Montpelier, Idaho: Another driving day, but this time east through the beautiful Wasatch Mountains on I-80, where we took a left to follow 89 through Utah, Wyoming, back into Utah, back into Wyoming, and finally into Idaho. The scenery was outstanding all day and we actually saw a calf being born in a field in the middle of nowhere. Plop! Then Momma stood up and was nudging her newborn. Amazing. I can’t count the number of less-than-one-week calves we saw today. We also saw several red-winged black birds, Western Meadowlarks and many flocks of gulls.
Our destination was to little Montpelier, Idaho, population 2,500. Before Montpelier was coined Montpelier (by Brigham Young, who named it after Montpelier, Vermont – in his birth state) it was known as Clover Creek and was a 3-day resting point for wagon trains on the Oregon Trail. (Clover Creek is now called Montpelier Creek.) Recently Montpelier opened a museum on the exact site of the encampment. But the National Oregon/California Trail Center is more than a museum – when you pay the admission fee, you sign-up to join a wagon train to Oregon!
We decided to join with wagon master Dave. He explained the rules of the road. Anyone (over 12 years old) joining Dave’s train had to buy a $20 rifle, buy a prairie schooner wagon and provision it with 1200 pounds of food and equipment to last about five months on the trail to Oregon. We needed 2 to 4 oxen. It would cost us $1200 dollars for all the equipment and supplies – including a $25 fee for our guide – and if we made it to Oregon (or California if we choose to head south) we would be rewarded with 160 acres – EACH! This was quite an expense, because we only earned about $120 per year in Missouri in 1852. We had to sell everything we owned, borrow from our parents and trade all my beautiful china for oxen. Dang, I really loved my beautiful dishes.
We decided to go!
This is our wagon. It is a Studebaker Wagon – nicknamed the Prairie Schooner. Mr. Studebaker sent a wagon out of his factory every seven minutes. $100 bucks. (Later this same company made cars!)
So, we hitched-up our oxen and headed west, only to mysteriously arrive in Clover Creek (present-day Idaho) just as the sun was setting for a three-day rest.
We were greeted by a young woman who let us join her around a campfire. She explained her parents had died of cholera a few weeks ago along the trail and she was now traveling with her aunt. Since she is a single woman, she would not be allowed to own property in Oregon or California, so it was her plan to find a nice husband in Oregon and get her 160 acres. Oregon was the only state to allow a woman to own property at this time, but the Feds would not give the 160 promised acres to an unmarried woman. Geesh.
If you have grand/kids – this museum would really interest them. At one point – after you sign-on and load your wagon – you actually get to sit in a Prairie Schooner and – Disney-style – “ride” a mile or so on the trail. After sitting on the jostling, noisy and uncomfortable wagon, we both decided we would rather walk to Oregon – as the settlers did. They walked. The wagon was just for supplies. They didn’t even sleep in the wagon, they slept under the stars or under the wagon. We enjoyed our time at the National Oregon/California Trail Center and encourage you to visit if you are ever in Montpelier, Idaho… which, sadly, is practically in the middle of nowhere.
The downtown area of Montpelier seems a bit sad. Many business are closed and it doesn’t look as if the huge rail yard gets much use these days.
This bakery, long gone, has a gorgeous vintage sign and the street benches are extremely adorable.
The local high school mascot is “The Bears”. Notice the building front on the right is made of logs?
We enjoyed a quiet evening and another home cooked meal in our modern version of a Prairie Schooner. (Can you even imagine a pioneer woman looking at our dishwasher? Washer? Dryer? Don’t even go there with the TV or internet.)
Who needs two oxen when we have 650 horses?
Shabbat Shalom from our motorhome.
Until my next update, I remain, your 2013 correspondent.
RV PARK: Montpelier Creek KOA – It’s been a while since we have been greeted so warmly at a campground. We came in with no reservations and they had a large pull-through site to accommodate our massive rig. The owners were ridiculously nice and helpful. They have owned the park for 7 years and said seven years ago, we would have not fit inside this park. They have a new layout, new playground, a pool, bath house, laundry, store, rental cabins and a tenters area – all along Montpelier Creek – two miles from town (and the museum). We have a large gravel pull-through with 50-amp full service and a robin that is desperately trying to mate with himself via our mirrored dining window. We paid $40.