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Sesquicentennial Wagon Train Rambles Into San Antonio

February 28, 1986

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (AP) _ The 500 hardy souls traveling in the Sesquicentennial Texas Wagon Train got a dress rehearsal for the dusty winds of West Texas as they loped into San Antonio.

Winds gusting more than 20 miles per hour whipped the 50 or so covered wagons and those on horseback as they rolled into town Thursday from Poteet.

″We had a dress rehearsal this morning for West Texas,″ said Jan France, executive director of the wagon train.

″It was something else. We’ve had wind, but we haven’t had the dust and dirt,″ she said, a wide-brimmed cowboy hat perched on her head.

The Sesquicentennial wagon train, now a third of the way into its planned 3,000-mile trek around Texas, was the brainchild of Mrs. France.

She and her husband, Garry France, the wagonmaster, are in the ranching business in Sulphur Springs where the wagon train began its procession in January. The trip is scheduled to end in Fort Worth on July 3.

The wagons, some authentic from the pioneer days and others reproductions, are accompanied by residents of 14 states. A total of 32 other states will be represented at one time or another during the trip.

The wagons will head north to Johnson City next, then begin the long journey across West Texas to El Paso.

Mrs. France said she got the idea for the wagon train after reading a story in her hometown newspaper in 1983 about the Sesquicentennial. The story, she said, urged people to suggest ideas for celebrating Texas’ 150th anniversary.

″A lot of states have wagon train associations and have rides every year,″ she said. ″Texas does not. We have trail rides here, but no wagon trains.

″I thought it would be a good way to kick off a wagon train event,″ she said.

″It’s a way of life that people don’t have any more. We’re showing the younger generation what this way of life is,″ she said.

Some people, adults included, have never seen a covered wagon or touched a horse, Mrs. France said.

″The wagon train is an exhibit of our western heritage,″ she said.

Covered wagons, she said, are not that hard to come by.

″They’re just everywhere, they really are,″ Mrs. France said.

Farmers and ranchers along the trail have pulled covered wagons out of storage and parked them so they could be viewed. Many have posted ″for sale″ signs on the wagons.

The wagons will roll by the Alamo Friday on their way to Freeman Coliseum, where they will spend the night. They will be on display Saturday at the coliseum grounds.

Mrs. France said it took her about two weeks to really begin appreciating the harships the pioneers went through to travel by covered wagon.

″It’s rough for us on these graded roads. Just imagine what it would be like on open terrain,″ she said.

″We don’t have to worry about Indians. They had to take all their supplies with them,″ she said.

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