History, Department of


Date of this Version

June 1937


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College in the University of Nebraska in partial Fulfillment of Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts, Department of History
Lincoln, Nebraska: June 1937
Copyright © 1937 Floyd E. Bresee.


CHAPTER I: THE ROUTE–WHEN AND WHERE: The valley of the Platte; "Great Medicine Road"; The Astorians; Milton Sublette; First use of wagons; General William R. Ashley; South Pass discovered; Captain Benjamin L. E. Bonneville; Nathaniel J. Wyeth; Periods of the trail; The "Oregon Trail”; The Mormon or California Trail; eastern depots; The Big Blue; The Little Blue; Where freighters entered Nebraska from Kansas; Big Sandy; Results of a prairie fire; Meridian; Up the Little Blue; King's Ranch; Dogtown; Fort Kearny; Buffalo herds; Kearney City; Plum Creek; The Platte Valley; Fort McPherson; O’Fallon’s Bluff; Alkali Creek; Fort Sedgwick; Route to Denver; Julesburg; Denver, the freighters' “Mecca"; South Platte Crossing; To Ash Hollow; Bridges over the sand; Descent at Ash Hollow; Wagon breaks; Lodgepole Creek route; Landmarks on North Platte; Fort Mitchell; Horse Creek; Laramie River; Fort Laramie; North Platte Crossing; The Sweetwater Valley; Independence Rock; Devil’s Gate; Feeders to Platte Valley; Nebraska City–Fort Kearny; Omaha–Fort Kearny; Platte River Crossing; Shinn’s Ferry; Nebraska City investigates shorter route; Bonds for bridges; Distances; The old trails today
CHAPTER II. AN EASTERN BASE: Activity; Parks of wagons, stacks of yokes, piles of chain; The freighters’ section; The freighters’ store; Outfitting establishments; Busy merchants; Where trainmen spent money; Buildings of a freighting company; Employees and their work; Freight carried upriver by steamboats; wharfs and levees; steamer activity; Overcrowded warehouses; Preparation of train for the trail; Shoeing of mules; Branding; Yoking wild steers; Hitching up; Naming the wagons; Amount of freight to a wagon; Social hour; Rivalry; River towns
CHAPTER III. AN OVERLAND TRAIN: Appearance of a new train; Makes of wagons; Weight and construction of the wagons; Capacity of a wagon; A full-fledged train; Provision, mess, office, and workshop wagons; Contents of a workshop wagon; The "train power"; Oxen, mules, horses compared; Feed for the animals; Distance of travel in a season; Classes of oxen; Texas steer made best leader; cows in the yoke; Number of oxen; Extra cattle; Number of mules; A driver for each team; Use of "trail" wagons; Order of train on the trail; water keg and chip sack; train crew; wagon-master; commissary; teamsters; cook; herdsmen; Extra drivers; messenger; Bill Cody as messenger; Mules or horses for wagon-master; Work of assistant wagon-master; Ox team drivers called "Bull Whackers"; Mule team drivers called "Mule skinners"; Age of teamsters; Dress and equipment of a bull whacker; The big whip; Cost of a driver's outfit; Marking of blankets; Health of the drivers
CHAPTER IV. LIVING ON THE TRAIL: The first day out; Speed; Six and seven day travel; Time between Missouri River and Denver; Time between Missouri River and Salt Lake City; Two drives each day; Night travel; Evening camp; How a corral was made; chores; Fuel Duties of the cook; Number of men to a mess; cooking equipment; tableware; Supplies of the mess wagon; Water for the coffee; Menu on the trail; "Grub pile” Milk, chickens, and watermelons; If the flapjack did not flap; When fuel was wet; Breakfast; Cattle always guarded; Work of the herders; Herders used ponies, horses or mules; Leisure time in camp; Mr. Bratt's resolutions; The tenderfoot; Song and story around the campfire; Entertainment; A camp wrangle; Mr. Major’s Ideals for his men; Sleeping accommodations; stealing bed from steers; Camp guards; In hostile Indian country; Cattle quickly corralled if danger near; Night herding required courage; Time by the Great Bear; "Roll out! Roll out!"; Yoking up; Half-wild steers; Teamsters walked; the long whip; Rattlesnakes; Distance trains could be heard; Teams trebled; Locking of wheels on steep descents; lameness and injury of oxen; Extra cattle from ranchers; Extra cattle; Very lame cattle; rest at forts; "Old Glory"; Trainmen went armed; double file when Indians hostile; military organization; Sixty wagons and one hundred men for protection; Procedure if attacked by Indians; Trains escorted by soldiers; Military authority and tough freighters; Extra jobs; Setting the tires; Shoeing the oxen; Wood for fuel; Use of a delay CHAPTER V. DANGERS AND RISKS OF THE TRAIL: Dread of a stampede; Storms; Prevention; Stampede with oxen in yoke; Heavy rains; High water and river crossings; blizzard in 1862 & 1864; heavy snow at Three Crossings; snow storm at Plum Creek; Snow stalled wagons at Salt Creek; Indian danger zone in Nebraska; Attitude of men under attack; Big wagons made improvised fort; Strength of fifty steady nerved men; Plunder by Indians; Massacre on Cedar Fork; Description of an Indian outrage; Experience of wagon-master with Indians; Tempering the censure; Mounds of earth; Little comfort for the sick; Cholera; Death bed
CHAPTER VI. A COMMERCIAL ENTERPRISE: Importance of overland freighting; New markets; Mining camps; Supplies to soldiers, settlers, mountaineers; Freighting united sections; Senator Thayer on overland commerce; One wagon outfits; Settlers and ranchmen freighted; Profits in freighting corn crop; Government freight by contract; Outfit at auction; Cost of wagons; Cost of an outfit; farmers; corn; stores; ranchmen; Salaries; Wages for round trips; Men spent money freely; Some trainmen saved money; Rations; cost per day per man; Destination of freight; Local freighting; Freight rates; Telegraph an aid; Competition; Classes of freight; Machinery, dry goods, grain hauled; Hardware, tents, drugs hauled; Livestock carried or driven; House furnishings , lumber; Groceries and meats; A freighter's load in 1866; Train of goods 1866; Train of goods 1855; oysters; Turkeys; Cats; Onions; Apples; Cattle driven west; Beef; List of freighters and companies; Russell, Majors and Waddell; Utah freight; government contract; Majors’ business 1860; Teamsters in US Census 1860; Freight into Denver 1864; Census Report 1865; Heavy freighting 1865-1866; Overland freighting to Lincoln; railroad graders; Furs; hides; Ore; Cost of equipment winter 1864-1865; Train inspection at Fort Kearny; Cattle loss by Majors’ firm; Severe winter 1864; Big losses 1865; Quicksands; The "Steam Wagon"; When overland freighting ceased

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