- Historic Sites
The Prairie Schooner Got Them There
Fortress, ambulance, amphibious home on wheels—the humble covered wagon stands as the symbol of the winning of the West
February 1962 | Volume 13, Issue 2
Jno A. Dawson, St. Louis, Mo. Died Oct. 1st, 1849 from eating a poisonous root at the spring.
Mr. Eastman;— The deceased was killed by an Indian arrow; Octr. 4th, 1849
Saml. A. Fitzzimmons, died from effects of a wound received from a bowie-knife in the hands of Geo. Symington Aug. 25th 1849
Died: “Of cholera … Of cholera … Of cholera.” (That most often!) Died: “Of accidental discharge of his gun.” Died: (there was a doctor in this company) “Disease, Gastro Enterites Typhoid.” Died: “Of drowning.” Often, simply: “Died.”
Died: “From Southport, Wisconsin … Late of Galena, Ill. … Of Selma, Alabama … From Yorkshire, England … Of Buffalo, N.Y.” Died: sometimes with only the name for identification.
Died: “Mrs. Mildred Moss, wife of D. H. T. Moss.” Died (as if registering in some last hotel): “Robert Gilmore and wife.” Died: “Frederic William, son of James M. and Mary Fulkerson.” Died (two weeks farther westward): “Mary, consort of J. M. Fulkerson.”
Died: “Mrs. Emmaline Barnes, Amanda and Mahela Robbins, three sisters in one grave, Indiana.”
There were graves without names: “The remains of a dead man dug up by wolves, and reburied.”
Some were laid in their graves succinctly, perhaps as time pressed; some were granted a few more words:
Samuel McFarlin, of Wright Co Mo. died 27th Sep. 1849, of fever, Aged, 44 years.— May he rest peaceably in this savage unknown country
Jno. Hoover, died, June 1849 Aged 12 yrs. Rest in peace, sweet boy, for thy travels are over.
As Virgil wrote: Tantae molis erat Romanam condere gentem. Yes, it was a great labor to establish the Roman people. So also it was to pass the barrier of mountains and deserts and thus round out the shape of a republic. The covered wagon stands as the symbol, and we should not forget its dead. “All this too was part of the price of the taking-over of the land.”
∗The Mexican carreta, by contrast, was never greased—a lack which Americans considered shiftless—and its screeching was notorious. An interesting etymological question is thus raised. Why, except by the ancient principle of lucus a non lucendo, should not the Americans, who were so fond of lubricant, (instead of the Mexicans, who never touched the stuff) be called greasers?