Lancaster County PA Realty Check: The Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Conestoga Wagon

The Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Conestoga Wagon

PA TurnpikeDid you know that the Philadelphia to Lancaster Turnpike, first completed in 1794, was the first successful turnpike in the new American nation?  It was built with the help of Conestoga wagons from Lancaster County!  The cigars that the Conestoga wagon drivers smoked became known as"stogies".

Turnpikes were originally built as for-profit enterprises with private money.  A toll taker would rotate a pike or timber that blocked the highway, after a toll was paid, clearing the way for a vehicle to pass - hence the name of "turnpike". 

Later on, the Pennsylvania Turnpike, started in 1938 and completed in 1941, became the first modern turnpike, going straight through mountains instead of around them.

The Conestoga wagon, named for the ConestogaLancaster County, PA Conestoga Wagon Indians and the Conestoga River area whence they first arose, made an outstanding contribution to both early agriculture and commerce.  The vehicles were noted in historical writings as being called Conestoga Wagons as early as 1716 by James Logan, secretary to William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania.

The horses that pulled the Conestoga wagons were controlled by a driver on the left side of the wagon, differentiating them from the European style of wagons that were driven from the right.  American cars and trucks to this day are driven from the left because of this precedent. 

These covered wagons were so popular and practical that they became the prime movers for the great Western migration.  Conestoga wagons peaked in use about the 1840s, when canals and railroads began to take over the transportation of heavy freight.

The Conestoga wagon was a common and patriotic sight in early America, with its typical red wheels and running gear, blue bodies, and white tops!

 

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Brian Schulman offers expert personalized real estate representation and services in Lancaster County, PA.  To contact him, visit http://www.FindLancasterHomes.com/

 

 

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Comment balloon 10 commentsBrian Schulman • March 16 2008 09:45AM

Comments

Brian - I gotta say, I love these dabbles into the unique history of our area.  It's so very historic and it seems I am finding out things I didn't know every turn of the way.  Thanks for the article, you got an extra 'Stogie':-)

Posted by Jason Sardi, Your Agent for Life (Auto & Home & Life Insurance throughout North Carolina) over 10 years ago
Brian - Thanks for sharing a piece of American early history.  I did not know the first turnpike was in PA.  Yes people don't think about it now, but the wagon were as important back then as cars and truck are to us today.
Posted by Jennifer Fivelsdal, Mid Hudson Valley real estate connection ( JFIVE Home Realty LLC | 845-758-6842|162 Deer Run Rd Red Hook NY 12571) over 10 years ago
Brian this is a great little piece of history that you have put together.  Thank you!
Posted by Linda Futral over 10 years ago
Jason, these posts aren't strictly real estate related, but I find them a fascinating adjunct to knowing and appreciating our area!
Posted by Brian Schulman, Lancaster County PA RealEstate Expert 717-951-5552 (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Lancaster PA) over 10 years ago
Jennifer, the Conestoga wagons at the height of their popularity of their were known as "Prairie Schooners", or inland ships!  They were indeed the forerunners of our trucks and vans.
Posted by Brian Schulman, Lancaster County PA RealEstate Expert 717-951-5552 (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Lancaster PA) over 10 years ago
Linda, I'm glad you enjoyed the post.  Thanks for stopping by!
Posted by Brian Schulman, Lancaster County PA RealEstate Expert 717-951-5552 (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Lancaster PA) over 10 years ago

This is a fascinating history, Brian!  I had no idea that the origins of driving on the left led back to the Conestoga wagons. I didn't realize they were named after a Native American tribe either.

The origins of the term 'turnpike' is very intriguing too....

(-:

Jo 

Posted by Jo-Anne Smith over 10 years ago
I never realized that driving on the left originated with the Conestoga Wagon!  Great stuff, Brian.  You're on a roll today!
Posted by Jeannie Kontis over 10 years ago
Jo, the Conestoga River runs right past the City of Lancaster.  The river and its valley, as well as the covered wagons,  and even a special breed of horses that pulled the wagons, were named after the original tribe.
Posted by Brian Schulman, Lancaster County PA RealEstate Expert 717-951-5552 (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Lancaster PA) over 10 years ago
Jeannie, see what happens when I have too much time on my hands?  LOL  :o)
Posted by Brian Schulman, Lancaster County PA RealEstate Expert 717-951-5552 (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Lancaster PA) over 10 years ago

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