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Overland Migration Artifacts

"With reference to clothing, I would say use any old clothes you may happen to have by you....All that I have to recommend to the ladies is that they do not wear their dresses quite so long, and that if possible they provide themselves with India rubber goloshes and very large sun-bonnets."

-- Frederick Piercy, 1853

An 1849 dress
Shawl brought home to Nebraska from the California gold fields
Doll brought to Nebraska in a covered wagon
Coverlet brought to Nebraska from Ohio in a covered wagon in 1862

The purchase of appropriate footwear, a seemingly minor decision, could save a traveler considerable pain and suffering.

shoe last

This handmade shoe last was supposedly used by Mormon emigrants. Shoes, valuable commodities to the footsore, were made or repaired on it.

Bootjack from the 1830s.
It gripped a person's boot heel
when pulling off a boot.

The trade good of choice
for the footsore emigrants
were Indian-made moccasins.

tar bucket

A tar bucket, filled with grease to lubricate the wheels, hung below the moving wagon. This one came to Fillmore County, Nebraska, from Ohio in 1870.

feed box
The emigrant wagon often carried a feed box.
This one was built in New York in the 1830s
and came to Nebraska decades later.

Bullwhacker's whip
Bullwhacker's whip

ox yoke
The ox yoke was brought to Butler County, Nebraska, in 1866.

ox shoe and hoof ox shoe
Ox shoe and hoof (from a cow, not an ox). Oxen were the preferred draft animal for a wagon. They were less expensive, easier to feed, more durable, and less attractive to thieves.

"He attempted to take his gun out of his wagon; the muscle (muzzle) being towards him, the ramrod being in the gun, its hammer caught or struck against something and went off; the ramrod and ball passing through the right breast. He was almost in a pulseless condition when I first saw him and the wound still bleeding. Dr. Canfield of Cincinnati came along about this time and we dressed his wounds and left him, with very little hopes of his recovery."

-- William Gordon, 1850

Trail accounts mention a variety of government shoulder arms. This is a Model 1842 Springfield musket.

bow and arrows
Rather than wantonly shooting at passersby, in reality some Lakota bowmen put on exhibitions of shooting skill for the emigrants!


Joseph Bissonnette, a trader at Fort Laramie, wrote this letter of recommendation for White Clay, a Cheyenne man. Native Americans in the Chimney Rock area played the role of friends to the emigrants far more often than that of enemies.

"David Ayers, one of our company, puked and purged all night and upon examining his condition this morning found he had the cholera....I went to work faithfully, he lying in his wagon while we were moving on....I placed a mustard plaster over his stomach and administered Davis pain killer in large quantities, at the same time making him inhale and perspire large draughts of fresh air."

-- Charles B. Darwin, 1849

Davis pain killer bottles
Treatment for cholera victims included patent medicines, such as this Perry Davis Pain Killer:





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