"Prairie Schooner"

jim wolf cdtsociety at YAHOO.COM
Sat Dec 17 03:45:22 UTC 2005

The new issue (Fall 2005)of Overland Journal, published by the
Oregon-California Trails Association, includes an article entitled
"Out to Sea on a Prairie Schooner" by Margaret F. Walker.

The essay reviews diaries of emigrants in the mid-Nineteenth Century
and concludes that the term "prairie schooner" was not then used to
refer to typical emigrant wagons. The closest expression was Richard
Burton's allusion to a "prairie ship" -- in quotes in the original as
if an original or unusual construction. The term "prairie schooner"
was occasionally used in reference to a type of immense freight
wagon. (William Dennison Bickham mentioned a "prairie schooner" in a
letter of 1850, but Ms. Walker considers it ambigous -- "possibly a
commercial vehicle used in the gold diggings."

Apparently, mention of covered wagons as "prairie schooners" commonly
begain to appear in pioneer recollections written during the 1870s
and later.

Are there other early references that may shed light on the topic?

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