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Frog Smith's Covered Wagon Friends

Wagon Image"Pioneer Florida"
1 Sep 1957;
HCHC Scrapbook;
‘Frog Smith's Covered Wagon Friends';
column 4;

Submitted by Jim Bishop -

‘Frog' Smith remembers the period when the covered wagon was the popular mode of travel – before railroads grid-ironed the state, highways were hard-surfaced and flyovers became numerous. He  relates a funny incident, and in the short concluding sentence tells of the most important event in his life."

Covered Wagon Vacations

"Covered wagons became a novelty after the turn of the century, but there were a few who stuck to them until asphalt pavements and flivvers crowded them off the road.

"‘Two of those die-hards were Will Smith and Will Sumner, both of whom had a wife named Lizzie. When they each took a trip to West Florida in 1917 their two wagons carried camping outfits for an extended stay, which left all hands bronzed and healthy.

"ABOUT THE WORST thing along the way was the cussedness of a blind horse driven by Will Smith.

"When he was put between the shafts, unless the traces were hooked first, they were not–they were not–not that time anyway.

"That horse had a way all his own. If the traces were not hooked when he was ready to go he left the wagon

standing– unless you said ‘whoa.' Then he would stop, and sometimes it took two to four hours to get him started again.

"The morning the two Wills, wagons and all, were ready to leave our house at Chipley for the return trip to Georgia, the blind horse balked as usual, and it was some time later he decided to move and get it over with. By that time the driver had relaxed his grip on the reins and the blind horse ran away, landing in a deep ditch with the wagon almost on top of him. Then it was up to the other Will and his giant gray mule to pull the wagon backward off the runaway.

"Something like the autos used to pull each other out of the ditches. These days of fast travel usually there is not enough left to pull out, except for scrap iron.

"AFTER GETTING HIS blind prime-mover out of the ditch at Chipley, Will Smith took an extended trip down through the sand hills, returning to Georgia by way of Branford on the Suwannee River.

"Will Sumner went straight back to Georgia, where he worked cutting and hauling cordwood for the Georgia Northern railroad, a job he held for many years.

"Wood becoming scarce below Moultrie, Ga., Sumner's feet again became itchy and he sold out to return to Florida. Landing at Macom, Fla., on the B. C. & St. A. railroad between Chipley and Southport, he again went into the cordwood game.

"Perhaps he was just a hog for punishment, but when in 1920 he again decided to visit Georgia, he covered his wagon and lit out. Taking his time, he made a leisurely trip to Moultrie, Sylvester and even going as far up as Dooley County in the covered wagon. When he was tired of rambling through Georgia he returned to Washington County, still in the covered wagon.

"He and Will Smith, who was his wife's brother, were the only men I ever heard of making two trips to Florida in a covered wagon just for the heck of it. Smith's last trip was back to Branford, where he lost his fife and married another, a marriage that failed to last. Will Smith now lives at Homestead, Fla., somewhere in his 80's.

"SUMNER DIED THE next year after his last trip and is buried at Perch Pond church, some 15 miles below Chipley, the first to be put there. "Perch Pond was the only church to which I ever went in an ox cart and was the scene of a comical accident I mentioned some years back on this page. A young man and his best girl came riding into the church yard one Sunday morning in an old-fashioned tow-wheeled road cart. When the young man pulled the mule form a trot to a walk the belly band broke and the shafts flew up, while the young couple executed an undignified back somersault into the sandy church yard.

"Immediately after reaching Georgia after his 1917 trip Sumner became ill and wrote me to come and help him.

"It was the most profitable trip I ever made. Though I made little money working for my uncle, I met my wife there, and she is still my most cherished possession."

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