Attention: buckboard aficionados!

A North American buckboard in action
A North American buckboard in action

Several readers asked about the photograph of the ruined North American buckboard wagon that appeared in my previous post. Whose wagon was it? How did it get there?

The word "National" appears on this wagon's hub.
The word “National” appears on this wagon’s hub.

My attention was directed to this ruined wagon when I visited Killik Aike last February while doing fieldwork in the Santa Cruz beds with a very accommodating group of Argentine paleontologists and geologists, including Sergio Vizcaino, Susana Bargo and others. My trip to Argentina was funded in part by a generous Franklin Research Grant from the American Philosophical Society.

A view of the ruined wagon.
Another view of the ruined wagon.

My Argentine colleagues were there to collect Santa Cruz fossils. My purpose was to revisit historic fossil localities of the Captain Marshall Field Paleontological Expedition. One morning Sergio decided to visit Killik Aike to search for fossils there, and I jumped at the chance to see this historic place and talk to the present owners about old family records. While the rest of the party was fossil-hunting, I visited the estancia and had a long interview with John Locke Blake, sheep breeder, author and master of Killik Aike. Later we were all treated to a wonderful asado of wood-fired lamb and an abundance of carrots and potatoes plucked from the estancia’s famous garden.

Hatcher's wagon in Patagonia. Thanks to Lowell Dingus for the scan.
Hatcher’s wagon in Patagonia. Thanks to Lowell Dingus for the scan.

Locke told me that when he bought the place from the Feltons in 1980, he found two North American wagons abandoned near the shore. When he tried to move them to higher ground, they fell to pieces. He believes they were owned and used by John Bell Hatcher and the Princeton Patagonia Expedition (1896-1899). Hatcher did, in fact, bring his own outfit from the US when he came here to collect fossils, and he left this outfit in the care of Barnum Brown, of the American Museum of Natural History. Brown then abandoned the wagon in Patagonia when he returned home in 1900. Brown had collected fossils at Felton’s estancia, also, and at least one report claims that Hatcher sold his wagon to Felton. Could one of the North American buckboards found at Killik Aike be Hatcher’s wagon? Very likely.

A wagon wheel partly buried.
A wagon wheel partly buried.

The other wagon might have belonged to Handel T. Martin, another North American who collected in the Santa Cruz beds in 1904. Martin also brought his own outfit from North America. It is not known what Martin did with his wagon when he abandoned the field and returned home.

Driver's seat?
Driver’s seat?

I took many pictures of these two wagons. I paid particular attention to marks or manufacturer names that I thought would be helpful in untangling these remains. If there are any buckboard experts out there who can identify the make and model of the wagon depicted here, and tell me something about its history, I’m all ears. Help me put the cart before the horse.

Detail of the ruined wagon.
Detail of the ruined wagon.

10 thoughts on “Attention: buckboard aficionados!”

  1. ’bout time! You know… with one wagon, I’d agree that it’s possible it was once Hatcher’s. But two wagons–of similar make? That seems odd to me. How likely is it that Felton would have obtained multiple wagons from North American fossil hunters? (And can you elaborate on the report that indicated Hatcher sold the wagon to Felton? Is it a legal document, or some story being passed down from generation to generation?)

    1. Dear LB: A guy like Felton, who ran an enormous estancia, would have gladly taken all the wagons he could get his hands on. Wood and lumber are scarce in Patagonia. Transportation over huge distances is a constant challange. The North American wagons had some advantages over the local varieties that would have made them very desireable to Felton. Plus, I’ll bet he got them cheap or free. Felton and other estacioneros were very generouds and hospitable hosts to fossil hunters. Leaving a wagon behind that was probably too cost prohibitive to ship anyway would have been a kindness returned.

      1. Oh, and I have never done any archival research on Hatcher’s expedition to Patagonia. I have read (somewhere) an anecdotal remark that suggests that Hatcher sold or gave his outfit to Felton, but I have never seen any documentary proof. If I find anything definitive in my collection, I’ll be sure to let you know. Thanks for your post.

    1. Dear CD: I will look through my pictures and see what I can scare up. Look for a new post in the next day or so.

  2. The climate there is dry, Michelle, and wood can last for a very log time. Not sure about the metal. Best guess would be iron.

    1. Dear Scott:

      I wish I knew! You might be able to find the name of a manufacturer on some of the metal parts of your buckboard, for starters. To get a date for your buckboard, you’ll need to find an expert. I would try looking first at American museums of transportation, like this one: Good luck with your search. Please let me know what you discover. And thanks for your post!


Leave a Reply to Paul D Brinkman Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s