Bicentennial Wagon Train visiting Richfield, Ohio, on June 4, 1976 (photo courtesy of Ohio History Connection)
Ohio Life

Bicentennial Wagon Train Visits Richfield

On June 4, 1976, the transcontinental Bicentennial Wagon Train stopped in northeast Ohio during its trek to reach Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, in time for Independence Day.

Made up of dozens of wagons traversing seven different routes from starting points across the United States, the Bicentennial Wagon Train served as a celebration that paid tribute to the indomitable spirit of America’s early pioneers. While those cross-continent travelers moved westward in covered wagons across the Allegheny Mountains to new opportunity, the 1976 celebration was done in reverse, moving west to east.

The Bicentennial Wagon Train rolled into the Summit County community of Richfield, Ohio, on June 4, 1976, just one month before it was scheduled to arrive in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, to officially conclude the pilgrimage.

“The Bicentennial Wagon Train, 43 wagons strong, plodded into this pastoral community Friday afternoon amid much flag waving, cheering and whooping,” Akron Beacon Journal staff writer Peggy Rader reported in the June 5, 1976, edition of the newspaper.

Jessie Schaures made the trek from Oregon with his wife, Faye, in their covered wagon, Rader reported.

“We’ve come 3,400 miles or so from the northwest corner of our state. It is just a great way to celebrate this birthday,” he said.  

The Richfield stop also provided an opportunity for Mayor Paul Wulff to conduct a marriage ceremony for Gale McMasters and Jeffrey Boggs, participants in the wagon train. Both were originally from this area of Ohio but didn’t meet until they joined the wagon train in Arizona, the Akron Beacon Journal reported. Richfield was one of 15 stops along the Great Lakes Route that the Bicentennial Wagon Train was scheduled to make in Ohio on its way to Pennsylvania.

An official program for the Bicentennial Wagon Train in the collection of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum notes that a Bicentennial Wagon Train was a fitting way to celebrate America’s 200th birthday, paying tribute to the throngs of settlers that risked their lives for a chance at opportunity in the new American west.

“The settlers were drawn by a compelling belief in the unalienable rights of man, of liberty, of justice and of freedom — the principles upon which our nation was founded.”