Wagon Trains In The Early Days

| October/November 1989

302 Highland Avenue, Plentyuiood, Montana 59254

The cover of the 1988-89 Nemont Telephone Directory prompted me to write about wagon trains in the early days (1910-1915).

The first I knew of a grain wagon train was about 1921, when my father bought the 5 tongues and the chain from a distant neighbor, who had rigged up to haul grain from the Scobey area to Medicine Lake, the end of the railroad at that time. His train consisted of a 25-50 Minneapolis and five 125 bushel grain tanks. The train on that route proved impractical so he was glad to get rid of the special tongues and chain.

My dad tried with a 20-40 Case and four Deere and Weber 125 bushel grain 'tanks'. It didn't work. The hills were too steep. A funny thing, the short hills where the tractor was able to get on level land just produced a large protest from the old 20-40 but you had to uncouple three times and relay up the hills. Two trips were enough. Besides, one had to have a team or hire one to pull each wagon into the elevator. The tractors were too heavy to go into the elevators. After that many people were hired to haul grain. Some had two horses-60 bushels, some 125 bushels with four horses. Even a few trucks (1924); three 125 bushel grain tanks, four horses each; three triples 70-80 bushels, two horses. Prior to the trucks, we had caravans.

There was a camp set up, as the livery barns could not handle so many horses. Each trip took two days, then a day of rest and load the many wagons.

In winter there were sleighs. Sleighs were much easier on the horses. The rough locks on the sleighs for going far downhill were a lot of bother, usually a log chain wrapped on a runner, and were hard to get off at the bottom of the hill.