Emigrants along the Trails at Chimney Rock

When people traveled west on the Oregon, Mormon, California, and other famous trails, they had to decide what to bring with them and what to leave behind. Many of them overestimated how much they and their wagons could handle and had to leave large furnishings scattered along the trails. What was left were the bare essentials and their most cherished items.

The Native Americans who called the area along the trails home, such as the Lakota, Pawnee, Cheyenne, and Arapahoe, were well-established in Nebraska. The tribes interacted and traded with the emigrants all throughout their journey. Be on the lookout for another blog highlighting Native American objects on display at Chimney Rock.

When visiting the Chimney Rock Visitor Center, you’ll have the opportunity to view some of these pieces and learn their stories first-hand. Some of the objects you’ll be able to see are kitchen wares carried by emigrants, tools needed to maintain their wagons (and their clothes), valuable items for trade with Native Americans, and precious keepsakes that survived the journey.



This utensil was picked up along the Oregon Trail in southern Nebraska. Sallie Hester wrote in her diary in 1848 they would use cheap utensils on the trail and their better set was packed away. She was 14 at the time. Object Record


Tar Bucket

Maintaining the wagon was key to successful travel. An emigrant used this tar bucket on their journey from Ohio to Fillmore County, Nebraska in 1870. The bucket would hang on the back of the wagon and be filled with grease to keep the wheels lubricated. Object Record

Shoe Last

Emigrants, even those who had wagons, would often walk the trails to keep the burden of weight on the animals as low as possible. Mormon migrants pulled handcarts as opposed to having an actual wagon. This handmade last was used by Mormons to make and repair shoes. Object Record


Visit the Chimney Rock and Ethel and Christopher J. Abbot Visitor Center to learn all about the experiences of the multitudes of people who passed through, and settled in, Nebraska on the westward trails. You’ll even be able to try out your hand at packing your own wagon!

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History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
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