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Keno-to-Ashland, Ore., Wagon Train Celebrates U.S. Bicentennial

During the U.S. Bicentennial Year of 1976, the founder of Pioneer Village in Jacksonville, Ore., George McUne, organized a Bicentennial Applegate Trail Wagon Train to recreate a piece of Western history.

The wagons left Keno, Ore., on June 6, following as nearly as possible the original Applegate Trail over the Cascades to Ashland.  Ten days later the trail riders enjoyed hot showers at the Southern Oregon University gymnasium that contrasted mightily to the sponge baths taken in cold streams during their trek.

The latter-day pioneers expressed sadness at returning to present-day civilization and held a memorable campfire at Emigrant Lake, exchanging photographs and signatures. Wagon master McUne wielded a home-made branding iron, burning the capital letters “A-W” on a tree, standing for Applegate Wagons.

After joining big community celebrations in Talent, Phoenix and Medford, the train moved on to Jacksonville, for the final encampment. It stopped at Pioneer Village and the Jacksonville Post Office to deliver bags of mail the Southern Oregon Philatelic Society had postmarked for the occasion. The Society sold 2,000 stamped envelopes to help finance the trip.

Before disbanding on June 19, the wagons led Jacksonville’s Pioneer Day Parade.

Source: "Wagon Train Pioneers Reach First Town, Hot Showers." Medford Mail Tribune, 16 June 1976, p. 1.

Alice Mullaly is a graduate of Oregon State and Stanford University, and taught mathematics for 42 years in high schools in Nyack, New York; Mill Valley, California; and Hedrick Junior High School in Medford. Alice has been an Southern Oregon Historical Society volunteer for nearly 30 years, the source of many of her “As It Was” stories.