Tuesday, May 4, 2010

More on Wagon Train Life in the 1840s

Remember that we were talking about how rough and rutted the trails were. Well. there was an unexpected break for women on that account: butter churning, the wagons bounced around so much the butter was churned by just ridding in the wagon.

What would your food shopping list look like if you were joining the "Great Migration"? The trip usually took at least 4 months, and for some unlucky travelers, as much as 1 year. You could consult the books written for those taking this adventure. The most popular of these books was Randolph B. Marcy's A Handbook for Overland Expeditions. Staples as flour, sugar, cornmeal, coffee, dried beans, rice, bacon, and salt port would be needed. Dried fruit optional. How much of each are you going to bring? While on the trip you could supplement with meat, fish, berries, roots. The total amount the Conestoga wagon could hold was 2,000 lbs. -But remember, the heavier the wagon, the slower it will be pulled and the harder on your animals. Supplies had to be compact, lightweight, and nonperishable. Don't forget, you have to also bring replacement parts for your wagon, tools, household goods, kitchen goods (a Dutch oven alone can weigh 27 lbs!) and your family members will be riding in the wagon. Also, figure in the weight of your containers, the staples were carried in wooden barrels often lashed to the outside of the wagon.

Breakfast had to be completed by 4 a.m. so that the wagon train could be on its way by daybreak. Beans, cornmeal mush, Johnnycakes or pancakes, and coffee were the usual breakfast. Fresh milk was available from the dairy cows that some families brought along.

Since the wagon trains only traveled during the day, (safety considerations and no headlights!) lunch was something quick like pieces of meat roasted straight over a campfire combined with a quick rest before resuming the trail. Longer-cooking stews were left for the evening meal. The women made bread dough while riding in the wagons and timed the rising so that it would be ready to bake when evening camp was made...

" Taste of the States: A Food History of America, Hilde Gabriel Lee [Howell Press:Charlottesville VA] 1992 (p. 241-2)

More information is at:http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodpioneer.html#pioneer

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