"Wagons, Ho!" by Agnes Alexander

Agnes AlexanderThe first time I visited the states west of the Mississippi I knew I’d one day write a book set in that beautiful country.  At the time I was immersed in raising my daughter, working as a human resource manager and writing short stories and articles for the local newspaper, children’s Sunday school papers and regional magazines. I even wrote and sold three children’s books based on the work I did at my church with young people.  But the idea of writing novels stayed in the back of my mind.
Fiona's_JourneyFinally, I decided I’d waited long enough. I began writing novels. Three of those first attempts still rest in my desk drawer, but I sold my fourth manuscript – a mystery. Thirteen more mystery, romantic suspense, and mainstream books followed. Then I joined RWA and Carolina Romance Writers where I sat across the table from my idol and fellow member, Harold Lowery (aka Leigh Greenwood).  To say I was awed, is putting it mildly. He remarkedthat people should write what they like to read most. Well, I had not only read everything he’d published, I’d read some of them twice and three times.
RenaCowboy_smI came home, put my mystery writing on hold, pulled out all the pictures from my three vacations in the west. I then took a trip to my favorite used bookstore and bought stacks of western romance novels by a variety of authors. In three months I’d read 200 novels and felt I had a grip on what publishers wanted. Satisfied I knew what to do, I sat down and wrote my first western historical romance. It was a time travel western that didn’t sell at the time, but I wasn’t deterred. I looked through my notes and saw I had a lot of information on wagon trains. I also remembered ‘Western the Women,’ one of my favorite movies, and felt I had to write a novel about pioneers going west.
The large Conestoga wagons were too long and heavy to make the trip so the prairie schooner became the wagon of choice. Many of the immigrants traveling westconverted their farm wagons into ones that could make the trip. Oxen were recommended to pull these wagons because they had no trouble eating the different grasses, though some families chose mules and others horses. One of the most interesting items in my research was the list that many wagon masters put together about what a family needed in the way of food, clothing, and tools to make this journey.
camillaCOVERFood recommended for each adult: 150 pounds of flour, 20 pounds of corn meal, 50 pounds of bacon, 40 pounds of sugar, 10 pounds of coffee, 5 pounds of salt, 5 pounds of rice, 15 pounds of dried fruit and 15 pounds of dried beans. For each child: 1/2 to 2/3 of an adult portion.Many travelers added their favorite foods such as tea, potatoes, dried vegetables and other items. Some brought along a cow for milk to drink and butter, which was churned in a barrel tied to the side of the wagon as the vehicle swayed and bounced along the trail.
Clothing: Each person brought at least two changes of clothes and undergarments, multiple pairs of boots (two to three pairs often wore out on the trip because most people walked). Wool was recommended because it held up well and deflected the sun better than cotton. A sewing kit was a must because items tended to wear out or get torn.
Other necessities were rifles, hand guns, knives, tobacco, ropes, tents, tin dishes, soap, simple cooking utensils, bedding, matches, and medical supplies such as herbs, whiskey, and simple remedies.
Costs could run between $600 and $1,000 to outfit a wagon for this journey.
The book I wrote about the Oregon Trail is Fiona’s Journey, whichcame out in 2012 and was my first published western romance. I now have six western romances published and hope to write many more since I feel I’ve found my place in the writing world.
I love hearing from readers. You can contact me at my websiteor by email at agnesalexander100@gmail.com.


Thank you for inviting me to write a blog for Petticoats & Pistols. To show my appreciation I’m offering an autographed print copy of Fiona’s Journey, Rena’s Cowboy (the time-travel I mention above and my latest novel Camilla’s Daughters for drawings. Just leave a comment to be entered.
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36 thoughts on “"Wagons, Ho!" by Agnes Alexander”

  1. Hi Agnes,

    Interesting background on your success. What dedication, perseverance and love of writing! I’m glad you found your niche.

    I’m amazed families could come up with the money $600-$1000 to “outfit” their trip out West. Plus the wagon and horses to pull it. These were certainly brave, determined people, gambling on getting a new start out West!

  2. Some interesting facts! It must have taken a lot of courage to make the decision to move west. The many pairs of boots I understand, but I’d need more than two changes of clothing! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Welcome, Agnes! We’re so thrilled to have you visit with us. Love this information about the wagon trains. Fascinating. I cannot believe how much it cost for a person or family to head west. Even the $600 it took to outfit a wagon was an exorbitant cost for most people when the yearly wage back then was around $100. Just amazing that so many people got the money somehow and took to the trails.

    Your books look wonderful! I love your covers. They so pretty and eye catching.

  4. Agnes, Welcome to the Junction. I loved your story about Harold. I, too, am a huge fan of his Western Romances. What a lovely journey to publication. Thanks so much for being here today!!!

  5. I grew up watching westerns on TV so I’m a big fan of westerns. I have great respect for women in those days,they worked very hard and didn’t have any of the luxuries we take for granted.

  6. Welcome today to Wildflower Junction, Agnes! And congratulations on your success with so many wonderful stories released. I always wanted to go on a wagon train as a kid…all those TV westerns, I’m sure.

  7. Thank you for your comments. I’m sorry I had a conflict today and am just now able to get on line. I will be here for about 30 min. or so, then I have another obligation.

    Yes, Laurie, it surprised me when I found out how much it cost to join a wagon train. Most of the prices were based on a family of 4, but when you think it took about 5 months to make the journey there had to be a lot of food and supplies.

  8. I think I’d want more clothes, too, Sandy, but their space was limited. Most of it taken by food. There wasn’t usually any where to sleep in the wagon and they had to use tents.

  9. Renee, Harold is a fascinating person. I’ve seen him on several occasions and he’s always the same. I’m so glad I got to know him, because as I said, he and his books were the ones that inspired me to turn my writing to the western romance.

  10. Oh Rita, I’m with you. I watched cowboy movies from my childhood until now. I’m looking forward to seeing the new one – 100 ways to die in the west – though I hear the reviews aren’t that good, I’ll make up my own mind.

  11. Faith and Linda, As I said before, $600 – $1000 sounds like a lot of money, but when you factor in that most wagons carried 1600 – 1800 pounds in food alone, even at the prices then, it amounted up. They also had to carry things like extra wagon wheels (50.00 each). Oxen were 25.00 – 35.00 each and a wagon needed at least 4-6, and extras were recommended. The list of individual prices still fascinates me.

  12. Thank you again Petticoat&Pistols for having me as a guest blogger today. The experience has been awesome. I’ve read the blog for some time and have enjoyed many books your bloggers have written.


  13. Hi Agnes, fantastic post. I love wagon train stories and I would love to read yours. Leigh Greenwoods books are awesome and I read them every time I get my hand on one. You are a new author to me so I will be watching for your books. Thanks for sharing with us today.

  14. Agnes,

    I think your wonderful! You inspire me, motivate me and I am so glad I can read and enjoy your books!


  15. Hi, Agnes! It is a pleasure to meet you and learn about your writing journey. Your books sound wonderful! Thank you for sharing a fascinating post!

  16. Hi Agnes, very informative and interesting blog. I have one of your westerns and can’t wait until I get others. Always enjoy your books. Donna

  17. This informative post gave me insight into your background, writing and perseverance. Your books sound unique and very special.

  18. Your post is an inspiration to us all who are privileged to read and enjoy your talent and creativity.

  19. I love western romances. I’m so thrilled to hear about your novels. I’m looking forward to reading them all. The facts you’ve given about the minimum requirements for traveling out west are fascinating. I’m looking forward to making this trek myself in the next ten years to retire. I’m glad to know I won’t need as much to move there in the 21st century.

  20. I have often thought about the logistics of getting provisions together for such a long and difficult journey. Not only would the wagon be full, even without passengers, but it was an expensive proposition. In your research, did anyone mention how most peopled bankrolled their trip? I am sure many sold their homes and whatever else they could. I am sure they expected it to be hard, but I think few of them had any idea just what they were in for.
    I look forward to reading your stories of their trips. As for the time travel book, great. I love them. It is always interesting to see how the characters handle the disconnect and readjustment.

    Best wishes for a long and successful writing career. It sounds like you are off to a good start.

  21. Hi Agnes! Your books sound absupolutely wonderful. I loved hearing about your writing journey. Great post! Thank you for what you do and for the opportunity to win one of your books.

  22. I love reading posts where I can learn something new. Thank you for sharing. I never imagined that when people moved west they brought so many pairs of shoes. I always thought people back in that era had one pair of shoes only.

    Your western time travel books sounds particularly interesting. I would love to be entered into your giveaway. Thank you for the opportunity.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

  23. I always enjoy discovering an author’s background, thanks for sharing. I’m amazed at the number of books you were able to read in three months, just goes to show the drive to your profound desire to write that period. Also was taken aback by the amount needed to go West – $600 to 1k. Certainly must’ve been a driving force to making the trip a successful one for the pioneers brave enough to take it on. I LOVE that you have written so many books in the era since I’m enjoying Camilla’s Daughters on my Nook at this time.

    Wishing you continued success,
    Ruth G. Zavitsanos

  24. Interesting post. I have been amazed by the courage these people showed by leaving all behind and moving on to a new life. Would like to have one of your books.

  25. wow… what an undertaking!! To say that I’ll never take a car for granted is an understatement 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  26. Hi Agnes! I’m a day late and a dollar short in welcoming you here to Wildflower Junction! We’re so glad to have you with us! What a great post–I had no idea it cost that much to go west. I’m wondering how “average” people ever came up with that kind of money. And churning the butter by letting the jostling of the wagon to the work is pure genius!

    Again, sorry to be late in welcoming you, and I really did enjoy your post.

  27. Thank all of you who replied and congratulations to the winners. I’ll get your books in the mail as soon as I get the addresses.

    Thanks again, you fillies at Petticoats & Pistols. It was a fun time.


  28. I grew up watching westerns with my dad. Even though he’s gone now, I still watch them when I feel the need to feel close to dad. Great interview and I love the background information!

    dihuffer (at) gmail (dot) com

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