Woman Survives Two Uncertain River Crossings

Ice on Missouri River and flat boat in Illinois River gave woman pause during river crossings.

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My pioneer experiences include two river crossings under less-than-ideal conditions.

When we traveled from Illinois to Kansas in 1879, we crossed the Illinois River on a flat boat with no sides on it. The boat was powered by two donkeys going around and around as if they were grinding cane.

The boat across the Missouri River had a coal-burning engine and was not quite so frail looking. We saw wagons going west with the slogan, "Kansas or Bust," and we met wagons headed east with the word, "Busted."

When I was a bride in 1884, we crossed the Missouri River on the ice. We had been to Missouri in our covered wagon, but we were buying a farm in Kansas and had to get back to fill out some papers. We had a small stove in the back of the wagon because it was very cold and there was snow on the ground.

One day was so cold the wagon squalled all day, and we made only eight miles. When we finally got to the Missouri, it was frozen solid, and my husband decided to try to make it across by driving over the ice. We stopped in a little burg and bought some rope, and my husband hired two men to help us. We tied the rope in the end of the wagon tongue and hitched one horse to it. One of the men led the horse, and I led the other horse.

The other man walked along the rope and was to cut it quickly if the wagon started to sink. That way at least the horse would have a chance. My husband carried the trunk so we would have some clothes if the wagon went down.

We made it all right. I haven't seen the Missouri River since and I don't want to!

Mrs. N.E. Cannon
Butler, 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.