Oklahoma Land Claims Draw Iowa Family to Journey by Covered Wagon

Woman remembers terrible travel conditions on the way to Oklahoma land claim.

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The snow was a foot deep that morning when Mother, Father and we six children started on the long trip from Iowa to the "Golden West." No, not California, but Oklahoma where Father had relatives who already had taken land claims.

Our earthly belongings were stored in the new covered wagon with double sideboards, plus an overjet that made it wide enough to allow a bedspring to be placed in its roomy interior.

Mother's new Singer sewing machine was carefully stored in the bottom of the wagon bed. There also was a huge green box with Mother's nice things, including yards and yards of material. I'll always remember the magic of the things that evolved from Mother's old green box during the dreadful years ahead. I saw my dear Mother struggle to keep things "nice" the way we had been accustomed to them at home.

The two-room sod house had a dirt floor and was a trial. Water was hauled in barrels from a spring seven miles away, so we saved every drop of the precious liquid.

But back to the wagon. We crossed the Missouri River twice on a ferry boat – a thrilling experience for us youngsters. During the trip, Father had a chance to trade one of his team of beautiful black horses for two mules. He figured that two mules would be better than one horse. Mother cried when he traded because she thought the vicious things would run away with us. One of the mules turned out to be practically worthless.

One mule was tied on behind the wagon, and we older children decided to make good use of old Long Ears. We would take turns stealthily crawling through the hole in the back where the wagon sheet was drawn together with rope. We'd grab old Long Ears and slide along his neck onto his back for a nice ride. We didn't have permission, but Father never seemed to notice. I still wonder if he didn't just enjoy our stunt.

About halfway to Oklahoma, we stopped over for three weeks at Grandfather's house. Mother had become ill, so we all rested.

I remember going across the Ozarks. The roads there were terrible. It seemed we rode for days to make a few miles because there were so many steep mountains and sharp curves. We children would take turns seeing which one could walk the farthest. We would stop and break rocks into pieces because we had heard that there were golden nuggets in "them thar hills." Sometimes we would find beautiful rocks and want to keep them, but of course we had too heavy a load for such foolishness.

We arrived at our uncle's in northwest Oklahoma in early April. It was a cold, clear day, but I remember how beautiful it was the morning of our arrival. When the sun came up, the world was like a fairyland. Rain had frozen on the tall, dead bluestem grass and everything was glittering and sparkling.

Mrs. A.L. Miskimon
Wichita, Kan.

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.