Covered Wagons Also Known as Tar Grinders

Tar used to grease wheels of covered wagons.

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My grandfather had a half-brother who made covered wagons. There was very little iron about those old wagons, and what there was, was beaten out on an anvil with a sledgehammer by hand.

The wagons were called tar grinders because, instead of putting grease on the spindle, they used tar. The early settlers carried their tar buckets swinging on the coupling pole. If they ran out of tar and the spindle ran dry, you could hear the wagon screeching a half mile away. This was called "cussing the tar bucket."

J.O. Bowman
Trion, Ga.


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.