Well, I’m still traveling along the Oregon Trail with my characters. Talk about a long journey. It took at least five months to travel from Independence, Missouri to Oregon City, Oregon. That’s a long time to be on a trail. There weren’t many places to stop along the way. That meant the pioneers had to bring their supplies with them. So, what did they need to pack? Here’s a list of the basic items most families packed in their covered wagon.
- FOOD, of course. The recommended amount of food varied from source to source. In general, the following was considered ideal for on adult. 150 pounds of flour, 20 pounds of corn meal, 50 pounds of bacon, 40 pounds of sugar, 10 pounds of coffee and 50 pounds of lard. Sacks of beans, rice and dried fruit were also recommended, as well as tea. Eggs were packed in cornmeal, which was then used to make bread. The usual meal was bacon, beans and coffee, with biscuits or bread. Cooking along the trail was done over a campfire. Fuels used were wood, buffalo chips, willow or sagebrush. Flint and steel were used to start fires.
- CLOTHING. Each person had at least two changes of clothes and multiple pairs of boots. About 25 pounds of soap was recommended for a party of four, which was used for bathing and washing clothes. A family brought a washboard and tub. Wash days were only once or twice or month.
- WAGONS. Pioneers needed goods to survive and thus a way to transport these goods. Most used a covered wagon called an overland wagon or Prairie Schooner. Wagons were built 6 feet wide and 12 feet long and caried no mroe than 2,500 pounds of goods. Despite modern movie depictions, the wagons had no springs and were quite uncomfortable. Most people chose to walk due to dust and discomfort. It was also hard on the livestock.
- ANIMALS. Oxen generally pulled the wagons, primarily because they could eat the native grasses. Large wagons needed mulitple teams.
- OTHER items taken on the trail included farm implements, cooking utensils, bedding, tools, personal possessions such as books, Bibles, trail guides, writing quills, ink and paper for letters. Schoolbooks and chamber pots were considered luxury items.
There were many more items loaded on the wagons, but I think you get a good idea what the pioneers brought with them on their journey. Don’t know about you, but the idea of only washing clothes once or twice a month makes me cringe. Personally, I would have come up with a way to bring along more than two changes of clothes. I would also make sure I had books (duh!) to read, especially my Bible.
What about you? What item would you want along? Leave a comment and I’ll enter you in a drawing for your choice of books from my backlist.