Death Part of Grandmother's Pioneer Story

Great-great-grandmother didn't survive wagon train journey from Illinois to Missouri.

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My grandmother was born in Kentucky in 1815. Her pioneer story began at the age of four when her parents decided to move by covered wagon to the new land of Missouri. My grandmother's grandmother left all that was familiar to her to go with her daughter's family.

As they followed the trail through southern Illinois, the old woman died. The wagon train stopped, and the men of the party cut a huge tree. As carefully as possible, they cut a slab off one side and hollowed the tree trunk as for a dugout canoe. Then they laid my great-great-grandmother's body in the shell, carefully laid the slab back and nailed it down. They dug a grave in the trail, lowered the improvised casket, read the Bible and prayed. They flattened the grave after they had filled it and drove back and forth over it with the wagons so that any wandering Indians might not be able to tell that anyone was buried there.

My grandmother's one vivid memory of the whole trip was of her mother standing at the back of the wagon staring back toward the spot where they had left her mother's body for many hours after the spot was out of sight.

Margaret Harris Heck
Quapaw, 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.