Prairie Schooner

The Prairie Schooner was one way that pioneers travelled. The Prairie Schooner was a large wagon with a framework over it. The frame was covered with white canvas. The wagons measured over a meter in width (four feet) and three and a half meters long. This wagon was a family’s home for months.

The Prairie Schooner was a covered wagon that was a home for settler families until they got their houses built.

In the wagon was everything that the family would need:

  • House items (bedding, clothing, pots, pans, dishes, butter churn, washtub, and pails)
  • Food and water
  • Hunting gear (guns and ammunition)
  • Furniture
  • Tools (crowbar, axes, shovels, and hammers) were often hung on the sides of the wagon.

We’re grateful for the hard work that the settlers endured settling the Prairies.

Red River Cart

The Red River cart was a two-wheeled cart made entirely of wood and rawhide. No metal was required to build these carts so if it broke down on a trail, settlers could repair it using wood or rawhide.

The cart was used by settlers, fur traders, and the Métis people. The first carts were built at the Red River settlement in Manitoba. It was a strong cart and lighter than most wagons. The parts were held together with wooden pegs and strips of rawhide. Strips of rawhide were also wrapped around the wooden wheel rims.

One horse can pull 1,000 pounds in a Red River cart.

Settlers often used the Red River cart to get to their homesteads. There were no roads built yet, and the trails across the prairies were uneven and bumpy. This meant that wagons and carts often broke down, but the Red River cart was easy to fix. If a stream had to be crossed, the wheels could be removed and the cart floated across. Sometimes, a rounded hood of canvas or hide was placed over the cart to cover the contents or to provide shelter for the driver and family.

A horse is shown pulling a cart.

These oxen are pulling a red river cart full of this family’s belongings and supplies to start their homestead.

There is a learning curve involved in making Red River carts.

Stagecoach

The stagecoach was a 4-wheeled vehicle pulled by a team of horses. The carriage was covered but the driver sat in front and was not protected from the weather. Stagecoaches hauled passengers, their luggage, mail, and some cargo. The luggage and mail were placed in the back of the coach and cargo was strapped on to the roof.

The driver sat on the outside of the stagecoach to steer the horses, and was not protected from the weather.

A ride in a stagecoach was very uncomfortable. The trails were rough, and people were tossed from side to side. People sat on hard wooden benches which were so close together that there was very little leg room. The three benches were meant to seat nine people. There were times when there were more than nine passengers, which made them very cramped. When it was crowed, passengers kept luggage on their laps. The windows could not have glass in them because they would break on the rough trails. There were leather shades that could be pulled over the windows to protect passengers from the direct sunlight, but not from dust, heat, and cold.

Two horses are pulling a stage coach that is had a bunch of suitcases on top of it.

Stagecoaches hauled passengers, their luggage, mail, and cargo, but were a very uncomfortable ride.

When a stagecoach approached a large mud hole or a steep hill, people got out and walked. A stage coach would make rest stops at stations on route. On these stops, passengers could get out and stretch. Food was provided at some stops. Horses and drivers were also switched. Overnight rest stops often meant sleeping on the floor. After railroads were built, stagecoaches were still used to reach communities where the railroad did not go.

Buggies

There were many styles and sizes of buggies. Most popular was the four-wheeled buggy, which was pulled by one horse. Buggies were preferred for short trips – to school, to town, or to church.

Two women are sitting in a buggy that is being pulled by a horse. They are on a homestead, with a farmhouse in the background.

This horse and buggy wagon is seen on a farm west of Saskatoon in 1923.

Buggies were light enough that if they got stuck in the mud, a horse could usually pull them out. The buggy had large, narrow, metal rimmed wheels or hard rubber tires on the rims. Fancier buggies had cushioned seats, foot rests, arm or elbow rests, metal steps, and floor mats. A country doctor travelled in a Doctor’s Buggy to visit patients. The doctor’s bag was kept in a space under the seat or behind the seat.

Two women are with a horse that is pulling a covered wagon.

These settlers are covering their supplies as they travel in a horse and buggy.

Three young children are in a wooden wagon that is being pulled by a team of two horses. There's a wooden house in the background.

These kids are headed to school in 1928. They are traveling in a buggy that is being pulled by horses.