Bridger's Trail by L.D. Edgar Map drawn by William Atchinson Bridger's Trail by L.D. Edgar Map drawn by William Atchinson Bridger's Trail by L.D. Edgar Map drawn by William Atchinson Bridger's Trail by L.D. Edgar Map drawn by William Atchinson Photograph of Jim Bridger, American Heritage Center-William Henry Jackson scbl#160 Photograph of Jim Bridger, American Heritage Center-William Henry Jackson scbl#160
Home Button
After making the initial decision to pull up stakes and leave familiar surroundings, emigrants traveling to the gold diggings in Idaho and Montana in the early 1860s still had to make serious decisions regarding the type of outfit to put together. Should they useProvisions and Equipment recommended in J. L. Campbell's Emigrant Guide, refer to Acknowledgments #17-1 horses, mules, or oxen? What type of equipment would they use, and how much and what type of provisions should they stow in the wagon for a trip that could take up to four months to complete? It was thought that important accouterments for a successful trip included a trail diet that prevented scurvy, essential provisions to last until harvest the following year after arriving at their destination, and sufficient firearms and ammunition. To aid the emigrant unfamiliar with trail travel across the plains, several emigrant guidebooks had been published since 1848 by Mormon emigrants and California gold rushers alike. These included a new guidebook published in time for spring departures in 1864. An example of recommended equipment and provisions is provided in the Table.

The type of team and wagon to chose was one of the most important decisions that Historic Trail Reenactment 2001, Refer to Acknowledgements #31had to be made, and one that required serious consideration. By the early 1860s, there were several companies in the East that had experience making wagons for rugged travel across the plains and mountains. Still, even wagons constructed with the best craftsmanship and hardwoods often broke down under the rigorous demands of western trail travel. The wagons made in the 1860s were hybrids of the original Conestoga wagon developed in the eighteenth century by the Pennsylvania Dutch. Two of the most popular makes of wagons were manufactured by Joseph Murphy's company in St. Louis, and those made by the Studebaker brothers in South Bend, Indiana. These were preferred for overland emigrant travel versus larger models such as the Carson wagon used in heavy freighting. The Murphy and Studebaker wagons were custom made according to individual owner specifications, and could cost from $500 to $1,000. The Studebakers advertised that a member of the company had travelled west and therefore knew how to build wagons for emigrants. The Stanfields and Bartletts were family friends of the Studebakers. For Howard Stanfield, it was only natural that he headed west in a Studebaker wagon.

A custom crafted wagon might be more comfortable and better designed for storingFarm Wagon typically used by overlanders during the early and middle part of the migration period, Acknowledgements #36 items and sleeping, but a basic farm wagon of simple design often proved to be easier to dispose of once emigrants reached their destination, where, by selling equipment they no longer had use for, they could raise the capital necessary to begin establishing winter quarters. In his 1864 guide book, J. L. Campbell suggested that, "As to a wagon, it does not require an expensive one; just such a one as a farmer would select to do his farm work (a common lumber wagon) is the most suitable. This kind will meet with ready sale in the mines, whereas more expensive wagons with springs and stationary covers are in less demand." As Campbell suggests, many emigrants used ordinary, and in many cases, homemade wagons.

Oxen were the draft animals most commonly used on the northern plains and intermountain region by large freight companies such as Russell, Majors, and Waddell. Oxen were less expensive, required less feed, and were less likely to stray or be stolen by Indians. However, many emigrants used horses or mules as their team of choice. As his train was about to depart the Bridger Trail cutoff, Ethel Maynard noted that there were "about 100 wagons more horse and mule teams than there were of ox teams."

Horses and mules moved along the trail at a faster pace than oxen. In several places, Maynard wrote that those travelers with horse and mule teams wanted to Living History, emigrants reenact stocking the wagon with supplies at Scotts Bluff National Monument, Refer to Acknowledgements #36continue on, rather than wait for the slower, but sure-footed oxen. As his train descended the Bridger Mountains, "It was some trouble for the train to keep together as the horse and mule teams wanted to go ahead and would travel a little faster than the cattle [oxen] But they did not feel safe to leave the train that is those who had cattle. . . ." The Bighorn River crossing "divided our train as the horse teams got over first and went on and left the cattle men. We did not get our wagon over until the second day."

Charles Baker kept a record of the purchases he made as he outfitted himself for theProvisions and Equipment listed in Charles Baker's Diary, refer to Acknowledgements #17 trip to Montana. He kept a rough ledger account record in his diary that showed the price of various equipment, commodities, and merchandise available in the Mid-western United States during the 1860s. Baker purchased his initial supplies for the trip to Virginia City between March and May, 1864 for approximately $310. All of the articles, the quantity, price, and date of purchase are given in the Table.

Animated .Gif, Horse and Wagon

Bridger's Trail by L.D. Edgar,refer to Acknowledgements #35 Map drawn by William Atchison, refer to Acknowledgements #35 Photograph of Jim Bridger,and William Henry Jackson painting scbl#160, refer to acknowledgements #35
Bridger's Trail by L.D. Edgar,refer to Acknowledgements #35 Bridger's Trail by L.D. Edgar,refer to Acknowledgements #35 Bridger's Trail by L.D. Edgar,refer to Acknowledgements #35