Killed by a Wagon

“Gilbert L. Cole told of a shocking incident that happened on the prairie not far from where we now stood [Wakarusa River, Kansas]. His wagon company had been forced to cross a slough: an ordinary slough, no doubt—they crossed lots of them, planless ditches holding unambitious water. They were miserable things to ford, having no dependable bottom and offering most of the difficulties of a creek with none of its luxury.

The animals were badly in need of a breathing spell after the struggle up and out. Mr. Cole, who was driving that particular day, pulled his wagon abreast of another, standing motionless with its team sagged back out of their collars and chains dragging. The unknown wagon was of the type with.a flap door in its canvas side and in the door stood a beautiful baby girl about four years old. She smiled coyly at him–a lovely picture for a home-starved man–and he snapped his fingers to amuse her. Suddenly her father, on the driver’s seat, cracked his whip, probably in sudden worry at the time lost or in fear of losing his precious place in line. The animals took up the slack in the chains with terrific suddenness. The wagon gave a lurch, and the little girl was on the ground.

The great iron tire went over her at the waist line, wrote Mr. Cole, with her “pretty head and hands reaching up on one side of the wheel.” The mother threw herself after the child but unavailingly. “Such excruciating sobs of agony I hope never to hear again,” he wrote. “But why say it that way when I can hear them still?” . . .

The first death of the Great Migration of  ‘43 was six-year old Joel Hembree, killed by a wagon. Available journals mention dozens of instances. Usually the victim died.”