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Conestoga wagon

Conestoga wagon

Overview

The Conestoga wagon is a heavy, broad-wheeled covered wagon
Covered wagon
The covered wagon, also known as a Prairie schooner, is an icon of the American Old West.Although covered wagons were commonly used for shorter moves within the United States, in the mid-nineteenth century thousands of Americans took them across the Great Plains to Oregon and California...

 that was used extensively during the late 18th century and the 19th century in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and sometimes in Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 as well. It was large enough to transport loads up to 8 ton
Ton
The ton is a unit of measure. It has a long history and has acquired a number of meanings and uses over the years. It is used principally as a unit of weight, and as a unit of volume. It can also be used as a measure of energy, for truck classification, or as a colloquial term.It is derived from...

s (7 metric tons), and was drawn by horses, mules or oxen. It was designed to resemble a boat, to help it cross rivers and streams, though it sometimes leaked unless one caulked the wagon.

The first known mention of a "Conestogoe waggon" was December 31, 1717 in the accounting log of James Logan after purchasing it from James Hendricks.
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Encyclopedia

The Conestoga wagon is a heavy, broad-wheeled covered wagon
Covered wagon
The covered wagon, also known as a Prairie schooner, is an icon of the American Old West.Although covered wagons were commonly used for shorter moves within the United States, in the mid-nineteenth century thousands of Americans took them across the Great Plains to Oregon and California...

 that was used extensively during the late 18th century and the 19th century in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and sometimes in Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 as well. It was large enough to transport loads up to 8 ton
Ton
The ton is a unit of measure. It has a long history and has acquired a number of meanings and uses over the years. It is used principally as a unit of weight, and as a unit of volume. It can also be used as a measure of energy, for truck classification, or as a colloquial term.It is derived from...

s (7 metric tons), and was drawn by horses, mules or oxen. It was designed to resemble a boat, to help it cross rivers and streams, though it sometimes leaked unless one caulked the wagon.

History


The first known mention of a "Conestogoe waggon" was December 31, 1717 in the accounting log of James Logan after purchasing it from James Hendricks. It was named after the "Conestoga River" or "Conestoga Township" in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and thought to have been introduced by Mennonite
Mennonite
The Mennonites are a group of Christian Anabaptist denominations named after the Frisian Menno Simons , who, through his writings, articulated and thereby formalized the teachings of earlier Swiss founders...

 German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 settlers.

In colonial times the Conestoga wagon was popular for migration southward through the Great Appalachian Valley
Great Appalachian Valley
The Great Valley, also called the Great Appalachian Valley or Great Valley Region, is one of the major landform features of eastern North America. It is a gigantic trough — a chain of valley lowlands — and the central feature of the Appalachian Mountain system...

 along the Great Wagon Road
Great Wagon Road
The Great Wagon Road was a colonial American improved trail transiting the Great Appalachian Valley from Pennsylvania to North Carolina, and from there to Georgia....

. After the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

 it was used to open up commerce to Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh is the second-largest city in the US Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the county seat of Allegheny County. Regionally, it anchors the largest urban area of Appalachia and the Ohio River Valley, and nationally, it is the 22nd-largest urban area in the United States...

 and Ohio
Ohio
Ohio is a Midwestern state in the United States. The 34th largest state by area in the U.S.,it is the 7th‑most populous with over 11.5 million residents, containing several major American cities and seven metropolitan areas with populations of 500,000 or more.The state's capital is Columbus...

. In 1820 rates charged were roughly one dollar per 100 pounds per 100 miles, with speeds about 15 miles (25 km) per day. The Conestoga, often in long wagon trains, was the primary overland cargo vehicle over the Appalachians until the development of the railroad. The wagon was pulled by a team of up to eight horses or up to a dozen oxen. For this purpose, the Conestoga horse, a special breed of medium to heavy draft horses, was developed.

The Conestoga wagon was cleverly built. Its floor curved upward to prevent the contents from tipping and shifting. The average Conestoga wagon was 18 feet long, 11 feet high, and 4 feet in width. It could carry up to 12,000 pounds of cargo. The cracks in the body of the wagon were stuffed with tar to protect them from leaking while crossing rivers. Also for protection against bad weather, stretched across the wagon was a tough, white canvas cover. The frame and suspension were made of wood, while the wheels were often iron-rimmed for greater durability. Water barrels built on the side of the wagon held water, and toolboxes held tools needed for repair on the wagon. Also, the feedbox on the back of the wagon was used to feed the horses. The Conestoga wagon was used for many types of travel including passage to California during the California Gold Rush
California Gold Rush
The California Gold Rush began on January 24, 1848, when gold was found by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California. The first to hear confirmed information of the gold rush were the people in Oregon, the Sandwich Islands , and Latin America, who were the first to start flocking to...

.

The term "Conestoga wagon" refers specifically to this type of vehicle; it is not a generic term for "covered wagon
Covered wagon
The covered wagon, also known as a Prairie schooner, is an icon of the American Old West.Although covered wagons were commonly used for shorter moves within the United States, in the mid-nineteenth century thousands of Americans took them across the Great Plains to Oregon and California...

". The wagons used in the westward expansion of the United States were, for the most part, ordinary farm wagons fitted with canvas covers.