The popular slogan around 1875 was "Go West, young man." My father was intrigued with the idea, and he traded our farm on the banks of the Wabash in Indiana for a farm in Kansas, ten miles from Independence, which at that time was an Indian trading post. Our farm was located on the trail from the Indian Territory to Independence.
Father sold all our livestock, farming implements and furniture, and we were going by train. However, when we went to spend the last night with our maternal grandmother, my three-year-old brother took meningitis and lingered for weeks between life and death. When he began to improve, the doctor advised that the trip be made by wagon, so Father bought a wagon and a span of mules. We started on the 700-mile trip on October 6, 1878, on my fifth birthday. Although I'm in my 82nd year, many of the incidents stand out clearly in my mind. We were on the road for seven weeks.
When we crossed the Mississippi at St. Louis, our team was frightened by a train and ran away. One of the rear wagon tires came off and, as you oldsters know, the tire had to be heated before it could be put back on the wheel. Father started a fire along the road. Soon a number of men came from a nearby saloon and offered their assistance. Father accepted gladly because it was no job for one man.
Imagine the feelings of my mother when she left her comfortable home on the Wabash and had to care for a sick child traveling 700 miles by wagon. When we reached our destination, we found a one-room log cabin with a rock floor instead of the good four-room framed house the agent had described!
However, I do not remember that my mother ever rebuked my father for the arduous trip and unprofitable move.
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.