 26, 1958) in a story that served as the basis for the Richard Harris film A Man Called Horse a decade later. guest starred in “The Grover Allen Story” (1964). , African-American prizefighter, appeared as a cowboy in “The Geneva Balfour Story,” which was originally broadcast on January 20, 1964.
    appeared three times: as Ben Denike in “The Vincent Eaglewood Story” with Wally Cox in the title role (1959), as Curly Horse in “The Martha Barham Story” with Ann Blyth (1959) and as Jake in “The Myra Marshall Story.” appeared as the title character in the second episode of the series, entitle “The Jean LeBec Story.” appeared in four episodes—twice as a Mexican, once as an Indian and once as one of three Spanish brothers.
  • Prolific western actor Gregg Palmer appeared in three episodes: as Groton in “The Mary Halstead Story” (1957), as Paul Dawson in “The Riley Gratton Story” (1957) and as Raleigh in “The Jose Morales Story” (1960). appeared as Jed Otis in the 1959 episode “The Matthew Lowry Story.” , in one of his final acting roles prior to his entering politics, played Capt. Paul Winters in the seventh-season episode “The Fort Pierce Story,” first broadcast in September 1963. appeared during the show’s first four episodes. guest starred as “greenhorn” Samuel T. Evans in “The Greenhorn Story” (1959) and “Wagons Ho! (1960).” guest-starred in “The Link Cheney Story” (1964). guest-starred in “The Mavis Grant Story” (1962). and Paul Stader guest-starred in “The Link Cheney Story” (1964). played the lead in “The Ah Chong Story,” the tale of an ebullient Chinese cook who joins the wagon train with a rickshaw. Ah Chong produces higher quality and more reliable food service than Charlie Wooster, who has become arrogant because of success at poker playing. Ah Chong introduces wagonmaster Chris Hale and his assistant, Bill Hawks, to bird nest soup. Wooster soon sees Ah Chong as a threat in both cooking and poker and hurls insults at him. Frank Ferguson played a sheriff at the beginning of this episode, which aired near the end of the fourth season on June 14, 1961.
    guest starred in “The Kate Crawley Story” (1964). appeared in four episodes, including “The Rodney Lawrence Story” (June 10, 1959), in which he portrays a young white man who had been reared by a lone Indian after the massacre of his parents by whites. When the wagon train passes through, the Indian urges Rodney to rejoin his people. Quickly, though, he is falsely accused of theft and murder but solicits the scout Flint McCullough to clear his name. Meanwhile, he is attracted to a young white woman, Mandy McCrea, played by Cynthia Chenault. Roger Mobley plays Lawrence as a child in a flashback.
    played mountain man Jim Bridger in “The Jim Bridger Story”. Francis De Sales also appeared in the episode as Mark. was cast in the title role of “The Christine Elliott Story” (1960), in which a young woman takes a group of orphan boys, who had previously lived in her late father’s orphanage, to a new life in the West. Don Grady and Gary Hunley also appear in this episode. appeared in the lead role in “The Malachi Hobart Story” as a traveling preacher who loses confidence in his own Christian message. appeared as Tommy Peeks in “The Swift Cloud Story,” with Rafael Campos in the 1959 title role, and as Ron Pearson in “The Beth Pearson Story”, with Virginia Grey in the 1961 title role. appeared briefly in a long shot in the episode directed by John Ford, “The Coulter Craven Story”, in which he portrays General William Tecumseh Sherman. In this episode, Wayne is billed under the pseudonym “Michael Morris”, a reference to his real name, Marion Michael Morrison. Several other regulars from The John Ford Stock Company also appeared. This episode was shown 18 days after Ward Bond’s death, and is the only episode in this series directed by Ford. Wayne also played Sherman under Ford’s direction in the movie How the West Was Won and was billed as “Michael Morris” for a Ford-directed cameo in the James Stewart television anthology show Flashing Spikes (1962). appeared during the show’s first four episodes.
  • Vera Miles portrays the lead role in “The Sister Rita Story” guest-starred in “The Link Cheney Story” (1964) and “The Tobias Jones Story” (1958). guest-starred in “The Michael Malone Story” (1964) as Mitchell. guest-starred as Quent Loomis in “The Melanie Craig Story”, with Myrna Fahey in the title role (1964).
  • The episode “Alias Bill Hawks”, available on DVD, is a story of townspeople covering for a murder and trying to dig a needed artesian well. Terry Wilson, as the real “Bill Hawks,” arrives to put the puzzle together. Ed Nelson guest stars.

Economic Expansion

As the economy of the United States expanded and immigrants moved into the country, demand grew enormously for new land and resources to feed the growing economy and accommodate the expanding population. Food, timber, fur, minerals, water power and more drove dramatic expansion west where pioneers farmed, mined, constructed and hunted to provide the many resources needed by the growing population both in the East and in the newly expanding Western Territories.

Old and brand new towns like Cincinnati, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Chicago, St.Louis, Kansas City, Minneapolis and more grew dramatically as people moved west to settle down and find their fortune. The Midwestern and Mid Southern region around the Mississippi and Ohio River areas of the U.S. fed the Eastern U.S. with food, timber, minerals and more to help the seemingly unending economic growth.

The migration of pioneers had pushed the American frontier to the Mississippi Valley by the 1830s. Traders, explorers and missionaries who traveled further west described of fertile valleys, great forests and abundant farming, mining and hunting opportunities in the Oregon, California, Missouri frontiers and other western regions west of the Mississippi River.

From the 1840s to the 1860s more than 300,000 pioneers crossed the plains and mountains of the West along various routes such as the Oregon and Santa Fe trails.

The California Gold Rush (1848–1855) which began on January 24, 1848, when gold was discovered by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California, accelerated the westward migration. Soon the discovery of other valuable minerals such as silver, lead, nickel, iron ore and more added to the frenzy of people moving west to make their fortunes.

Wagon Train

Photograph of a scene during the 1989 Centennial Wagon Train from Kansas to Guthrie, OK.

Physical Description

1 photograph : col. 18 x 24 mm.

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This photograph is part of the collection entitled: Jim Argo Collection and was provided by the Oklahoma Historical Society to The Gateway to Oklahoma History, a digital repository hosted by the UNT Libraries. More information about this photograph can be viewed below.

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Oklahoma Historical Society

In 1893, members of the Oklahoma Territory Press Association formed the Oklahoma Historical Society to keep a detailed record of Oklahoma history and preserve it for future generations. The Oklahoma History Center opened in 2005, and operates in Oklahoma City.

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Photograph of a scene during the 1989 Centennial Wagon Train from Kansas to Guthrie, OK.

Physical Description

1 photograph : col. 18 x 24 mm.

Item Type


Unique identifying numbers for this photograph in the Gateway or other systems.

  • Accession or Local Control No: 23389.81.175
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc1652936


This photograph is part of the following collection of related materials.

Jim Argo Collection

Spanning the years 1950 to 2008, this collection of more than 50,000 images covers communities across Oklahoma, along with their events, scenery, buildings, art, businesses, industries, and people. Photojournalist Jim Argo co-authored three books on Oklahoma and contributed photographs to another fourteen. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame in 1997.

Watch the video: Wagon Train 1957 - 1965 Opening and Closing Theme


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