Monday, August 11, 2014

Westward Ho! Quiz

by Lyn Horner

Howdy all you western romance lovers. Today I'm going to test your knowledge about overland travel across the plains and mountains in the wagon train era. First, here are a few facts about the covered wagons pioneers called home during their long journey.
The term "covered wagon" applies to any horse, mule or ox-drawn wagon. A Conestoga wagon was a specific type of heavy covered wagon used extensively during the late 18th and 19th centuries in the U.S. and Canada. It was large enough to transport loads up to 6 tons. It was long, big-wheeled and curved in a boat-shaped design, perhaps suggesting the name "Prairie Schooner."

However, the wagons used by most pioneers were smaller and lighter with straight lines. They were shaped like ordinary farm wagons fitted with covers, but were much stronger. About ten feet long, with two-foot high sides, the wagon had to be built of well-seasoned hardwood to withstand the trip's extremes of temperature and moisture, as well as rough terrain. Such a wagon could carry 2,000 to 2,500 pounds of goods. Emigrants were advised not overload their wagons to avoid wearing out and killing their draft animals. Those who didn't heed this advice often paid a heavy price.

Covered wagon at the High Desert Museum Outside Author: B.D.'s world from Monroe, Washington, United State 
A tar bucket hung from the side of each wagon, and the slats were calked with tar for river crossings. Wagons were covered with double layers of linen, muslin or sailcloth, oiled to make them somewhat rainproof. Spare wagon tongues, spokes, axles and wheels were usually slung under the wagon bed. Grease buckets, water barrels and heavy rope were also essential items.
Okay, are you ready? Lets see how much you know about wagon trains. (Answers are at the bottom, but no cheating!)

1.  In the spring of what year did the first large wagon train head west to Oregon?
2.   Approximately how long was the Oregon Trail?
3.   What river did wagon trains follow across Nebraska?

4.   On average, how long did it take a wagon train to reach Oregon or California?

5.   What did geography books call the Great Plains during the westward migration?

6.   Why did the westbound travelers call themselves emigrants?

7.   What were the two most common reasons for emigrants to head west?

8.   Why did most emigrants choose oxen to pull their wagons rather than mules or horses?

9.   What did women gather along the trail to burn when there was no wood?

10.  How did women bake bread and pies on the overland journey?

11.  How many pounds of flour were emigrants advised to take with them on the journey?

12.  How many pounds of bacon were they advised to take with them?

13.  Name some other staple foods they would have taken along.

14.  What is saleratus?

15.  How much did a covered wagon and team of oxen cost circa 1850?


1.    In 1843
2.    2,000 miles or more depending on the starting point
3.    The Platte River
4.    The average travel time was 4 months but could be 6 months or longer.
5.    The Great American Desert
6.    They were traveling into foreign territory.
7.    They were lured by the promise of free land in Oregon, and later by gold in California.
8.    Oxen were stronger and cheaper than mules or horses.
9.    Buffalo chips or cow chips
10.  In a Dutch oven
11.  200 pounds according to an emigrant guide published in 1845
12.  150 pounds
13.  Flour, hard tack or crackers, bacon, sugar, coffee and tea, beans, rice, dried fruit, salt, pepper
14.  A leavening agent made of potassium or sodium bicarbonate; a precursor to baking soda
15.  Around $400, equals close to $11,000 now


Unknown said...

Clearly we use the same research info. Glad you are here, Lyn. Loved the post.

Lyn Horner said...

Thanks, Ginger. If you have the same info, then I know I got it right. :-)

Ella Quinn - Romance Novelist said...

I know less than nothing about the West, but I tweeted.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Lyn, thanks for the info. I knew some of it, but always learn something from your posts.

Unknown said...

Lyn--thanks for the answers. I could get about five of them...the others, no idea.
I've read many-a story about wagon trains, and some make the journey seem fairly safe and not too bad. But others give more details about the real hardship and just plain old agony. However, ever story is fascinating. I love wagon train stories.

Barbara Bettis said...

How fascinating! Loved refreshing my knowledge--and learning things I didn't know I didn't know :) Like--exactly how much a 'rig' cost in today's dollars. Or how much bacon they should take. Or the name of the leavening agent, which I should have known!! Lovely post. Shared/

Paty Jager said...

Fun post! I got half of them right. It still amazes me that people back then would leave everything and travel that long by hard conditions. But they were seeking new, better lives. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Great quiz! what fun!

Lyn Horner said...

I have a meeting after while and need to get cleaned up and ready to go, so please forgive me for not replying to each one of you wonderful folks individually. Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the quiz. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Alison E. Bruce said...

I got most of the answers wrong but I knew about the Platte River (thanks to Hallelujah Trail), that the emigrants were headed into foreign territory and that land and gold were the big attractions for heading west. I could also name some of the dried food stuffs necessary but not weights and measures.

If I every write a wagon train story, I'll know who to ask for reference material.

Lyn Horner said...

Back from my meeting and glad to see you stopped by, Alison. Don't feel bad. I didn't know most of the answers either until I started researching.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

This was such an informative blog, Lyn. I only got 4 answers right to your quiz. It was like school all over again. That's me waving from the back of the class. I'm glad you had pictures to go with the post so I could visualize those wagon.
I wish you the very best.

Liza O'Connor said...

Fabulous article. (I got half of the answers wrong.) Well done!

Unknown said...

Lol, well I got almost half of them right! And here I thought I knew a few things about traveling the Old West in covered wagons.
Very interesting post, Lyn.

ASBS said...

Quiz on Measures and Weights