Most overlanders began their journey on the Mormon or Oregon trails. The major trailheads for these routes were in Council Bluffs, Iowa, St. Joseph, Mo., or Independence, Mo. The overland trip typically took five to six months. Ten to 15 miles of travel in one day would be a good day.
The routes taken
A The Humboldt Basin
B The Continental Divide
C Independence Rock
D Fort Laramie
Over 39,000 people were recorded passing through Fort Laramie in the first six months of 1849. It is likely that several thousand more passed through unrecorded.
E The Platte River
F Chimney Rock
G The Jayhawkers
What they took
Supplies might include:
Cooking stove made of sheet metal, cows, bacon, ham, rice, dried fruit, molasses, packed butter, bread, coffee and tea, tools for mining, farming and repairing wagons, vegetable and flower seeds, medicines, quilts, musical instruments, guns, ammunition, awls, needles strengthened for mending clothes and tents, bedding, including buffalo robes, waterproof india rubber blankets to keep things dry, lock chains to hold wagons back on steep hills.
On the trail:
There are hooks on the inside of the hoops to hang milk cans, guns, etc.
Making butter: After a few hours on the bumpy trail, a ball of butter would form in the center of a can of milk.
Plates, silverware, pots and pans were kept in a special box attached to the rear of the wagon.
Animals were driven by shouting and whip-cracking over their heads. They were not struck.
Some brought chickens.
Eggs could be stored in flour barrels. So long as they were not touching, they wouldn't break.
The rigors of life on the trail led many women to try wearing pants for the first time.
People often walked, as the wagons traveled very slowly and the bumpy trails made the wagon seats uncomfortable.
On the prairie, wood was scarce. Pioneers discovered that buffalo chips created a hot, smokeless and odorless fire.
A bucket of grease hung between the wheels to lubricate them.
Sources: "The Great American Gold Rush" by Rhoda Blumberg, "The Gold Rush" by Liza Ketchum, "The California Gold Rush," published by American Heritage, "The California Gold Rush" by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk, "Hunting for Gold" by William Downie, "Sea Routes to the Gold Fields" by Oscar Lewis, "If You Traveled West in a Covered Wagon" by Ellen Levine, "The East Indiamen" by Russell Miller, Steve and Eric Chrissman of the National Nautical Heritage Society