Saturday, June 13, 2015

Wagons in History--and Our Family!

by Miralee Ferrell

Conestoga Wagons- crossed the plains
 to settle the West
Wagons, buggies, chariots, carts, stagecoaches all have a long history, dating to far before Jesus's time. I'd like to focus on a little closer to our era, and the era I write in, the 1800s. I've had a fascination for old vehicles for years and have often wished we could purchase a restored buggy or wagon for display if not for actual use. The new ones driven by horse owners today are nice, but there's something about the 1800s buggies and wagons that pull me back into imaginations of the Old West. 

I took this photo on the main street of Tombstone.
It's the stage we rode in
My husband and I had our first ride in a restored stage coach a few years ago when visiting Tombstone, Arizona, while on a research trip for my western novel set there. The coach only traveled a few blocks around town, but what a thrill it was to think of the people who might have journeyed in it at one time, and the stories it could tell. Who knows, maybe it's the one Christy Grey arrived in when she came to Tombstone!

While researching my Love Blossoms in Oregon book series in Baker City, Oregon, we were privileged to see a number of buggies, wagons, and even a wagon that was used as a school bus! I had assumed most children walked or rode their horses to school in the 1800s, but Baker City boasted a wagon drawn 'bus' that picked the children up and delivered them to school. 

 This past fall I visited Nashville, TN for a writer's retreat, and while there, I was able to take a tour of a plantation. The house and grounds were fascinating, but I particularly loved the huge barn that housed horses on one side and a plethora of buggies on the other. What a treasure trove and an education in buggies and sleighs of that era. 
This sign was in the stall beside the 

The buggy shown above is a Brougham, as depicted on the sign to the right. If it weren't for the driver's foot-board, you could almost think this was a car! The following description is taken from Wikipedia. A brougham (pronounced "broom" or "brohm") was a light, four-wheeled horse-drawn carriage built in the 19th century.[1][note 1] It was named after Scottish jurist Lord Brougham, who had this type of carriage built to his specification by London coachbuilder Robinson & Cook[1] in 1838 or 1839.[1][2] It had an enclosed body with two doors,[1] like the rear section of a coach; it sat two, sometimes with an extra pair of fold-away seats in the front corners,[2] and with a box seat in front for the driver and a footman or passenger. Unlike a coach, the carriage had a glazed front window, so that the occupants could see forward.[1] The fore-wheels were capable of turning sharply. A variant, called a brougham-landaulet, had a top collapsible from the rear doors backward.[note 2]

We have a small wagon in our family, (the green one to the right) that's been handed down and will one day go to my brother. It was built at the request of my great grandmother and belonged to my grandfather as a child. The best part is, it was built by an actual wagon maker just after the turn of the century. My children pulled it in a parade with stuffed animals riding inside.

I'd love to have inherited it, but my grandmother's wish was that it remain in the male line of the family. Maybe someday I'll get to have a buggy of my own, and if not, I'll keep visiting museums and taking tours where I can see them, touch them, and maybe even get to ride in another one!

Miralee Ferrell is the author of 14 novels, including many set in the old west. Her two newest series is Love Blossoms in Oregon, the one mentioned above set in Baker City, Oregon in the 1880s, and more recently, a four-book series, Horses and Friends, middle-grade horse novels full of adventure, a little mystery, and lots of horses! Book one, A Horse for Kate, released earlier this year, and book two, Silver Spurs, released June 1. Book three, Mystery Rider, will release September 1, and Blue Ribbon Trail Ride, releases January 1 of next year. You can find Miralee at her website where you can also sign up for her newsletter, or on her Facebook author group.


  1. I love seeing these photos of old wagons and buggies. That little wagon of yours is so cool! How fun it that!

  2. Yes, I do too.. What I love is the wagon was handmade by an actual wagon maker, not from a toy company or off an assembly line.

  3. I loved the photo of one of the Stagecoaches in Tombstone. We lived there for over two years and spent many enjoyable hours on Allen street. We hope to return again one day.

  4. That's so cool, Linda! My husband and I have talked about how fun it would be to retire there, but it's too far away from our kids and grandchild. Otherwise, I'd be very tempted. I love it!

  5. I love old wagons and buggies. We have a small museum near us that has a building that displays old wagons and buggies from around our area. Love to go and look there.

  6. In America it is MISpronounced Broham In England always after the man's name pronounced Broom.

  7. Correctly pronounced Broom, after the man's name. Never call it a brohm.