Our classic image of traveling West is that of the covered wagon. The man is driving, the woman is riding, and the children are peeking out the back or scampering alongside with the family dog. The woman image is usually something like this painting. In fact, women sometimes drove, and sometimes were children, and sometimes even went alone. The wagon was more frequently pulled by oxen than by horses and wagons were not the only method of travel. Going by boat was popular for at least half the trip, and later the railroad would do the job. Among the journals used in this project, the women traveled by large and small covered wagons, boat, railroad, and carriage. Jennie Wriston details her wagon as well as the makeup of her company.
It was necessary to prepare carefully for the journey, perhaps more so in the early years of migration when there was nothing to be purchased along the way. The earliest traveler in our group stopped at inns as she went to Illinois. Had she gone to the Dakotas instead, she would have had no inn at which to eat or sleep. Other women describe the food supplies they took with them, and the availability of foodstuffs while en route. Eliza McAuley describes their preparation of food for the trail.
To take your entire household, or whatever you thought necessary for establishing a new household, would seem to make for very crowded conditions, and, indeed, that is what some of these women describe. Within the wagon which was both RV and U-Haul, there had to be such things as a chicken coop or beehive, a stove, and equipment for the animals. Jennie Wriston inventories the inside of her wagon and Christiana Tillson describes what and how her carriage were packed.
"We have a plentiful supply of provisions, including dried fruits and vegetables, also a quantity of light bread cut into slices and dried for use when it is not convenient to bake. Our stove is furnished with a reflector oven which bakes very nicely."
"This so-called "big wagon" was drawn by the team of large mules and was driven by my father.
Then came the "light spring wagon,"
which was provided with extra seats for such of the children as did not ride in the big wagon or on horseback. It was loaded mostly with the clothing and bedding for the family. This wagon was drawn by a team of horses and was driven all the way by my mother."
"Then followed the loose stock-several cows and horses, which latter could take the places of the team driven by my mother, and which were available for riding by William, the eldest son, and by Tom, the "hired man," and they were also used for driving the small herd behind the wagons. In itself it was quite a cavalcade and formed the nucleus for a very much larger company later on."
"Among the loose horses was a small mustang, which was the exclusive property of the two little girls. Fannie was a gentle little creature, greatly beloved by everyone. Following all was the collie, Gypsy, the pet of the entire group. The family itself consisted of father, mother, big brothers, two sisters (twelve and eleven), two small brothers, and little sister (three years old). These, with the hired man, made up the party."