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

1849 striped dressed  Black shall

An 1849 dress (left) and shawl (right) brought home to Nebraska from the California gold fields.


Doll  Coverlet

Doll brought to Nebraska in a covered wagon (left) and coverlet brought to Nebraska from Ohio in a covered wagon (right) in 1862.


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

Handmade shoe last

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

1830s bootjack

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


Indian-made moccasins

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


1870s 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.

1866 ox yoke

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


1830s 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 shoe and hoof from a cow    Ox shoe and hoof from a cow

Ox shoe and hoof (from a cow, not an ox).  Oxen were the preferred draft animal for a wagon.  They were less expensive, easy 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

Model 1842 Springfield musket

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

Bow and arrows

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

Letter written by Joseph Bissonnette

Joseph Bissonnette, a trader at Fort Laramie, wrote this letter of recommendation for White Clay, a Cheyenne man.  Native American’s 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


Treatment for cholera victims included patent medicine, such as this Perry Davis Pain Killer.

Perry Davis Pain Killer bottles


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