The Conestoga wagon was named for the valley in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where it was apparently developed by Pennsylvania-German settlers. It was one of the chief freight carriers in the East from 1750 until the coming of the railroads. The boat-shaped body prevented loads from shifting and gave the wagon a distinctive appearance. No two wagons, however, were alike, since they were often custom built. The Conestoga Wagon generally had a vermilion running gear, a Prussian blue wagon body, and a white canvas cover. Four to six horses generally pulled it and broad wheels kept it from getting stuck in the mud.
Mennonites were associated with the development and use of the wagon. M. G. Weaver, Mennonite historian of Lancaster County, wrote that his father Gideon Weaver built these wagons in the Conestoga Valley from 1836. One of the early Conestoga wagon teamsters, who as a youth began hauling freight across the Alleghenies, was Moses Hartz, who later became an Amish minister.
Mabel Dunham in her Trail of the Conestoga has made immortal the story of the 1802 migration of the Mennonite Bricker brothers from eastern Pennsylvania to Ontario in a Conestoga wagon. A Conestoga wagon used by early Mennonite immigrants on their trip to Ontario is still preserved in 1998 at Doon Heritage Crossroads in Kitchener, Ontario. To mark the Waterloo County Centennial of 1952, Amzie Martin, a man of Mennonite descent, drove this Conestoga Wagon from Pennsylvania to Kitchener. Amos Baker, an Old Order Dunker, preserved a Conestoga wagon of similar design and use in Vaughan Township, York County, Ontario.
Frey, J. William and H. C. Frey. The Conestoga Wagon, a Pennsylvania Dutch Product. Lancaster, Pa., 1947.
Cite This Article
Gingerich, Melvin. "Conestoga Wagon." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 22 Oct 2017. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Conestoga_Wagon&oldid=118878.
Gingerich, Melvin. (1953). Conestoga Wagon. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 October 2017, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Conestoga_Wagon&oldid=118878.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 668. All rights reserved.
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