Pretend your husband—or father—decided to leave the home you’ve always known and you’ll be traveling through several states to a new territory he heard about. It’s the nineteenth century and you may not even a paper map to guide your family to this new free land—but he is determined to start a new farm in some wild land behold civilization.
My ancestors, John and Deborah Pieratt—with six young children along—left Kentucky in 1854 to move to the new Territory of Kansas. Their journey was the basis of my book Trail of Thread, which was written in the form of letters that Deborah wrote and mailed back to family in Kentucky. Deborah describes what she saw, and what their family experienced on their three-month journey.
The family had to carefully plan first so they would be prepared for the journey, and for the wilderness land they would eventually homestead on.
Pretend you want to prepare for this journey as a class or family project.
What—and how—do you pack in the four by ten foot wagon for a family of eight? (And what do you need for your trip to begin with?!) How much weight can the wagon hold and the oxen (or horses or mules) pull?
How long will the trip take? What will be your route? What roads (or rough trails) will you use and what towns will you be traveling through?
How will you cross rivers with your wagon? Is there any rough terrain along the way that may make the trip hard and dangerous?
How much food should you pack? How do you keep it from spoiling?
When you’re done researching the trip preparation and route, look for stories from old newspaper clippings of what was going on in the Territory of Kansas during 1854-1865. The Pieratts settled in an area and time frame known as the Bleeding Kansas conflicts due to the tension mounting about the slavery issue that exploded into the Civil War. (You can read more about these conflicts and how it affected the family by reading the rest of the Trail of Thread series, Thimble of Soil and Stitch of Courage.)
I brought the Pieratt’s story to life in the pages of Trail of Thread. Now can you plan your own trip in 1854?