An eyewitness recalls an ox cart caravan.

A caravan of ox carts and their drivers was a noisy spectacle. Because these ingenious wood carts had no metal parts, their ungreased wooden wheels squealed as they rubbed against wooden axles. In her memoir Mary Woodbury Caswell, who lived on the Rum River in the Woodbury House, recalled her excitement and the noise when the carts passed through Anoka in the mid-1860s:

“Perhaps the first thing that would really savor of frontier experiences was the long line of Red River Carts that so interested my brother and me. The carts operated on the Red River Trail from [Pembina], on the Red River near Canada, to St. Paul, carrying pelts and furs. As many as 150 carts run by … French-[Pembina] Indians were under the command of one captain.

“Perched upon on a rail fence that adorned our yard, we eagerly awaited for the procession, which was heralded by the shrieking complaints of the solid wooden wheels turning on their ungreased wooden axles.

“I verily believe this pandemonium could be heard for miles. All the town’s children flocked to the spectacle of the howling carts, sweating animals, and cursing [drivers] parading down dusty South Ferry Street.”



Commentary: Woodbury House

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Amanda Norman biographical
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1632 South Ferry Street, Anoka, Minnesota