The Conestoga wagon was ubiquitous settlement symbol of the American West. The Conestoga wagon was known for it's billowing canvas cover. The wagons were sometimes called "prairie schooners" for they looked like sailing ships over the seas of sagebrush that covered the High Plains. The white canvas cover reflected the hot sun and provided some protection from the elements for crew and cargo. The Conestoga wagon was named after the river by the same name found in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania where it is believed that German Mennonite and some Amish craftsmen perfected the wagon's design sometime in the early 1700s. An entry from History.com talks about the wagon's clever design:
Designed for hauling heavy loads over rough roads, the covered wagons could carry as much as six tons of freight; each one was handcrafted from wood (including oak and poplar). The floor of the Conestoga wagon curved upwards at each end to prevent the wagon's contents from shifting or falling out when it was in motion, while gates at the end were held in place by a chain and could be dropped for loading and unloading purposes.
You can read the whole History Channel article here.
With the history of the wagon in mind and the Amish/Mennonite connection to it I couldn't help but be intrigued and amused at this wonderful photo from the settlement of Jamesport, Missouri. Thanks to BethR for sharing! The Amish children in the top photo are riding a pony cart with some sort of cover to shield them from the sun. And it looks uncannily like their forefather's invention, the Conestoga Wagon (below, image from the National Studebaker Museum in South Bend, Indiana). I'll share more images from Jamesport in the days ahead!
Very interesting. I didn't know these wagons had a connection to the Amish. Just thought they were from pioneer days, like "Little House on the Prarie."
I thought the same thing.
It was so cute because they must go on roads with it - it's got the orange safety triangle on the back of it. Kids and pony carts/wagons are a pretty common sight there, but that was the only "covered wagon" we saw. 🙂
When my parents came to the United States from the German colonies in Russia, they traveled by wagon to Colorado. My mom's family landed in Ellis Island and my dad's ship landed in British Columbia. They entered the United States through Washington state and also traveled to Colorado. My mom was 5 years old and my dad was 6. This was in 1914 and 1915. They were part of the Volga Germans. Dad's mom joined the Mennonites after my grandfather died when he was 9. When my parents married, they worked had on the farm to make a living. I am the youngest of 7 children. All were born on the country farm except one brother and myself. We were born after my parents moved to Denver. My parents and grandparents and their siblings became citizens of the US in 1939.