Leaving for the Oregon Trail

(Editor’s note: Bob Brennecke and his wife recently traveled the Oregon Trail. Here are notes and observations about his journey.) 

Can you imagine getting ready to cross the west with a wagon, oxen, food, personal effects and your family? Just the thought of getting ready is daunting. 

What special tools will you need and will you know how to use them? How much grease for the wheels? What about, flour, bacon, shot and powder for your rifle? Should you take a plow to break ground when you get to Oregon, or take any other farm implements or will you be able to purchase them when you arrive? 

You know there were some unscrupulous people who were preying on these greenhorns to wagon travel as they prepared to make the journey to Oregon. 

Some of these entrepreneurs printed in the local newspapers at their own expense what was recommended for travel going west on the wagon trains.

One of the biggest purchases was, of course, a wagon. There were only a few choices at first until it was realized there was quite a market for wagons, until options changed in later years.  

We all have probably seen the depiction of the large Conestoga wagons that were rumbling across the prairie. Conestoga wagons were large, heavy, and hard to maneuver, also needing another 2 to 4 oxen or mules to pull the load. 

The majority of the wagons were actually the regular farm wagons with the large rear wheel and the smaller front wheel.

The larger the wheels, the smoother the ride and the better the clearance. The front wheel was always smaller to accommodate the turning radius of the wagon. There was a steel plate screwed to the front side of the wagon where the steel tire rim would rub in case of too sharp of a turn. 

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