“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Big Piney in Sublette County, Wyoming — The American West (Mountains)

The First Engines: Oxen, Mules, and Horses

Five Times More Animals

The First Engines: Oxen, Mules, and Horses Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, June 2, 2016
1. The First Engines: Oxen, Mules, and Horses Marker
Inscription. Click to hear the inscription.  Livestock outnumbered emigrants five to one on the Lander Trail. A typical emigrant wagon needed four mules or 4-6 oxen to pull a wagon with up to 2,000 pounds of supplies. Emigrants also brought riding horses, milk cows, beef cattle, and even sheep. Sounds and smells from livestock were a part of camp life. The escape or death of draft animals could lead to disaster.

Oxen vs. Mules and Horses

Most emigrants chose oxen (castrated cattle) to pull their wagons. In an emergency emigrants used almost any cattle, including milk cows, to pull wagons. Oxen were slower, but cheaper ($25), fed on grass, and recovered faster. Horses and mules were faster, but cost more ($100), needed better food, and struggled to pull heavy loads on sandy and muddy trails.

Caring For Livestock

Emigrants has to take good care of their animals. At each camp they took their livestock to feed on grass and then had to guard them night long. Thirsty animals has to be prevented from drinking deadly alkali water. Sore feet could quickly disable an animal. Many shod their livestock, or used sole leather or tar it the animal's feet became sore.

About 2 this PM, One of our oxen expired, probably from the effects of Alkali. Poor fellow, I could almost weep at his loss, he has been a faithful ox and done his duty to the last. - Hamet Case, Piney Canyon, Wyoming, July 24, 1859

Laying by to day (sic) shoeing cattle, we have a blacksmith along in the company who has a small anvil and some of them have a small bellows. So we went to work and put up a forge, burnt coal. Built a frame to shoe the oxen in and iron can be had by picking it up anywhere, so we made our oxen shoes and nails and are shoeing the cattle. - James Brown, New Fork River, July 30, 1859

Erected by Sublette County Historical Society.
Location. 42° 36.936′ N, 109° 51.054′ W. Marker is near Big Piney, Wyoming, in Sublette County. Marker can be reached from Paradise Road near Wyoming Highway 351, on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1398 Paradise Road, Big Piney WY 83113, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 10 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. "We Busy Ourselves in Various Ways" (within shouting distance of this marker); Building the Lander Trail (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); Crossing the New Fork River (about 700 feet away); Rising to the Challenge of the New Fork River (about 700 feet away); "Hear Was Hundreds of Emigrants" (approx. 0.2 miles away); 19th Century Interstate Highway (approx. mile away); Sand Springs - A Stop on the Oregon Trail (approx. 9.8 miles away); “The Best Mountain Road in the West” (approx. 9.8 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Big Piney.
More about this marker. This marker is located in Lander Trail New Fork River Crossing Historic Park.
Categories. AnimalsRoads & VehiclesSettlements & Settlers
Credits. This page was last revised on December 10, 2016. This page originally submitted on December 10, 2016, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. This page has been viewed 162 times since then and 26 times this year. Photo   1. submitted on December 10, 2016, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California.
Editor’s want-list for this marker. Overview of the First Engines marker on the New Fork River Crossing exhibit trail. • Can you help?
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