Bissell Buzz 2016/6

Independence Day celebrations and festivities have come around once more.  In 1776 after the Declaration was read, it was celebrated with the ringing of bells and band music.  Then the next year on July 4th, 1777, Philadelphia marked Independence Day by adjourning Congress and celebrating with bonfires, bells and fireworks. The custom eventually spread to other towns, both large and small, where the day was marked with processions, oratory, picnics, contests, games, military displays and fireworks. More than a century later the pioneers on the wagon trails however rarely took time off to celebrate.  Yet the 4th of July was a holiday most emigrants did stop to celebrate along the trail.

A day on the trail would typically have the following routine:

  • Around 4:00 a.m.: the wagon leader sounded the trumpet or fired a rifle and everyone woke up.
  • By 5:00 a.m.: breakfast was prepared, while the cattle were rounded up after grazing overnight.
  • By 6:00 a.m.: the men and boys had hitched the wagons and everyone ate breakfast.
  • At 7:00 a.m.: the bugle sounded, the wagon master shouted “Wagons Roll!” and they started off for the day.
  • There was an hour lunch break, referred to as “nooning”.
  • About 6:00 p.m.: they would circle their wagons. Circling the wagons wasn’t for protection against the Indians as much as it was to provide a corral for livestock, and security from cattle thieves, wild animals and weather. Immediately the campfires started burning and dinner was cooked.

They traveled approximately 12 to 15 miles per day and it took them months to reach their destination, so there was no time to waste.   Once again I can say I only have the utmost respect for what they endured to establish homesteads and towns in the wild unknown, where we all now reside.

Paging through The Phillips County Review’s Centennial and Progress Edition (1872-1972) I spotted this small advert under the WANTED column: “LOST: – Last November, between the Charles Drake home and Lynch’s restaurant, a steel thimble with brass ring around the top. Keepsake.  Liberal reward. (Mrs. Chas Drake)”   It raised two thoughts in my mind.  Firstly why did she carry her thimble with her to the restaurant?  Maybe it was still in the pocket of her apron from when she was sewing.  And secondly, the value of a treasured thimble was so much that a reward was offered.  It could have been an heirloom from her mother or grandmother, but it certainly was a necessity for sewing and quilting.  And this left me wondering how many ladies today actually have or still use a thimble?

Visit the Fort and see most aspects of the Prairie pioneer life being showcased.  Our hours are Tuesday to Friday 9am – 4pm and Saturday 9am – 2pm.  Closed on Sundays and Mondays.  Regular updates and photos are posted on our Facebook page.

We can be contacted on (785) 543-6212 or on email at

Remember entrance is FREE. See ya at the Fort – hopefully soon!!

Ruby Wiehman – Curator