MAN'S PROGRESS - The Ox Cart
By Louis Miller
Louis Miller, a retired Fremont County farmer,
in the mid-1900s created a collection of miniatures
representing various modes of travel through the ages.
The collection was left to the Fremont County Historical
Society along with a tape that told a story about
each item. In Louis Miller's own words, this Attic
tells the story of one of the items in the collection-
the ox cart.
His miniature of the ox cart is a replica
of an exact cart his family owned. The ox cart was
built by Art Waterman, Dearborn, New York in 1822.
The body was 4'X8' with two wheels. The wheels were
six feet tall and six inches wide, with a tongue to
hitch the oxen. The steel for the tires was shipped
from New York City to Albany on the Hudson River,
and over the Cherry Valley Turnpike to Springfield,
New York. The tires were made wide so they would not
cut deep in hay meadows. The blacksmith, while welding
the tire ends together, burnt the steel so they had
to replace about three inches by riveting pieces before
attempting to weld them together. This plainly shows.
The tire hubs were rounded out on a homemade turning
lathe, using power from the local dammed up creek.
The ox cart was purchased in 1854 from this Art Waterman.
It is 132 years old and I have heard my father tell
of riding to church in this ox cart and it was the
finest rig on the road.
Then we have the oxen. The oxen that
pulled this cart, people figured was a worthless critter
that was the offspring of the milk cow until man learned
that the oxen could carry his burden and pull his
plow until such time that the oxen was needed for
food. Thus, the ox has been man's main power from
the time of Christ and was still carrying Man's burden
at the turn of the century.
Next we have the yoke that the cattle
pulled. Now they pulled from the tops of their necks
and this yoke is a piece of timber about six feet
long and probably six to eight inches in depth and
is hued out to fit the oxen's neck. Then they have
what they call the bow. They get seasoned hickory
and bend it in a 'U' shape that's slipped up over
the oxen's neck. Up through the yoke is a big ring
that was fastening to the wagon tongue and that is
the way the oxen pulled the cart.
Well, I guess you are wondering how
these carts were used. It was the first and only way
of carrying the few belongings they had. They put
them in the cart and they all walked behind over the
trail, which was sometimes as long 800 to 1000 miles.
When they came to the streams and rivers, they would
find the shallowest place where they could wade across.
The Missouri and Mississippi were just small wide
streams at that time. That is why the cart had high
wheels so the water wouldn't get into their belongings
and if they had to, the oxen and the people could
swim the stream.