Santa-Cali-Gon is a celebration of America’s westward movement across the vast plains, deserts and mountains along the three trails – the Santa Fe, the California and the Oregon.

The Independence Square was the trailhead during the mid-1800s. Pioneers loaded their covered wagons and left their homes and families in search of a new land of their visions. Some folks traveled hundreds of miles, and others even journeyed thousands. Their journey was to take them into a vast wilderness unknown to them.

They knew not the dangers that lay ahead of them, or the lives they would have, or the hardships they would have to endure. They faced obstacles that challenged their strength and determination. The natural forces of weather for instance, swollen streams and rivers, unfamiliar mountains and valleys, hostile Indians and outlaws, not to mention encounters with wild animals and uncertain sickness and, Lord have mercy, even death. These were all frequent visitors to their westward journeys.

Most of the thousands of pioneers who headed west from the Independence Square banded together in wagon trains whose leaders had made the trips before, rough-cut men who hopefully knew the way to their destinations. Families worked together helping each other with the hardships of the journey, of which there were many, but they were all a proud and hardy bunch – strong, able and determined.

The pioneer families generally took with them their household effects, farming equipment and livestock, also food enough to last until a new crop could be harvested. Because after all, there were no corner grocery stores.

In time, their faith brought them to the land they sacrificed for. When they finally crossed that final horizon, they unloaded their wagons and called it home. The pioneers entered a plot of ground generally covered with timber. The ground was richer and easier to till than the prairies and they needed the timber for building materials.

They broke soil unacquainted with a plow. They cleared timber that knew not the sound of an axe or crosscut saw. They drank water from cool, clear, unspoiled streams. They walked through grass that grew as high as their horse’s shoulders.

They planted wheat, corn, oats, potatoes, beans, turnips and the like. Neighbors helped each other build shelter. They encountered the summer’s heat, and the winter’s cold. They prayed for rain when the streams went dry, and believe me, many times the droughts brought pestilence that destroyed the first-year crops they so desperately needed.

Sometimes the men were killed by Indians as they fought to protect their families. That meant the women had to look to the God of the heavens for strength to continue onward. The courageous women took over the working of the land, tending the cattle, hogs, sheep, mules, horses, chickens or whatever kind of livestock they processed.

Sometimes children even witnessed the death of both parents, so in such cases the brave young children had to take on the responsibilities of care and the raising of the younger ones in the family. They looked to the Lord for strength to continue on. Many of the young boys learned how to plow and tend the fields at extremely young ages. They became acquainted with hard work and it remained a part of their character throughout the remainder of their lives.

The pioneers were forced to live a simple life – no indoor plumbing, no electricity, no televisions – but they were happy with that simplicity. The lack of luxuries did not vex these hard working rugged people.

Reference: “Ozark Pioneers,” by Vickie Layton Cobb.

Reach Ted W. Stillwell at or 816-896-3592.