Records save bicentennial wagon from auction block

Friday, September 28th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A Conestoga wagon that crossed much of America during a bicentennial wagon train will not be auctioned off after all, according to the executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society.

The bicentennial wagon, a reproduction of the broad-wheeled covered wagon used primarily for hauling freight across the prairies in the 1800s, was in a collection owned by the Oklahoma State Fair.

It was to be auctioned Oct. 14 with dozens of other vintage wagons and carriages that had been in storage for 15 years.

But state historians found documents proving that the state of Pennsylvania gave the wagon to Oklahoma and the historical society, Bob Blackburn, the historical society's executive director, said Thursday. The society created the state's Bicentennial Commission to handle all bicentennial activities.

The bicentennial wagon participated in a wagon train it joined in Valley Forge, Pa., containing entries from every state. Blackburn said the event was a watershed event in local historical preservation.

Everything returned to the Oklahoma Historical Society at the end of the Bicentennial Commission's life, Blackburn said.

Documents about the bicentennial wagon were found in the records of Gladys Warren, former chairwoman of the Oklahoma Bicentennial Commission. Researchers were pointed to Warren's records by the diary of Dorothy Shuman, wife of Ivan Shuman of Laverne, wagonmaster of Oklahoma's bicentennial wagon in 1976.

The information convinced state fair President Skip Wagner that the wagon belongs to the society.

``We're so happy to have the wagon in good hands,'' Wagner said. ``We were happy to hold it and display it here.''

The wagon will become part of a traveling exhibit about wagon train travel, the bicentennial wagon train and the bicentennial celebration.

``It's something we can hitch up to horses and mules and actually use,'' Blackburn said. ``We'll use it to draw attention to history.''