Pioneer camp brings historic trail to life

A local woman is working to bring a piece St. Joseph history back to life.

Posted: Jul. 6, 2018 7:04 PM

(St.Joseph,MO) In the 1800s thousands of people passed through St. Joseph on the Oregon-California trail. Now a local woman is working to bring a piece of that history back to life.

In June, the St. Joseph City Council approved the donation of 10 covered wagons from the Parks Department to the Oregon-California Trails Association (OCTA). After spending years in storage, the wagons will have a new home on Saxton Easton Road at the Whistle Stop Livestock Preserve.

Cindy Weaver, founder of the Whistle Stop Livestock Preserve, is donating a portion of her land to create a Pioneer Wagon Camp.

"We will have a wagon camp that will teach about what their ancestors had to go through to populate the west and be able to move west," Weaver said.

The camp will tell the story of the 450,000 travelers that passed through St. Joseph on the Oregon-California trail to start a new life in the West.

St. Joseph Historic Preservation and Planning Consultant Lauren Manning works with the local chapter of OCTA, and said St. Joseph was a huge travel hub for people getting on the trail.

"People that walked across, if they didn't get on a steam boat, they came across [what is] essentially the 36 corridor," Manning said.

Campers will sleep in covered wagons and get hands-on experience learning how the pioneers lived. Campers will even get the chance to work with some of the livestock that pulled wagons on the original trail.

"Every wagon has about six oxen to went with it.Ninety percent of those who went west used oxen," Weaver said.

The livestock preserve is home to several rescue animals including oxen, cows, horses and mules.

Weaver said the camp will be used as an educational tool for teachers and school groups.

"Besides the people getting educated, it becomes a fun thing. The teachers will hopefully take the lessons that they've learned here and go back to their students and teach their students about the westward trails,” Weaver said.

Construction still needs to be done on the land. Weaver is requesting help from local volunteers to help level the ground, make pads and build shelters to accommodate the covered wagons.Weaver said she hopes to have construction finished by late October and plans to open the camp to the public sometime next spring. Because the livestock preservation is a functional farm, reservations will be required before groups can start visiting the camp.

Anyone interest in donating construction materials or volunteering their time towards the development of the camp should contact the Oregon-California Trails Association through the St.Joseph Museums.

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