Sturkie Family History
The Tar-pole Wagon
Along the paths going West creaked the great tar-pole wagons.These wagons might be drawn by a yoke of oxen, mules or horses and were standard transportation for our westward moving ancestors. The axles of the wagons were made entirely of wood and so were the wheels.In those days wood was used to make everything that could possibly be made of wood. Wood was abundant and readily available. Many of our ancestors made their own wagons since factory made wagons were expensive. Factory wagons were made of as much

wood as possible but iron was used at points of great stress and wear. The greatest wear was on the hubs and axles and these were iron. Resin (or tar) melted out of fat pine was smeared on the axle ends to minimize the friction of the turning wheel hubs. This wagon had no thimbles nor skeen but ran on the wooden axles which were greased with tar made from pine trees.Even iron wheels and axles needed lubrication.


Before starting any trip the wagon owner would pull the wheels of his wagon nearly off and anoint the spindles with grease. The grease would ooze out the front of the hub Every household kept itself in pine tar. When the people went somewhere they hung a bucket of tar on pole on the back of the wagon. On a trip of any length the riders were just about certain to run out of tar. Then the wheels ran dry and when that happened anybody a mile away was sure to know it by the squall of the hub and axle.

Such a happening was no great catastrophe. Any man at his home who heard the wail knew he would soon have company and he well knew his duty to such company. He broke out his supply of pine tar and waited. When the wagon hove in sight he replenished the waggoner’s tar bucket and sat down with him to hear the latest news. All this was standard practice. Everybody had tar. Everybody gave it away freely. For everybody knew that on any trip he made he would be needing tar along the way and he knew he would get it.