The Wagon Train

Week 16: The Wagon Train




READ K – 4: The Josefina Story Quilt by Eleanor Coerr

5 – 6: Rachel’s Journal: The Story of a Pioneer Girl by Marissa Moss

7 – 8: Bound for Oregon by Jean Van Leeuwen (I love this book!  It has a beautiful Christian emphasis.)




READ K – 3: Wagon Train by Sydelle Kramer

4 – 6: The Oregon Trail by Elaine Landau

7 – 8: Growing Up in Pioneer America by Judith Pikerton Josephson


Note: I highly recommend assigning books from Reading Plan A. They are historical fiction and give a wonderful idea of the hardships of traveling along the Oregon Trail. There is a little more reading involved, but your children will probably enjoy reading the stories, and connecting with the characters, and they will probably find them more interesting than the books in Reading Plan B. The books in Reading Plan B are nonfiction and give more of a factual account of life on a Wagon Train. However, they are still very well written and an enjoyable read.

Further Information: From 1800 to 1850 the United States acquired land west of the Mississippi. See below:

  • 1803: The Louisiana Purchase
  • 1819: U.S. acquired Florida
  • 1845: U.S. annexed Texas (disputed boundary lines with Mexico)
  • 1846: U.S. acquired Oregon Territory
  • 1848: In The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo U.S. acquired Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas (officially), Utah, and western Colorado.

As the U.S. acquired these territories many American citizens traveled west to settle the cheap land (often as little as a dollar an acre). Others traveled west for adventure. The US government used the sale of the land to raise money. Of course the offer of inexpensive land also helped to establish strong communities in these newly acquired territories.


  • What were pioneers? (People who traveled west to live in a new land where very few people had lived before.)
  • Why did many people travel west? (inexpensive good land, adventure)
  • What did people travel in to get to the land? (covered wagons)
  • What were wagon trains and why did people travel in them? (groups of wagons – sometimes as many as a hundred traveled together for safety)
  • During what time period did many Wagon trains travel westward? (Mid 1800’s)
  • What were the most common territories people traveled to? (Oregon & California)
  • On average, about how many miles could a wagon travel a day? (10 to 15)
  • What did most pioneers use to pull the wagons? (Oxen)
  • What did people carry in their wagons? (furniture, quilts , tables, chairs, clocks, food, guns, tools)
  • Did most people travel in the wagons or walk? (they walked – the wagons were full of their stuff)
  • What hardships did they encounter on the trail? (crossing rivers, not enough water, dirty water, broken wheels, disease, bugs, unfriendly Indians, storms, wild animals, snakes, many people died, sometimes animals died, children could be crushed under wagon wheels if they fell off a wagon)
  • Were most Indians friendly? (yes)
  • Why did they often visit wagon trains? (to trade with them)
  • Did the wagons have breaks? (no)
  • How did they go downhill? (lowered by ropes)
  • How long did most journeys west take? (4 to 6 months)
  • How did families spend their time? (did school lessons, made quilts, hunted, played instruments, prayed, danced)

Questions for grades 4 – 8:

  • What were Buffalo chips? (Buffalo droppings used for fuel to keep fires going – they didn’t smell when burned)
  • Why do you think wagon trains weren’t as common in the 1870’s? (invention of transcontinental railroad)

ACTIVITIES: K – 4: Cut out squares and triangles (2 inch width) from construction paper in various colors. Using the quilt pattern ideas on this site for help:
design a quilt on a small square piece of poster board. Glue your squares and triangles in interesting patterns to create a paper quilt.
5 – 6: Write a paragraph discussing at least 3 of the hardships the character in your story faced while traveling along the Oregon Trail.
7 – 8: Write a 5 paragraph three proof essay discussing at least 3 of the hardships the character in your story faced while traveling along the Oregon Trail.

Copyright April 18th, 2014 by Gwen Fredette



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Filed under Charlotte Mason, Westward Expansion

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