Ben Kern: Leader of the Wagon Train

History, Odd Jobs, People, Traditions
on May 3, 2011

No one is more enthusiastic about seeing America by wagon train than Ben Kern, 84, of Evansville, Wyo. (pop. 2,255), who has logged more than 25,000 miles as a wagon master since the 1960s.

In 1993, he led a covered-wagon caravan on the Oregon Trail, spending six months traveling 3,100 miles from Independence, Mo., to Independence, Ore. (pop. 6,035), and in 1996 and 1997, he followed the Mormon Trail from Nauvoo, Ill. (pop. 1,063), to Salt Lake City.

“All of our ancestors were tough,” says Kern, a retired rancher who is organizing a 3,200-mile wagon train from the East Coast to the West Coast. “You read the diaries and the old-timers had broken wheels and upset wagons. Everything they owned was in a wagon and when they started over the Continental Divide they had to get rid of stuff and dump it off the wagon. Even a piano was dumped.”

Riding with a wagon train today “stirs people up and creates an interest in history,” Kern says.