William Hays, Overland in Wagons, Part 1

The October 1, 1914 Skidmore New Era printed the following memory recorded by William Hays:

Overland in Wagons from Illinois to Mo.
A Few of the Difficulties Encountered by the Prairie Schooner Traveler.

Written by William R. Hays.
234 Grant St., Denver, Colorado

Denver, Col, Sep. 17, 191–
Editor New Era, Dear Sir:–

In your issue of April 9th you kindly published my article giving an account of Capt. John Grigsby, Alonzo Coston, James T. Hays and myself making a trip in covered wagon in 1858, with a view of making our home in Nodaway county.

Now I will tell your readers regarding some of our trials and tribulations in moving out from Illinois in the April of 1859.

My father, Thomas Ray Hays, having sold most of his land and personal property in McDonough county, Illinois, decided to move his family to Nodaway county, Missouri, in 1858. The winter of 1859 was a busy time in making the necessary preparation. He had several four horse wagons, made in the Epperson and Coston shops of Blandinsville, suitable for the trip overland.

On March 9th, 1859, the following members of the family, viz: Thomas R. and his wife Mary, Miss Isabel U., William R., James T., Martha J., John G., and Joseph W. Hays and Capt. John Grigsby and wife Clarissa P., and Alonzo Coston left Blandinville, Illinois for Missouri.

Our equipment was as follows: The writer had a four horse team with loaded wagon. James T. Hays had a three yoke cattle team with covered loaded wagon; Coston and Grigsby had a four yoke cattle team with covered and loaded wagon. Also Capt. Grigsby and his wife Clarissa and Miss Martha J. Hays rode in a two seated covered carriage behind a matched span of iron gray geldings.

In taking household goods to the Mississippi river, father had three four-horse teams hired beside those mentioned above. The winter had been wet and the frost being out of the ground, the roads were so bad it was a common remark, “there was no bottom,” so we had several stalled teams before reaching the river where my father transferred his goods to a steamboat and paid off his hired teamsters, and my father and mother and sister Isabel, took the steamer via the Mississippi and Missouri rivers to St. Joseph, Mo.

The rest of us crossed over to Fort Madison, Iowa, with our teams and loads, one cow, a Henry Clay Jack and I believe eight jennets, these being driven by brothers John and Jo. We crossed the river to Fort Madison on a ferry boat and when all were safely over, I think it was the 12th of the month when we moved out from the Fort.

The writer provided himself with state maps of Iowa and Missouri. These showed the location of the county seats of the counties we wished to travel through, and the roads leading west through these county towns were better than other roads and sometimes were shown on the maps. Our route ran through the southern tier of counties in Iowa until we came to Putman county, Missouri; then we turned south through Unionville and Putnamville, thence west to Nodaway county. Our train was long for movers for there were three families represented with their belongings. Also we had

(To be continued next week)

Stay tuned — We’ll print the continuation of his letter tomorrow.

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