Moving, Moving, Moving…

Hello everyone! Over that past two months, I have been in the process of moving from Nevada to Montana, and today is a banner day for me—I unloaded the last box from the trailer and have officially transported all my belongings to my new home…except for my coat, which I accidentally left in my old house.

This is my "wagon train".
This is my “wagon train”–a truck for me, a truck for my husband and a truck driven by the best friends ever.

This was not an easy move—in addition to household and personal items, we had to move the horses, the stuff in the barn, the stuff in shop…lots and lots and lots of stuff. Toward the end I began to doubt the value of stuff in general and minimalism began to look so much more attractive! But we persevered, put 16,000 miles on our truck since the beginning of summer and found a lot of new places to eat far from home.

A section of the original Applegate Trail.
A section of the original Applegate Trail.

I’m tired, but also very appreciative of the technology that allows me to move with relative ease, compared to what people went through to move across the country during the latter part of the nineteenth century. My home in Nevada was very close to the California and Applegate Trails. I’ve seen the roads and the country these brave people crossed in wagons, on horseback and on foot.

Westward Expansion Trails
Westward Expansion Trails

From the 1840s to the 1860s more than 200,000 people crossed the prairies, heading west to start new lives. A tenth of those people died on the trail. People traveled together in wagon trains, consisting of 20 to 40 wagons, often led by an experienced scout. The journey from Independence, Missouri to Oregon or California took between three and six months. The trail to California was about 2,000 miles long and an average wagon train traveled between 10 and 20 miles a day depending on terrain and weather.

The emigrants usually left in the spring, late enough so that there would be grass on the prairies to feed the livestock, but early enough to ensure that they could cross the Sierra Nevada Mountains before the heavy snow fell.

It cost an average of $1,000 to make the journey, which was a huge amount of money in those days. The average wagon carried between 1,600 and 2,000 pounds of “stuff”, including food for the journey. The wagon trains stopped in various forts along the way, which allowed the people to replenish supplies.

After the Union Pacific Railroad was completed in 1869, wagons trains declined, but were still used as late as 1890.

I hope you enjoyed this brief wagon train snapshot. It’s certainly put my move into perspective.

Have a great day!


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Jeannie Watt raises cattle in Montana and loves all things western. When she's not writing, Jeannie enjoys sewing, making mosaic mirrors, riding her horses and buying hay. Lots and lots of hay.

20 thoughts on “Moving, Moving, Moving…”

  1. Jeannie, I hate to move. I’d rather take a beating than move. In the last 7 years, I’ve moved three times and each one became more difficult. The fact is, I’m too old. As hard as my moves were, I can’t imagine yours and having to move horses and barn contents too. Good grief! But Montana will be awesome! That state is beautiful.

    Wishing you tons of good luck!

  2. Much easier to move stuff today then it was back then. But they had to be some tough individuals to move 1000 miles or more to a new home and hope everything work out for them. Glad you are all moved into your new home and land.

  3. Congrats on your new home! I hope the unloading and unpacking is much easier than the other end of the process. Wishing you all the best.

    As for wagon train moving, other than some Mormans moving on foot pushing handcarts to Utah, I’m not sure that a lot of people today understand how expensive it was to move across the country, which is why I’m glad you added that in your article. That trip surely wasn’t for for either the weak of heart or those short of the funds need to outfit that journey. Another thing that is often misunderstood is that relatively few pioneers were killed by Indians; they were more likely to die from food poisoning, typhoid or cholera, and some from wagon or shooting accidents, as well as drowning. Cholera was by far the biggest danger, though, at least from what I’ve read.

    • Excellent information, Eliza. I think it’s so easy to forget just what a challenge westward expansion was. And yes, I hear that cholera was a major killer. Thanks so much!

  4. There are still places where you can see the wagon wheel ruts. Congrats on your move. I have moved several times and I can’t imagine moving stuff out of a barn!!!

    • I can tell you that when one moves a barn, they leave a lot behind, lol. I inherited stuff when I moved in 22 years ago, and I “bequeathed” some useful items to the new owner.

  5. it’s amazing to think of how this country was settled with all the distance it entailed with horses and wagons.

  6. Montana calls to me! Never been…but I’m coming out there to check it out one summer soon. Best of luck in the new place.

  7. I have moved cross country twice. I do not envy you. I just can not even imagine doing it back with wagons and such.

  8. Congratulations on your new home. It looks like you have a beautiful new place for your family of people and creatures. Montana is beautiful country. It is so wide open. Big sky is a perfect description. Best of luck getting everything set up the way you want as soon as possible.
    Moving really is an adventure, no matter when you do it. The feeling to downsize is always there, but it is so hard to get rid of those “treasures” that hold special memories. In our first move, 42 years ago, somehow a box of rocks I collected when I climbed two different active volcanoes never made it to our new home. It was upsetting to lose those samples. They aren’t something I can ever replace.
    One has to admire the settlers that crossed the prairie in covered wagons or on foot. We have been out west and when you go 10 to 20 miles, it doesn’t look like you have even moved. It must have been discouraging for them when it looked like they weren’t making any progress even after days of travel.

    • Hi Patricia–I move rocks, too. In fact, I found a much loved specimen chilling next to the garage just before we left. I don’t know how it got there, but it is now in Montana. I feel your pain losing specimens and climbing active volcanoes–wow!

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