Sunday, November 15, 2015
On the Conestoga Wagon
On the Conestoga Wagon: For much of the 18th and 19th centuries in the United States (and Canada), a heavy, covered wagon known as the "Conestoga" was widely used, especially by farmers and travelers. Often drawn by horses, oxen, or mules, the wagon originated in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, with the area's German Mennonite settlers during the early 1700s. The wagon received its name from the Conestoga River, which it frequently crossed. If caulked properly, the Conestoga kept its contents dry, as "fording" shallow parts of the river became increasingly commonplace. Prior to the American Revolution, Conestoga wagons helped open the Appalachian Mountains to colonists. By the early 1800s, Pittsburgh and Ohio had been invaded by Conestoga wagons. As a result, the first installation of toll roads gained traction around this time. And for the most part, tolls depended on both tonnage and distance traveled. A typical Conestoga, which was around twenty feet long, could carry up to six tons of weight when fully loaded. With that kind of storage capacity, the Conestoga became an iconic symbol of American westward expansion in the mid-19th century (Oregon Trail??).