A Conestoga Wagon is a special wagon devised in the pre-Revolutionary War period. Wagon builders in the Conestoga Valley of Pennsylvania designed it, hence the name. It was pulled by 6 horses, in pairs side by side. The front-left horse was usually the lead horse, with the driver walking alongside it with the jerk-line to control the entire team. The body of the wagon was slightly curved upwards at the ends, to prevent loads from shifting as the wagon went up and down the hills of the Alleghenies. Sail cloth could be used to make a roof shelter. A feedbox could also be attached to the rear of the wagon bed so that the horses could all feed at once. If need be, the main body of the wagon would actually float while crossing a river.

The main roads that the Conestoga wagons traveled on were either rocky mountain paths (dirt), or corduroy turnpikes. Corduroy roads consisted of logs laid side by side on a dirt path. The Conestoga wagons are not to be confused with the later wagons that crossed the Great Plains. Those wagons were much less sturdy, and were just converted farm wagons with no true design to them. Even though the Conestoga became rare after the Revolutionary War, they are to be remembered for the service they rendered to the Pennsylvania farmers in transporting goods.

Con`es*to"ga wag`on or wain (?). [From Conestoga, Pennsylvania.]

A kind of large broad-wheeled wagon, usually covered, for traveling in soft soil and on prairies.


© Webster 1913.

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