Covered Wagon Journey Leads to Dangerous Dugout

Journey to Oklahoma in a covered wagon includes loss of money and difficult river crossing.

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On our way to a homestead in western Oklahoma, our heavily loaded covered wagon started across a creek after an all-night rain. The crossing was very steep and slick, and we only had one team. Just as we got ready to pull out, a coupling pole broke.

Papa was pulled out of the wagon, and Mother and we children were left in the wagon with the water rolling all around us! People were kind and helped us unload and carry our things ashore.

Two days later we lost all the money we had, $50. Papa had had Mama carry it in her handbag because he was afraid someone might rob him. My baby sister had been playing with the handbag, and we decided she had thrown it out of the wagon.

We camped for three days, hoping someone would come by who had found the money or had heard of someone who had. Papa offered a $5 reward for the return of our "fortune." Finally, an elderly man said his daughter had found the handbag and everything in it. When we asked her, she denied finding it. But after her father talked to her, she gave it back to us and took the $5 reward.

We were 21 days on the road, and we walked a good bit to make the load lighter. The shoes that were new when we left Grandfather's house were worn out when we got to our homestead.

A few days before Christmas, we began our new life in a dugout. It was a harder life than we'd ever known, but I'm sure it was not as hard for us children as it was for our parents. As soon as we put out the coal-oil light at night, the centipedes began to crawl. Our $50 was gone and, we all felt so afraid about the future. There was very little to live on, mostly cornbread and a drink for breakfast made from burned cornmeal.

The fall rains were heavy and incessant. Our dugout started to cave in and loads of dirt fell on our beds and nearly buried us girls alive. Our parents had just dug us out when an awful amount of dirt fell and our dugout was ruined. But we all escaped alive.

Mrs. Grover Harden
Fay, Oklahoma

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.