History, Department of


Date of this Version

May 2006


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 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; Active period of overland trade; The 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; The wharfs and levees; steamer activity; Overcrowded warehouses; Preparation of train for the trail; Shoeing of mules; Branding of cattle; Yoking wild steers; Hitching up; Naming the wagons; Amount of freight to a wagon; Loading the freight; Social hour for trainmen; Rivalry of the bases; River towns depended on freighting for support
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; Use of 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; The water keg and chip sack; A train crew; wagon-master; commissary; teamsters; cook; herdsmen; Extra drivers; messenger; Bill Cody as messenger; Work of the wagon-master; 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; Wagons upset; Teams difficult to manage; Speed of the train; 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; Wagons formed an enclosure; 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 t r a i l; "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; Freighters would steal bed from the steers; Camp guards; When guards were doubled; In hostile Indian country; Indians caused stampedes; The mules when an Indian approached; Cattle quickly corralled if danger near; Night herding required courage; Time by the Great Bear; "Roll out! Roll out!"; Yoking up; Half-wild steers a problem; Teamsters walked; Use of the long whip; Rattlesnakes a menace; Distance trains could be heard; Teams trebled; Locking of wheels on steep descents; Causes of lameness and injury of oxen; Extra cattle purchased from ranchers; Extra cattle followed train; Very lame cattle left behind; Trainmen enjoyed rest at forts; "Old Glory" gladdened the heart; Trainmen went armed; Wagons in double file when Indians hostile; Trains given military organization; Sixty wagons and one hundred men for protection; Procedure if attacked by Indians; Trains escorted by soldiers; Military authority and tough freighters; Life along the trail; 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 & in 1864; heavy snow at Three Crossings; forty-eight hour snow storm a t Plum Creek; Snow stalled wagons at Salt Creek; Trouble a certainty; Indian danger zone in Nebraska; Attitude of men under attack; Big wagons made improvised fort; Strength of fifty steady nerved men; Plunder by Indians; Seventeen wagons burned; Massacre on Cedar Fork; Description of an Indian outrage; Experience of wagon-master with Indians; Tempering the censure; Mounds of earth along the way; Little comfort for the sick; Cholera; Death bed; Tribute to brave men
CHAPTER VI. A COMMERCIAL ENTERPRISE: Importance of overland freighting; New markets to be supplied; Mining camps; Supplies to soldiers, settlers, mountaineers; Freighting united sections; Senator Thayer on overland commerce; Freighting by individuals and companies; One wagon outfits; Settlers and ranchmen freighted; Profits in freighting corn crop; Government freight by contract; Freighters purchased from one another; Outfit at auction; Cost of wagons; Cost of an outfit; Freighting a boon t o farmers; Purchases of corn; Firm planted corn; Big companies operated stores; How ranchmen made money; Salaries of trainmen; 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 to freighting; Competition; Classes of freight carried; Machinery, dry goods, grain hauled; Hardware, tents, drugs hauled; Live stock carried or driven; House furnishings , lumber; Groceries and meats; A freighter's load in 1866; Train of goods 1866; Train of goods 1855; Freighting oysters; Turkeys driven; Cats as freight; Onions to Denver; Apples a risky article; Cattle driven west; Beef for the army; List of freighters and companies; Freighting business gigantic size; Firm of Russell, Majors and Waddell; Equipment for Utah freight; Amount of freight to Utah; Income from government contract; Traffic into Denver; Majors’ freighting business in 1860; Teamsters in US Census 1860; Freight poured into Denver 1864; Warehouses crowded at eastern bases; Census Report of 1865; Heavy freighting 1865-1866; Overland freighting to Lincoln; Supplies to railroad graders; Wagon-trains followed advancing terminal; Furs to eastern base by wagon; hides; Ore; Cost of equipment winter 1864-1865; Train inspection at Fort Kearny; Cattle loss by Majors’ firm; Severe winter of 1864; Big losses in 1865; Quicksands caused losses; The "Steam Wagon"; When overland freighting ceased

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