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Our Trip Back to Iowa
Winter of 1921
Arthur Edgar Craig

June 1, 1989, this story was told to Arthur's daughter, Dorothy Craig Fitzgerald. It is his reflections of his family move from Keoltztown, Missouri, to What Cheer, Iowa.

By the 1920's the days of pioneers traveling in covered wagons was a thing of the past. Right? Wrong! Just ask Dad. The following is his story.

In the late winter of 1921, Pa decided to move his family back home. Home was What Cheer, Iowa, where Pa had spent most of his childhood and where he and Mama were married.

Preparations were made converting two high wheel lumber wagons into covered wagons. One was Pas and the other belonged to my oldest sister, Phebe and her husband, Bill Benton.

Because of lack of space only food and necessities belongings were taken. All other items were taken to Meta, Missouri, late in March to an auction.

Late in the day, March 20, 1921, the small caravan left Keoltztown, Missouri, for the trip to Iowa.

Riding in one wagon were my parents, William Arthur and Lurena Jennings Craig, Elvie, and Elfie, the 14 year old twins and six year old Martha. We also took two dogs along. My dog was medium size, white with one brown spot and his name was Cotton. I don't recall the other dog's name.

Bill and Phebe Benton, and their two small sons, Andrew and Paul were in the other covered wagon.

Two colts followed behind with me. Arthur Edgar "Bud" Craig, age 16, bringing up the rear riding a mule.

What a sight we must have been!

Night one:

On the first night of the journey we camped East of Jefferson City on the bank of the Osage River. An open fire was built and supper was cooked. For a bed the girls and spread straw behind the wagons and covered it with quilts. the  others slept in the wagon.

From Jefferson City we followed the "Northern Trail" a hard surface road....mostly gravel, that is now highway 63.

We followed this road to within 7 miles of What Cheer.

Day 2:

the next day was the first day of Spring and it arrived with a snow storm. We stopped at Ashland to wait out the storm. A kind resident gave us the use of a vacant house and we spent most of 3 days and 2 nights there. The old saying is true, "If you don't like the weather in Missouri, it will change.

Day 4:

The 4th night we camped North of Columbia. it was a warm spring day and I went fishing. I asked a man if there were any cats (fish) in the creek? He replied, "I don't know if there is now, but last Spring I threw a sack full in."

(Cat and kittens).

Day 5:

The next night was spent in Moberly, Missouri. We camped where the Wal Mart store is now located.
Every night the mule would jump the fence and spend the night in someone's pasture. In the morning I'd get a rope and he would always come and jump back over.

Day 6:

The evening of the 6th day we were at Macon. We were directed to the City Park and told we could spend the night there. However the cops ran us out of town. They may thought that we were gypsies. We camped along the side of the road out in the country.

Day 7:

The next night was spent somewhere in the area of Kirksville, Missouri. I don't remember where.

Day 8:

On the 8th day we crossed the Iowa line. I had rode that mule from Keoltztown to Iowa. It took the colts that long to learn not to lag behind. I was the last of the family to leave Missouri. We camped that night near Bloomfield,


Day 9:

The night night on the trail was spent North of Ottumwa.

Day 10:

In the afternoon we arrived at George Gilchrist home North of Fremont, Iowa. George was William Gilchrist son. He was Pa's first cousin.

Day 11:

Pa went to What Cheer the following morning and rented a house.

Day 12:

We traveled the remaining 9 miles the next day to our new home. It was located in the East part of town. 1/2 block from the German Lutheran Church. It was the lot back of the Koch Greenhouse.. Ear ring Bob Smith lived next door and there was a pasture between us and the Kitzman home.

As we came over South Hill my first impression of What Cheer was, "I didn't think much of the town, but glad the trip was over."

Everyone enjoyed good health and other than the days of snow the weather was good and quite warm for March. it may have been one long picnic for the girls, but for me riding the mule it was one long tiresome ride.

In March 1952, I moved back to Missouri. this time in my pick up truck.

Bill and Phebe drove a team of Oxen
Grandpa drove a team of horses.

Bill and Phebe did not stay long in What Cheer, but returned to Missouri.

I remember an older gentleman telling me when I was married and visiting with him at the café that he couldn’t believe his eyes when the covered wagons came over the hill.

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