Thursday, September 1, 2011

Moving to Oregon in 1850

I spent the last month in a very informative online class about Pioneer Women, which was given by our own Anna Kathryn Lanier. One of the subjects pertained to wagon train travel, so when I saw this information I thought it would be fun to share. Anna Kathryn asked everyone what were the important things they would have to pack as momentoes. The answers were varied and maybe not all of them realistic.

What you need and how much it costs:
Remember, your wagon is all you have to carry your equipment and food for 2,000 miles. You have to walk because there is no room in the wagon!
So what do I need to make the trip west?

Must Haves
A strong wagon, fit for the journey - A Wagon can carry 2,000 lbs.
Oxen (4 head, but 6 is better)
Tack and Harness - To attach the oxen to the wagon
Food - See list below for amount and type of food
Clothing (2 sets per person - a set includes 1 shirt, 1 pair of pants and 1 pair of boots)
Tent - a tent will hold 4 people
Cups, Plates and Utensils

Optional Items
Milk Cow
Mule or Riding Horses - If you do not want to walk
Please include Saddle and Saddle Bags, Bridles and Blinders for the horse
Mule or Pack Horse Please include a Pack Saddle
Tools - See below for examples
Hand Tools
Shotgun or Rifle with Gunpowder and Shot

ox $35.00 At least 4-6 for each wagon
milk cow $75.00
cattle $20.00 For meat
mule $15.00 Can be ridden or to carry stuff
mule collar $1.25 To attach to the mule
pack horse $25.00
pack saddle $2.50 Needed for Pack Horse
riding horse $75.00
bridle & blinders $3.00 Needed for Riding Horse
saddle & saddle bags $5.00 Needed for Riding Horse
tack & harness $5.00 1 per 6 oxen
horse blanket $2.00
whip $1.00

covered wagon $70.00
There's no evidence that wagons made for the emigrant trade held up any
better than ordinary farm wagons
wagon bows $3.00/set To repair your wagon - 1 set per wagon
cloth cover $1.00/yard 10 Yards per Wagon

woolen blanket $2.50
tent $15.00 1 Tent will hold 4 people
nails $0.07 per pound
soap $0.15 per pound
sheet iron stove $20.00
coffee mill $1.00 For grinding coffee beans
coffee pot $0.75 For brewing ground coffee
frying pan $1.50
stew kettle $0.50
bread pan $0.25
butcher knife $0.50
tin table settings $5.00 Includes plates, cups, knives, spoons and forks for a family of eight
candles $0.15 per pound
10-gallon wash tub $1.25
whetstone $0.10 for sharpening knives and axes
bucket $0.25
tar bucket $1.00
"tar buckets" for storing axle grease had tight-fitting tops to keep flies out and cost $1.00
axe/shovel/hoe $1.25 These are sold separately
hand tools $2.50 Augurs, Planes, and Saws
$2.50 for one tool
1 set of handkerchiefs $1.08
1 tea set $24.00 Tea Kettle, Cups, Saucers, Creamer and Sugar Bowl
1 flannel shirt $8.00
1 pair of pants $18.00
1 pair of boots $24.00
1 gross matches $1.00 1 Gross = 144 matches
rope $2.50 75' coil of 3/4" hemp rope

rifle - For hunting or protection $15.00 - Double barreled rifles were sometimes seen on the frontier. Repeating rifles were not widely available until after the Civil War (1865)
shotgun - For hunting or protection $10.00
There were also double barreled shotguns, as well as hybrids fitted with
one rifled barrel and one smooth-bored shotgun barrel powder & shot $5.00 Powder and Shot were sold by the pound
hunting knife $1.00

flour $0.02 per pound
corn meal $0.05 per pound
bacon $0.05 per pound
sugar $0.04 per pound
coffee $0.10 per pound
dried fruit $0.06 per pound
salt $0.06 per pound
pepper $0.08 per pound
lard $0.05 per pound
vinegar $0.25 per gallon
baking soda $0.12 per pound
tea $0.60 per pound
rice $0.05 per pound
beans $0.06 per pound

Recommended for each person:
150 lbs. of flour
20 lbs. of corn meal
50 lbs. of bacon
40 lbs. of sugar
10 lbs. of coffee
15 lbs. of dried fruit
5 lbs. of salt
1/2 a pound of baking soda
2 lbs. of tea
5 lbs. of rice
15 lbs. of beans
1 pound box chocolate $40.00
1 pound tin of crackers $8.50


  1. Wow, that's a lot of stuff! I couldn't imagine!

  2. Wow, I was surprised at the cost of crackers as compared to the other food. And your post reminded me of how arduous the journey must have been.

  3. What an interesting list. Wow.

  4. Interesting post! I used to think packing for a camping or reenacting weekend was a pain. Always forgot something important, like matches. lol

    We finally puchashed a big box to hold all the essentials so they'd be there when we went. Can't even imagine packing for a wagon train trip.

  5. Great list, Paisley! Sometimes, people could buy or trade for food along the trail, but it was usually expensive and in short supply...a mean a farmer could only afford to give so much of his own supply of goods.

    I'm glad you enjoyed the class!

  6. The price of clothes and boots seems exorbitant. In 1900, the price of a shirt was about a dollar. The price of boots, around ten. Those people going west needed some cash!!

  7. I was a bit surprised myself, Tess, as I had alwayss heard less is best and that when the going got tough, they had to toss a lot of stuff along the way.

  8. Hi Caroline, I sure don't think I could have made that long trek but if circumstances were dire it probably looked like a good escape, at least before they hit the hard reality.

  9. Hi Angi, Nice to see you. I really thought a lot of things on the list would have been considered as frivolous.

  10. Hi Susan, I was raised by parents who loved to camp. They also had a large, green wooden box where my Mom kept utensils and such so they were ready to go on the next trip.

  11. I wish I'd thought to post the list during the class, Anny Kathryn. I was surprised at some of the 'important' things some of the students would have brought along with them if they'd traveled by wagon train. :)

  12. I agree, Celia. I thought some of the pricing rather strange. $40 for chocolate was one of them. Of course, a girl needs her chocolate and it would have been nice on the long trip, but I wonder if it wouldn't have melted and lost its appeal after a while. Just saying..

  13. Wow! What a list, Paisley! I'm amazed by how much the journey West cost our forebears. But...I just have to ask, (sorry) in the WORLD could 1 lb of chocolate survive 2000 miles??? Something tells me my family's just spoiled. Loved your post!

  14. One pound of chocolate wouldn't get far in my wagon. ;) Of course, I'd more than likely not spend $40 for it at that point in my life either. It seems to me it would have melted quite quickly, but at least they gave it a try. I was surprise to see it on the list.

    Thanks for visiting today, Donna. :)

  15. Great post, Paisley!! That's an amazing list, and what a great source of information--thank you for sharing :) I so agree about the chocolate *LOL*

  16. Hugs, Stacey. It is so great to see you here. I agree, it is quite an interesting list. :)

  17. Gee, I wonder what the composition of the chocolate was back then. Since chocolate is excellent for your health ~ heart, circulation and brain ~ and not to mention mood, it would have been valuable far beyond the taste.


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