Day in and day out, time marcheson. With it, every year’s calendar ispacked with anniversaries. 2016 is noexception and below are a few events we’ll mark in remembrance this year…
195 years ago... William Becknell is credited with successfully opening the Santa Fe Trail in 1821. The trail was a lucrative trade route to theAmerican Southwest for nearly six decades. Look for some special celebrations from the Santa Fe Trail Association coming up just a few short years from now.
180 years ago... In 1836, the battle of the Alamo tookplace near the present city of San Antonio, Texas. The events would forever change the landscape of America, further solidifying a country determined to protect its freedom at all costs.
170 years ago… One of the most tragic accounts involving early American wagons is that of the ill-fated Donner-Reed party. In the spring of 1846, the Donner and Reed families left Independence, Missouri with nine wagons. They were among the last in a string of wood-wheeled travelers to head for California that spring. Determined to arrive before others, they made the fateful decision to take the road less traveled along the so-called "Hastings Cutoff." The results are well known. Almost half of the wagon train members would not make it past the harsh terrain and devastating winter waiting in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
160 years ago... In1856, the Charter Oak Wagon Company of Fairfield, Iowa was founded by Joel Turney.
150 years ago… In 1866, Texas rancher, Charles Goodnight fashioned what is credited as America’s first chuck wagon. The foundation for this custom set of wheels is said to have been an army wagon. We shared a little about this vehicle in our March 26, 2014 blog. At some point down the road, we’ll release a little more info to help clear the air on what this wagon most likely looked like. As an introduction to that information, we can say with confidence that the wagon did not have Archibald hubs as that technology had not been introduced, let alone adopted by the army at that time.
140 years ago... Much has been written about Custer’s defeat at the Battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876. Far less has been shared about the hundreds of wheeled witnesses that set out from Montana, Wyoming, and Dakota territories to help supply and support the Army. Representative of army wagons from that era, a rare, six-mule wagon stands on display in the Pioneer Memorial Museum in Douglas, Wyoming.
130 years ago… In 1886, Geronimo surrendered to General Nelson Miles in Arizona.
120 years ago... The discovery of gold in the Yukon in 1896 marked the beginning of the last big gold rush in the American West.
110 years ago... In 1906, the city of San Francisco (and the area around it) was hit with a massive earthquake estimated to have been near 8 on the Richter scale. Thousands were believed killed with hundreds of thousands left homeless. It took years to rebuild the city.
100 years ago… In spite of the U.S. military’s heavy use of horse drawn vehicles during the mid-teens of the 20th century, many wagon makers were calling it quits or getting very close. Even so, period accounts in the Wheels That Won The West® Archives show that as late as the spring of 1917, the U.S. military owned over 180,000 horse drawn transports –almost 50 times more than motorized vehicles. That ratio would change considerably – in favor of the automobile – within just a couple years.
Even though they’re separated by decades, each of the above points in history is connected; held together by a fading multitude of wood-wheeled witnesses. It’s a thread of continuity that’s grown incredibly weak with every passing year. The clues to who did what, when, how, where, and why are getting tougher to find as many of these legendary sets of wheels continue to be overlooked and allowed to disappear. As we continue to uncover more details on America’s first and largest transportation industry, we’re pleased to pass along some of the highlights. In turn,we always appreciate hearing from you with questions, comments, and insights into your own collection or discoveries.
It’s hard to believe but, we’re already in the fifth year of writing these early vehicle blogs. Yet, after well over 200 of these weekly posts, we haven’t even scratched the surface of this topic. It’s a subject packed with lessons in art, science, math, business, geography, history, politics, archaeology, and even literature. So, if you haven't signed up to receive this weekly blog via e-mail, just type your address in the "Follow By E-mail" section above. You'll receive a confirmation e-mail that you'll need to verify before you're officially on board. Once that's done, you'll receive an email every time we update the blog. Please don't hesitate to let us know if we can be of assistance. We appreciate your continued feedback and look forward to sharing even more throughout the year. Please Note: As with each of our blog writings, all imagery and text is copyrighted with All Rights Reserved. The material may not be broadcast, published, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written permission from David E. Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives.