Blizzard Turns Journey by Covered Wagon into Tragedy

Family's move by covered wagon ends abruptly when weather turns bad.

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A man, his wife and three small children were moving to central Illinois by covered wagon in a late winter of the 1880s. A gentle rain had been falling when the wind veered suddenly to the northwest and it began snowing.

The man was sure he could make the next town before nightfall, but the wind whipped up a blizzard that cut visibility to zero. The man by-passed the town by two or three miles, and darkness settled down. He could find no shelter and there was no wood on the endless prairie.

He feared his family would freeze before morning. During a slight lull in the storm he imagined he saw a light, but there was no way of telling how far away it was. He knew, too, that his team could not go on through the deepening drifts. Desperate to save the lives of his wife and children, he killed his horses, scooped out their entrails and put his wife and children inside the warm carcasses. Then he started on foot in the direction from which he had seen the light.

Morning dawned clear and bitter cold. Someone found the man dead, frozen stiff, standing waist deep in a snowbank. Later they found the covered wagon with twin mounds beside it. They started digging and unearthed the horses with the woman and her children very much alive inside.

I was born a few miles from the scene of this tragedy. A man pointed out the exact spot to me when I was small. Today, a large new hospital stands a few yards away. I wonder if some of the descendants of that pioneer family still live and can add a final chapter to my story.

Mrs. R.E. Lofes
Jane, Missouri

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then CAPPER's WEEKLY asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from CAPPER’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.