Are you fascinated by pioneer stories, trying to imagine what it must have been like? Many of the ones I’ve read about said that picking up and moving wasn’t any harder than their lives in general, and that their trek was an adventure. At least the kids thought so.
Ephraim and Lucy Jane Moore would become great grandparents of Leora (Goff) Wilson. When they loaded their two wagons May 6, 1855, to trundle west from Parke County, Indiana, they headed straight for Lucy’s brother’s place in Guthrie County, Iowa. Traveling in two wagons with household goods and six children, ages 3 to 15, the Moores journeyed about a month.
Conestoga wagons were 15 feet long and emigrant wagons were 10 feet long, as well as narrower and shallower than the Conestogas. My guess is that the Moores traveled in the smaller wagons, with a canvas cover that could be rolled up on the sides so ones riding inside could see the countryside. Every inch of space inside was filled with what they’d need, for cooking along the route as well as what they’d need to start with in their new home.
At twilight, wolves came around, howling their eerie cries. The Moores probably made sure the fire burned all night to keep them away. Did this family travel with others in order to share lookout duties at night?
There were no bridges across the Mississippi River until the late 1860s, so both wagons would have been loaded onto a steam-powered ferry to make the crossing. Just imagine the whinnies, hooves clopping, steam whistle sounding. Or maybe they used oxen. Those details weren’t recorded.
The Moore family arrived in Guthrie County on June 2, 1955, staying with Lucy’s older brother, John Branson, until sometime in August, when they moved to nearby land of their own. At that time, John and Margaret (Mains) Branson had five children of their own, ages 1 to 12. Their pioneer home may still have been fairly primitive, with a couple of rooms with a loft for the children. It was a good thing the Moores arrived during the summer so the kids could spend most of their time outside. But where did everyone sleep?
I read that many times, new pioneers used their wagons as living space for several months, at least a place to sleep. Now I can better imagine how two couples and eleven children shared the Branson pioneer home in 1855.
Six more children were born to Lucy Jane (Branson) Moore, three of whom would die very young, which was always a worry for pioneer families.
Frontierswomen: The Iowa Experience by Glenda Riley
“Life Story of Ephraim W. and Lucy Jane Branson Moore as told by their grand-daughters Laura Jordan Goff and Sadie Moore Parker,” from the Moore Reunion Journal, August 6, 1922
The daughter of Ephraim W. and Lucy Jane (Branson) Moore, Emelia Ann (Moore) Jordan, was the grandmother of Leora (Goff) Wilson. They are mentioned in Leora’s Early Years: Guthrie County Roots.