I felt like I was watching my family as I saw this story. Jacob Bergi traveled from Switzerland to England to board a ship chartered by William Penn that landed in Philadelphia in 1733, along with many Swiss folk who came to America to practice their Mennonite lifestyle without persecution.
He purchased farm land that later became Berks County, Pennsylvania as the Bergi last name became Berkey. Part of the family slowly spread west to Somerset, Pennsylvania and on towards the Ohio border. My great-grandfather Stephen was a discontented wanderer who traveled by covered wagon from Western Pennsylvania to Kansas with his family, and my Grandfather David King Berkey was born in a sod cabin in Kansas.
Great-Grandfather Stephen had more than twenty children, but the tough life in Kansas took several of them before he gave up on the West and headed back East to the Ohio-Pennsylvania border area. My dad grew up in Canfield, Ohio where his father David and his Uncle John farmed, dug and sold coal, and raised chickens and pigs. Now I sit in front of a computer and the biggest challenge of most days is deciding which restaurant to eat dinner at - Life in America has changed a lot.
Itís fun to watch John Wayne in a cowboy adventure, or William Boyd as Hopalong Cassidy, but the Zane Grey western stories are more than fun, they are a realistic slice of American life as the pioneers of this grand land carved out a new life with their sweat and blood, displaying more guts and determination than most of their descendants have today, myself included.
Some of the folk on this wagon train leaving Independence, Missouri were running away from something, some were looking for a brave new world, and one man was secretly determined to kill everyone in the wagon train if necessary to stop them from reaching the Powder River in Oregon.
Youíll meet wagon master Clint, played by Randolph Scott, and lovely Nan, played by Gail Patrick, who has kidnapped her young son from her in-laws and is trying to escape to Oregon where they will never find her and her little boy. What struck me hard in this story is the women. . . . Besides strong-willed Nan you will meet more women traveling alone in a world that was not kind to women. . . Even the women traveling with their men needed more courage and determination than most men today. . . These women fought and died right beside the men as the journey became very dangerous.
More than once the lone women and the wives and daughters had to take command and hitch the horses and drive the wagons on when the men were unable. The women didnít complain, and didnít refuse. . . . They confidently did what needed to be done. Sure, there were plenty of tough cowboys in the movies of this era, but nothing like the stuff that these women were made of. . . .
This wagon train is full of amazing women and men that might have been your great grandparents or mine. . . . Almost like watching home movies. Pop a big bowl of white kernel popcorn with plenty of warm melted butter drizzled over it and enjoy the show.
Director: Charles Barton
Stars: Randolph Scott, Gail Patrick, Billy Lee