"Days of '49" Recalled by Strange Sight in Milford
MILFORD, Dec. 15.--Milford folks had a glimpse of "pioneers of 1920" this morning when a rather novel spectacle that recalled the "days of '49" was presented in the form of an old couple, Mr. and Mrs. Jacob C. Berrang, each about 60 years of age, who came from Westchester, driving a pair of oxen hitched to a "prairie schooner." They passed through the town, en route to California.TRAVEL IN WHEELED HOUSE.
The outfit consisted of a wagon fitted up for living quarters, with a single ox drawing a trailer used for carrying a tent for the animals, feed and other stock and paraphernalia and trappings needed for the long journey. The travelers have been on the road for about three weeks, camping where night overtook them. They said they do not know nor care how long it will take them to arrive at their destination.
Bridgeport (Connecticut) Telegram, December 16, 1920, page 1
The Berrangs in New York City, January 1921
In New York City.
J. C. Berrang and His Wife Start to Cross the Continent.
Special to The New York Times.
GREENWICH, Conn., Dec. 29.--With his home and practically all of his belongings destroyed by fire J. C. Berrang, a farmer of Westchester, Conn., conceived the plan of constructing a house on wheels and starting for California, where he has relatives. The novel wagon, attached to which is a pair of steers which Mr. Berrang raised on his farm, passed through here this afternoon.
It contains almost every convenience to be found in a house, having drop beds, an oil range, a refrigerator and cooking devices inside. A trailer in the rear, which carries supplies for the steers, is drawn by a third steer, which is led by the farmer's wife.
The couple left Westchester Dec. 1. They average about ten miles a day, and expect to reach California in a year and a half.
Berrang and his wife are about 60 years old. They will stop to visit their son in Long Island City.
New York Times, December 30, 1920, page 4
AS IN THE DAYS OF THE '49ERS.
Couple Start on 4,000-Mile Trip by Ox Team.
From the Philadelphia Record.DENVERITES STARE AT OX TEAM
Greenwich, Conn.--With his home and practically all his belongings destroyed by fire, J. C. Berrang, a formerly prosperous farmer of Westchester, Conn. constructed a house on wheels and started for California, where he has relatives. The unique wagon, attached to which is a pair of steers which Berrang raised on his own farm, passed through here the other day. It contains almost every convenience to be found in a house, having drop-beds, oil range, refrigerator and all of the cooking devices. A trailer in the rear, carrying supplies for the steers, is drawn by a third steer, led by the farmer's wife.
"My house burned down," said Berrang, "and I just decided to have a house on wheels of my own and go to a warmer climate."
The couple average about ten miles a day, and expect to reach California, going by the way of New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Washington, in about a year and a half, a distance of four thousand miles. They sleep in the open, but shelter the steers in barns along the route.
Berrang and his wife are about 60 years old, and both are hale and hearty.
Kansas City Star, January 6, 1921, page 13
January 9, 1921 New York Times
Catherine Berrang, January 9, 1921 New York Times
January 16, 1921 Colorado Springs Gazette
Couple on Cross Country Trip in Ox Cart Stop Off Here
"It's the Only Way to See the Beauty Spots," Say Mr. and Mrs.
Berrang, on Way from Westchester, Conn. to Los Angeles, Cal.--
Aim to "Live Long and Prosper."
"The way to see the Adirondacks, Niagara Falls, the Rocky Mountains, Yellowstone Park and the thousand and one other beauty spots of the United States is not by automobile, airship or trains, but by a homemade cart driven by oxen," is the declaration of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph C. Berrang, who are today billeted in a lot at Broadway and 125th Street, where they stopped for a rest on their way from Westchester, Conn. to Los Angeles, Cal.
"Jerry, Jack and Fawn are off their feed, due, we suppose, to a change in water," said Mrs. Berrang today in explanation of the stop in the Harlem lot, where hundreds of persons daily and nightly visit the little camp, which is composed of a tent for the oxen, a wagon in which Berrang and his wife sleep and an open cart used for carrying food and utensils.
"But aside from seeing the country as it should be seen," said Mrs. Berrang, "we are making this trip--living in the open all the while, no matter what kind of weather--so that we may live long beyond the time when insurance companies figure one should die. 'Joe' is nearing the threescore mark and--well, I'm the mother of two children, both of whom are married, so you may judge for yourself how old I am."
The reporter said he could not judge Mrs. Berrang's age, for her life in the open has left not a wrinkle in her smooth, almost bronzed face. Mr. Berrang's features are also tanned by the wind and rain.
"Then there is another feature which we have not spoken much about," added Mrs. Berrang, "and that is if you would avoid the divorce courts and all family troubles get a couple of oxen and a cart and hike it across the country and just live for each other."
For twenty years Mr. and Mrs. Berrang lived at Westchester, Conn., and their 100-acre farm was known for miles around for the good things they sold. When flames burned their home to the ground three months ago they lost everything except the three big oxen, Jerry, Jack and Fawn. The insurance company gave them just $500 for the house and furniture they lost, and after a conference with their children they decided on the open air life, and the biggest and longest trip they could think of was to cross the United States from ocean to ocean and to take side trips, which they hope will bring them from the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico on their way.
"Speed has been eliminated from our itinerary," said Mrs. Berrang with a broad smile, "and that is the reason why I make the declaration that the only way to properly see the beauties of this country is the slowest possible method, and I think we selected the slowest." Then she patted the three oxen, each of which has a big brass ring in the nose.
In the wagon in which Mr. and Mrs. Berrang live are two swinging cots not unlike those used by the gobs in the navy on battleships, an adjustable table, an oil stove, an ice chest and a real bath tub. On the side of the cart are pictures of the family. Two of the oxen draw this wagon, while Fawn, driven by Mrs. Berrang, pulls the trailer which carries the food, tent and other things.
"Sometimes I think the oxen get homesick," said Mrs. Berrang, "for they don't like to cross bridges, and trolley cars always frighten them, while the manholes you have in the center of the streets scare them almost into a frenzy. They are very powerful animals, and for that reason we must be very careful how we handle them and where we take them. However, as soon as we get out of this city I think they will be themselves again. Hay is their chief food, and unless it is fresh they don't like it. We have been very fortunate in getting proper food for them, and as soon as this city fright attitude wears off we shall start for the coast."
"When do you think you will reach California?" they were asked.
"Well, it may be a year and it may be two years, but when we do you can rest assured that we will have seen pretty much everything that the United States has to look at," answered Mrs. Berrang as she nimbly jumped into the wagon, saying she had to get something to eat for her husband.
New York Times, January 19, 1921, page 4
January 20, 1921 Denver Post
January 27, 1921 Seattle Daily Times
Team of Oxen in City with Couple on Way to Pacific Coast"Like Pioneers of Bygone Days," Frederick (Maryland) Post, July 26, 1921, page 6
Jacob C. Berrang and his wife, each about 60 years old, arrived in Baltimore yesterday in a wagon drawn by oxen, en route from Westchester, Conn. to California. They left Westchester December 3. They travel on an average of 10 miles a day. At that rate they expect to reach the Pacific Coast in a year and a half.
Berrang and his wife conceived the idea of taking the trip after their house was burnt to the ground and they were left with but $500 insurance. They had three oxen. The farmer, with his $500, built a house on wheels, to which they harnessed two of the oxen, the remaining one to a trailer. The pair then started out.
Just what they will do about crossing the desert or the mountains Berrang doesn't know. But he is not worrying about it. He refuses to cross any bridges, he says, until he reaches them. There is no hurry. They expect to buy 10 acres of land in California, and he is confident that can be secured after they reach there.
Baltimore Sun, June 7, 1921, page 9
When questioned Monday, Mr. Berrang stated that they are not running on any schedule, but he thought they would be on their trip for perhaps a year yet. It is the object of the party to strike the Lincoln Highway someplace in Ohio and continue west until cold weather sets in, when they will strike southwest, finally landing in California. From that state they will continue on up into Oregon, where they will locate if the conditions are favorable. Mr. Berrang stated that he could not make the trip direct into Oregon because he would have to cross the Cascade Mountains, which would be too hard on the animals. Another reason is that the oxen could not travel in the norther states when winter sets in and snow is on the ground.
The procession was led by a covered wagon drawn by two huge oxen driven by Mr. Berrang. Following this was an open cart drawn by one ox and driven by Mrs. Berrang. She does not always drive and walks alongside the cart many times. All the way from Connecticut to New York City, Mrs. Berrang walked the entire distance, she at that time not knowing how to drive.
CROSSING U.S. IN PRAIRIE SCHOONER
Farmer and Wife Hope to Strike Wealth in Apple Country
(By Universal News Service)
FREDERICK Md., Sept. 19.--Prosperous, but with an innate aversion for the automobile which his New England stubbornness will not permit him to forget, J. C. Berrang, living near Westchester, Conn., sixty years old, and his white-haired wife are migrating to the West in search of further fortune as the pioneers of sixty years ago did. They are traveling in an oxen-drawn wagon. They don't anticipate reaching the "promised land" until late in 1922.
Already Berrang and his wife have been on the road nearly a year. They left their Connecticut farm December 2, 1920, and their destination is the fruit belt of Oregon.
Make Ten Miles a DayThe procession is quaint. The "wagon train" is headed by two huge oxen, drawing a canvas-covered wagon with bulging bows. This is followed by a more modest outfit--a cart drawn by an ox. They make ten miles a day. They have no speed records to break. Mrs. Berrang, white haired, who shares this adventuresome spirit of her husband, has walked beside the unique train the greater part of the distance from Connecticut.
Berrang is unable to account for his great desire in the late days of his life. He has money, enough to live comfortably. His home is Connecticut. He knew no other country. He prospered. Then he had his first misfortune. His barn and home burned down. But that didn't financially wreck him. Instead it created in him the desire to go West and see for himself the wonderful opportunities which he believes he'll find there.
Apples His Gold MineOnce he reaches the goal he says he wants to "settle down" and begin all over again. He's going to buy a small farm, raise fruit, and just putter around the farm. He confesses that to him his trip is his "gold strike of '49." That rush for gold nearly three-quarters of a century ago has always had glamor for him. Now he's off to search for another kind of gold.
In Ohio Berrang will switch off to the Lincoln Highway. In winter he will be headed for the South, and in spring he'll turn north and then the final lap--to Oregon and to his apple orchard.
New Orleans States, September 18, 1921, page 26
More Interesting Traveling by Oxen Team Than on Pullman
"There sure are a lot of interesting things to see in America if you take your time," said J. C. Berrang of West Chester, Conn., who arrived in Columbia about 6 o'clock last evening, accompanied by his wife. They are traveling by oxen team from Connecticut to California and have been eighteen months on the road already, having left West Chester on December 1, 1920. Mr. Berrang said if they have good luck they probably will reach California in another year. They will follow the Santa Fe railroad through Southern Arizona.
"You certainly meet a lot of interesting people, and some who are not so interesting," Mr. Berrang said in speaking of his trip. "We generally take pictures of all the things that strike us as funny or different from the common run of things. As we have plenty of time, we stop anyplace and investigate things. Over in another state I saw coal drawn out of the mine shaft by use of a mule and a sort of windlass arrangement. It's mighty interesting when you take your time, and you see things different traveling by ox team than you do from the window of a Pullman car traveling at sixty miles an hour."
The outfit caused considerable comment as it stood on Broadway while Mr. and Mrs. Berrang were in the Robinson Hotel eating a hearty supper. They will camp at the tourists' camping grounds on West Broadway while in Columbia. Mr. Berrang said they probably would leave this evening.
Mr. Berrang pays part of his expenses of the trip by selling souvenir postcards of himself and outfit and also by using the outfit for advertising.
Columbia Evening Missourian, Columbia, Missouri, June 5, 1922, page 1
QUAINT TRAVELER "CHEATED"
J. C. Berrang. Wife and Team Are Photographed Unawares.
Twenty-five cents would have soothed the injured feelings of J. C. Berrang, who with his wife passed through Columbia Sunday driving an ox team and covered wagon from West Chester, Conn. to California.
The Berrangs are selling pictures of their outfit as they go. Two university students spied them as the wagon lumbered down West Broadway. Immediately the Kodak was brought into play, and before Mr. Berrang had time to take the necessary precautions the students had taken the picture. Mr. Berrang had been outdone. His little sign, "Please do not steal my picture," had been let down too late to be effective.
For this rank injustice Mr. Berrang demanded a quarter. The quarter was not forthcoming, and the irate ox driver threatened to do the students bodily harm. A fountain pen owned by one of the students was then suggested by the traveler as suitable payment. That demand also met with refusal.
Berrang climbed back into his portable home and started his oxen on their one-mile-an-hour gait toward California. At intervals he took time to shout back: "Cheapskate!"
Columbia Evening Missourian, Columbia, Missouri, June 6, 1922, page 3
Traveling by Ox Teams from Connecticut to CaliforniaIn these days of automobiles, airships, balloons, fast trains or other means of fast travel, how would you like to take a little trip by ox team? If the idea strikes you as an interesting one, you can learn much and enjoy a pleasant half hour or longer if you will call on Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Berrang, en route by ox team from Connecticut to California. Mr. and Mrs. Berrang are at present in camp at Manhattan and may stay a day or two in order to let the oxen rest and visit the college and log cabin in the park and other places of interest here. This afternoon they stopped across the Kansas River near the old lime kiln, but they expect to go into camp at the city park this evening, and it will be a good opportunity for children or anyone else who has never seen an ox team to see this interesting means of travel.
Mr. and Mrs. Berrang started from Westchester, Conn., on December 1st, 1920. Their destination is Medford, Oregon. They have been on the road about 19 months, but have not come by the shortest route. They stop to visit any place of interest to them, and zigzag across states in order to reach places and cities which they wish to see. They travel about 3 or 4 miles per hour, making 8, 10, 12, or perhaps more miles per day. During the hot weather, they start early in the morning and travel till about 10 or 11 o'clock, then go into camp till about 4 o'clock in the afternoon and travel till dark or until they find a good camping place.
"It is the only way to take a trip and thoroughly enjoy it and get the greatest amount of pleasure out of life," said Mr. Berrang to the editor of the Nationalist. Mr. Berrang is a jolly good-natured man and has many interesting stories to relate concerning the trip. They have traveled about 4,000 miles since starting. Jack, Fawn and Jerry the oxen are in good condition and apparently none the worse off for the journey thus far. At present Jack is just a little lame in his right forefoot, which is the principal reason for their stopping longer than ordinary. It is believed the hoof will be O.K. in a day or two. The oxen are shod on all four; if you have never seen an ox with shoes on this is another feature for you to see. It was something new to us.
No, Mr. and Mrs. Berrang do not travel in a prairie schooner of the old frontier days type, but rather in a nifty spring wagon, such as the picture above will show. The spring wagon serves as living room, kitchen, bedroom, library, etc., provided with all the modern comforts for traveling, including Prest-O-Lite, running water, etc. In addition to the spring wagon, one of the oxen is hitched single to a cart carrying about 1100 lbs. of luggage and camp equipment. The wagon with its equipment weighs about 3400 lbs.
Mr. Berrang is writing a series of articles for the Rural New Yorker of his experiences on this trip and sends in about two articles per month for publication. When the journey is completed, he expects to write a book containing the history of the trip.
No one should get the idea that this is a rather antiquated means of traveling, for Mr. Berrang may surprise you. He will step to the side of the wagon and, by pulling a rope, a network of wires in a frame is erected, which forms the antenna of a radio receiving set. Many evenings as they sit by the camp fire, they "tune in" after attaching the radio set, and hear the latest quotations on the sock exchange, the day's baseball news, concerts from most any direction, and other news, by means of the little instrument which brings them in touch with the latest happenings all over the country.
Manhattan Daily Nationalist, Manhattan, Kansas, August 9, 1922, page 1
The Berrangs in Kansas, 1922
The Berrangs in Denver, October 19, 1922 Denver Post
BRINGING 'EMIGRANTS' FROM EAST
An ox team plodded along Broadway Thursday, drawing a prairie schooner.MEDFORD'S OWN COVERED WAGON ARRIVES HERE
Pedestrians, motorists and passengers on passing street cars rubbed their eyes. Oldtimers who thought the lumbering ox wagon had gone the way of other relics of frontier days could hardly believe what they saw.
Mr. and Mrs. Jacob C. Berrang of Westchester, Conn. were just responding to the "call of the West." After fifty-eight years of longing for the limitless prairies and majestic mountains pictured in books they had read on the West, they have arrived in the West as did the pioneers of a half-century past. And thanks to circumstances, they were able to do that even in these hectic times of speeding automobiles, rushing express trains and airplanes.
The Berrangs, it seems, could not see their way clear to stand the expense of their longed-for western tour. But in April 1920 a fire destroyed almost everything they owned. Berrang took that as an act of Providence, which gave him a chance to see the West. The following December he and his wife set out in a covered wagon drawn by an ox team and followed by a cart loaded with supplies and drawn by a third ox.
Now, after almost two years of travel, they are in Denver. Sometime next year they hope to reach Medford, Ore. While here they will camp at Overland Park.
Denver Post, October 19, 1922, page 10
J. C. Berrang, who with his wife is traveling from Connecticut to Oregon in primitive style, was in Fort Collins on Thursday afternoon and stated that his outfit is now camped at the Trilby school house on the Loveland road south of this city. He expected to reach the city several days ago but was delayed owing to a balky ox which refuses to do his duty when it comes to hauling the outfit. Mr. Berrang was in Fort Collins on Thursday to place an advertisement in the Express-Courier for a steer to fill the place of the one he secured at the Denver stock yards and which is proving very troublesome.
"Radio-Equipped Ox-Team Tourist Outfit Is Here," Fort Collins Courier, June 21, 1923, page 1
Ox Team Outfit Draws Attention in Fort Collins
Appearance of a complete ox team outfit making a transcontinental trip created a stir in the streets of Fort Collins Thursday afternoon. The turnout is owned by J. C. Berrang, who, with his wife, is bound from Connecticut to Medford, Ore.
The large wagon, which is enclosed and which is completely equipped, even to a radio outfit, is pulled by a yoke of steers, each of which weighs in the neighborhood of a ton. Mr. Berrang purchased the steers and trained them in Connecticut. His third steer, which pulled a small cart, died recently, and Mr. and Mrs. Berrang have been delayed south of Fort Collins for nearly six weeks trying to get an animal large enough to take the place of the one which died. Mr. Berrang expressed chagrin at being unable to obtain a steer large enough to serve his purpose.
"You westerners kill your stock early, before it has time to get its growth," he complained. "Why, back in Connecticut we don't think a steer has begun to grow until he weighs close to a ton. I bought a small Colorado steer to take the place of the one that died, but he was too light."
Mr. and Mrs. Berrang have been on their way from Connecticut for a considerable time--too long to tell, Mr. Berrang said--on account of being delayed by weather and the loss of their steer. Now they have fixed their equipment so that they may pull the small cart behind the large wagon, and they are going on with just one yoke of oxen until they find two smaller steers to hitch to the car.
"We make about fifteen miles a day as a rule," Mr. Berrang said. "We figure on averaging about 100 miles a week. From here we are going to Laramie, where we will hit the old Oregon Trail, which we will follow to our destination."
Fort Collins Courier, July 27, 1923, page 8
COMING ACROSS THE U.S.A. TO MEDFORD BY OX TEAM
BOISE, Idaho. Dec. 8.--Traveling in a "covered wagon" deluxe, traversing the old Oregon Trail in an ox-drawn prairie schooner equipped with a radio receiving set, Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Berrang, of Westchester, Conn. arrived in Boise Wednesday, en route to Medford, Ore. They will stay at Cody Park today. Their home was burned in 1919, and the following year Mr. Berrang constructed his home on wheels, selected three of his best cattle, bade goodbye to his friends, and took the trail of the pioneers across the continent. They are completing their third year on the trail.
And now, at night, whether camped on the sage-grown plain or in the crowded tourist camps, the Berrangs tune in with their radio, and while their oxen contentedly graze in front of the equipage they hear the latest musical numbers from the large cities.
The wagon is 10 feet long and six feet wide. In the interior are two berths, a la Pullman. The room also serves as kitchen, diner and library. The radio aerial is carried on top, safely tucked away while traveling and ready to set up when music is desired.
"We have been on the road nearly three years," said Mr. Berrang Wednesday. "Our wagon weighs 3430, and the cart we started with as an auxiliary weighed 1130 pounds. In Denver, however, we lost one of the oxen by death. The two we now have are Jack and Fawn, weighing 1980 and 1860 pounds. Each animal is six years old. We travel about three miles per hour, making on fair roads eight, 10, 12 and often 18 miles a day. Our destination is Medford, Ore., where we have relatives. I am keeping notes of the trip, and have made arrangements to publish a book just as soon as I get settled in Oregon. This will tell of the things seen along the way, our hardships and our triumphs.
"In cities along the way we have taken time to see all there was to be seen. When we left Connecticut we decided that time would be a thing we had the most of, and so we have taken our time. We spent eight months in Denver. It was there we lost one of the oxen. The animal ate too much alfalfa.
"Our outfit has attracted considerable attention wherever we have been. In New York we were photographed and filmed. People seemed puzzled to think that in this day of rush and hurry and mad scramble for money we should plan a leisurely trip across the country in an ox cart. When we told them that we expected to end the trip in three years, they looked all the more amazed. Why go in an ox cart when the latest model gasoline buggy would hurl us across the country in as many weeks?
"Well, as I said, we decided that we had plenty of time. And we certainly have enjoyed our trip. We do not lack for comforts, for our home on wheels is fitted up in modern style. Besides, we have our radio outfit. Seventy years ago ox carts plowed across the prairies, but pioneers then never dreamed of radio. We are using practically the same mode of transport, but we combine modern invention and comfort in our trip."
Medford Sun, December 9, 1923, page B6
Radio Gives Modern Touch to Covered Wagon.
Latest Inventions Add Comforts Undreamed of in '50s.
BAKER, Or., Dec. 24.--(Special.)--Traveling in a "covered wagon" de luxe, Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Berrang of Westchester, Conn. arrived in Baker Friday, and are now again out on the Old Oregon Trail with their destination as Medford, Or. They are completing the third year of their trip, commenced when their home burned down, and have leisurely made their way across the continent, making eight and ten miles a day in their ox-drawn schooner, equipped with radio and other modern inventions.
"Our novel outfit has attracted considerable attention wherever we have been," said Mr. Berrang. "In New York we were photographed and filmed. People seemed puzzled to think that in this day of rush, hurry and mad scramble for money we should plan a leisurely trip across the continent in an ox-cart. They looked all the more amazed," he asserted, "when I told them we expected to end the trip in three years.
"Well, as I said," Mr. Berrang added, "we decided we had plenty of time. We do not lack comforts, for our home on wheels is modern. We can tune in with our radio at night in camp, and so with practically the same equipage used in the '50s we have combined modern invention, and have comfort that was undreamed of by the ox-drawn schooners of 70 years ago."
Oregonian, Portland, December 25, 1923, page 18
They were forced to stop eight months in Colorado last winter before attempting to cross the Rockies, and at once place in the Middle West had to drive through 16 miles of water that was quite deep. In April of this year they lost one of three oxen, a horse now taking its place.
"Tribulations Are Met," Oregonian, Portland, December 28, 1923, page 7
The Rocky Mountains were crossed last year in December, Berrang said. The deepest snow encountered was four feet.
"Oxen Haul Family from Connecticut to Home in Oregon," Seattle Daily Times, March 7, 1924, page 4
TRIP MADE WITH OXEN
PAIR CROSS CONTINENT FROM CONNECTICUT.
No Accidents Encountered on Journey Requiring Three Years and Five Months.
ASHLAND, Or., April 16.--(Special.)--Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Berrang, who have been covering the long miles separating Westchester, Conn. and Oregon with a wagon as their conveyance and an ox team as their motive power, arrived at the edges of Ashland Saturday, camped over Sunday and later pulled within the city limits. They will complete the last lap of their journey and will achieve the slogan, Westchester, Conn. to Medford, Ore., which they adopted in the New England state December 1, 1920. Three years and five months ago the couple departed from their New England home and have been on the move continually, except when compelled to rest their oxen. Their longest stay was at Denver during the winter of 1922-23, where one of their oxen died.
Mr. Berrang is 61 and his wife 56. Except for occasional colds, they both enjoyed excellent health and met with no accidents on the long and lonesome journey. At the time of their departure, Mr. Berrang said, they had no intention of commercializing the trip, but received so many appeals for advertising and postcards they finally consented to "take the money," with the result that they made expenses and have saved a neat sum, which they contemplate investing in a home in the Rogue River Valley.
Mr. Berrang was engaged in farming and has always worked oxen in his farming and declares that he has no intention of dispensing with their faithful service in Oregon. The two oxen that withstood the long journey across the continent were two years old at the time of the departure, and they are nearing the end of the journey in fair condition.
After spending a few days in Medford, they will proceed to Central Point to visit Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Birkholz, with whom the Berrangs were well acquainted in Connecticut.
Oregonian, Portland, April 17, 1924, page 23
Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Berrang Complete Ox Team Trip Across Continent
in Over 1200 Days--Radio Supplies Entertainment.
The J. C. Berrang "covered wagon" was welcomed to the city this afternoon at 2:30 o'clock by Mayor Gaddis, when the equipment was driven to the Chamber of Commerce building. A crowd of 200 gathered.
The mayor and Mr. and Mrs. Berrang posed for moving pictures, and short exercises were held.
J. C. Berrang and wife of New Britain, Connecticut ended this morning their transcontinental jaunt by ox team, and parked their wagon and oxen at nine o'clock in the back yard of Dr. B. R. Elliott on Oakdale Avenue [1114 South Oakdale]. They left Westchester, Connecticut December 1, 1920 for Medford, so were three years, four months and 16 days in making the more than 3000-mile jaunt across the country. Their covered wagon was equipped with a radio outfit, which supplied entertainment every night.
Before the Berrangs started their unique journey, they lived on a New England farm. One day their home burned down, and then they heeded the pleas of J. W. Birkholz of Central Point, an old friend, "to come to Oregon." Mr. Birkholz in letters had begged the Berrangs to come to Oregon, and the reply was always "Don't worry, we will someday." The loss of their home was the last straw, and so they hitched up the oxen and hied westward. Neighbors hooted the project and tried to dissuade them from the trip.
Three months after the fire, the Berrangs set out with the declaration "They made it with oxen in 1849, we're going to do it in 1923." They did.
The Berrangs lived in the covered wagon and had in it a stove and necessaries, and camped by the way at the end of each day. Thousands of automobiles passed them, and in every town and city they visited they created much interest. They are a couple of middle age, and Mrs. Berrang declares, "We had a lovely time."
In January they reached The Dalles, Oregon and were headed for Portland. The Columbia River Highway was rough going for their oxen, so they traveled down the central Oregon highway to Klamath Falls and finishing the last lap of the trip on the Green Springs Mountain road, where their average time was two miles an hour. They followed the old Oregon Trail whenever possible, and the roughest portion of their trip was in the Rocky Mountain states. Owing to the necessity of protecting the oxen's feet, dirt roads were traveled in preference to the pavements.
When the Berrangs arrived at the end of Oakdale Avenue this morning they were greeted by residents of the vicinity. W. R. Coleman, acting as advance agent for the Chamber of Commerce, officially greeted them to the city, and the ox team was driven to Haymarket Square this afternoon, where photographs of the party were taken.
The two oxen, Jack and Fawn, are healthy, husky stock that have stood well their long hike. A horse and a dog comprise the remainder of the stock.
Mr. and Mrs. Berrang were guests of "Dan's Lunch" this noon for their first meal, and will have for their supper a steelhead salmon, the gift of local fishermen. Mr. Berrang intends to write a book telling of his experiences and also intends to locate in the Rogue River Valley permanently, as soon as he can find a place to his liking.
Medford Mail Tribune, April 17, 1924
Picture of Berrang Ox Team Outfit
and Account of Transcontinental Trip
WILLOW SPRINGS, April 18.--The following was handed in by J. W. Birkholz, a prominent orchardist and poultry man of this community, and an old-time friend of J. C. Berrang, the 1924 forty-niner who arrived in the valley yesterday.
This district will have as its guests for an indefinite time Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Berrang, the couple who have just completed their leisurely and interesting trip across the continent by ox team.
Mr. Berrang owns a 100-acre farm about 18 miles from Hartford, Connecticut. In the winter of 1919 a fire utterly consumed his dwelling, leaving him and Mrs. Berrang in a bad plight, as all their household goods as well as all their clothing except that which they had on went up in smoke.
Mr. Berrang was already almost 60 years of age, at which age most men will not voluntarily plunge into a life of hardship for the joy of it. Yet Berrang is different from most men. One day as he was working in the cold to make a shed habitable for the winter--the new dwelling was to be built in spring--he recalled the roseate description of the weather in southern Oregon given him in a letter by J. W. Birkholz. His mind then being in Oregon, his fingers numb and stiff with cold, it was no wonder that he repeatedly hit his thumb with the hammer while nailing.
Now Berrang can get real angry when necessary, and the occasion warranted his getting so when he again struck his thumb. He threw the hammer onto the solidly frozen ground, thrust his stiff hands into his pockets, glowered at the surroundings and uttered with vigor and venom a string of his choicest cuss words--he is a master at cussing--walked to the neighbor's where his wife was staying and without any preamble accosted her with--"Let's go to Oregon."
The matter was talked over well into the night, and finally Mrs. Berrang consented to go. But she gasped when her husband insisted that they go neither by train nor in their car, but ox team. Berrang is by nature different than most people. He prefers to do the unconventional thing in the most conventional way and cares a damn what others think and say about it. Emerson, our great American thinker, once said, "It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of a crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude."
Few men have the greatness of character to do in this age so unconventional a thing as to cross the continent, passing through the hearts of the largest cities in the country with an outfit such as was used by the gold seekers of '49. Small minds, if they cannot travel de luxe, prefer to preserve their dignity by staying at home.
But Berrang's outfit is a meeting place of those ancient days and the present, for on his Pullman, as he calls it, he has an icebox, a phonograph, a radio, a typewriter, a desk, a two-burner oil stove, gas lighting, running water and everything that goes to make a complete bathroom equipment, except the bathtub and lavatory. In the line of livestock he once had a dog, a cat, a rooster and three oxen. En route he never wanted for fresh eggs and fresh milk. The rooster and one ox died in Colorado. But he managed to buy eggs from ranchers.
Berrang found before he had traversed Connecticut, his home state, that people clamored for mementos. He ordered 100 picture postals of himself to be delivered at a town along his route. When he arrived there and opened the package containing the cards in the P.O., people catching a glimpse of the cards demanded, "How much?" Before leaving town the cards were sold and another batch wired for. Before long he ordered cards by the 1000 lot. Then by the 5000 lot. In New York City 1000-1200 cards a day was not an unusual busy day.
Then along came the moving picture concerns, offering him big money for a picture. Berrang has enjoyed the distinction of paying admission to see himself at a distance driving his outfit down Broadway, congesting and blocking traffic and causing an untold amount of profanity, terrible in its uselessness.
From New York City the trail led through Philadelphia, where the natives, we are assured, had to step unusually lively to keep out of the way of the oxen. Thence the trail led to Baltimore, thence to Washington, where the natives, unlike those of New York, made no comment on the bovine, stupid expression of the faces of the oxen, being accustomed to it. Congress was in session.
The next large city was Cincinnati, then through Ohio, Indiana, Illinois to St. Louis, making sometimes 10 miles a day, sometimes as much as 18 miles. Why hurry? The Berrangs were enjoying themselves and seeing the country; the natives along the route looked up, blinked, stopped work, wondered whether it was a mirage, approached tentatively, and ended by buying cards. They got what they wanted, the Berrangs got what they wanted, and so everything was lovely.
Denver was finally reached in the fall of 1922. Here one of the oxen very unwisely broke through a fence into an alfalfa field. The result was that the scavenger's wagon became a hearse, and Mr. Berrang was the possessor of two oxen.
Calamities have a habit of coming in groups. The rooster accidentally came in contact with the highly charged radio aerial on the roof of the wagon, and died a sad, horrible death of electrocution.
It was eight months before [the] Berrangs could tear themselves from this scene of their bereavement. Another oxified beast had been procured, and things again moved along at a prodigious rate. This Colorado ox, it is alleged, immediately attempted to impress his more effete brethren with the glories of the western climate, the gorgeous western scenery, the astounding fertility, but despite all his efforts it was observed that the other oxen refused to be enthused and preserved consistently their wonted glumness. In vain did he orate, declaim, elocute until finally in utter dejection his strength was sapped, his constitution undermined, and in a fit of unspeakable despondency he dropped on the road not to rise again. The veterinary could do nothing, explaining that the seat of the trouble was in the spirit, not the flesh, and that the encheerfulling of an ox's psychological dumps was in the province of Coué art, or some other scientific nonsense. So he was put out of misery and was more or less tenderly interred in his numerous stomachic sarcophagi.
Berrangs had a cold reception entering Oregon. Crossing the Blue Mountains about the holidays they encountered below zero weather. Their oil stove did double duty--two burners going day and night.
As the oxen do not like the hard-surfaced roads, Berrang decided not to go to Portland and down via the Pacific Highway, but to go south from The Dalles to Bend, thence to Klamath Falls, Ashland and Medford.
Berrangs started their trip Dec. 1, 1920. They have seen the country as few others have. They have met with many different kinds of people. They have traversed areas where everybody was generous, cordial, open; and areas where they were close, suspicious, ungenerous. While they enjoyed their trip, they endured many hardships. Should they return to their farm in Connecticut, they will not return in the manner they came. They are yet undecided as to their future. They may remain in our valley. They may go to California. People with their grit make good citizens. Let us try to keep them!
Medford Mail Tribune, April 18, 1924
"We had a lovely time," Mrs. Berrang said. "Housekeeping duties are limited when you travel this way. I'm sort of sorry it's over."
"Made 4-Year Oxen Trip Over Oregon Trail," Riverside Daily Press, Riverside, California, May 14, 1924, page 8
COVERED WAGON MAN BREAKING GROUND ON PHOENIX PLACE
By Mary O. Carey
EDEN PRECINCT, April 2.--J. C. Berrang, the man who crossed the continent with his ox team, has bought a piece of prairie land just north of the incorporation line of Phoenix, and may be seen breaking ground with oxen as they did in the time of the earlier settlement. Many persons stop their cars to watch the odd sight of the ox team pulling the plow. Mr. Berrang should fence his land with the old-time rail fence, worm fashion, with stake and riders.
Medford Mail Tribune, April 3, 1925, page 2
Two lumbering oxen, pulling a two-wheeled cart, attracted the attention of pedestrians in the business section yesterday afternoon as a publicity stunt for the Medford-Yreka baseball game to be played this afternoon at the fairgrounds diamond. A large sign was placed on the cart advertising the game.
"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, April 24, 1927, page 2
LAST OXEN TAKES CRATERIAN TRAIL
He's the last oxen [sic] to cross the plains, and he left his home at Phoenix at 6 o'clock this morning to be in Medford to pull the covered wagon on one more journey through the streets--the black-and-white animal owned by J. C. Berrang of Phoenix.
Mr. Berrang crossed the plains from Connecticut to Oregon with an ox team in 1924, traveling the original Oregon Trail. One member of the team is dead, and the surviving member pulls the wagon alone as he advertises "The Big Trail," pioneer picture, which opened at the Fox Craterian theater today.
More than 50 pioneers, who made the journey west long before Mr. Berrang and his oxen, have registered at the Mail Tribune for tickets for "The Big Trail."
Medford Mail Tribune, December 3, 1930, page 2
Berrang Making Good Recovery
J. C. Berrang, 70-year-old proprietor of the Covered Wagon lunchroom at Phoenix, who was brutally beaten by two men Friday night when he refused to give them money, was today reported as resting well after spending a comfortable night at the Sacred Heart Hospital. Hospital attaches did not know how long the aged man would remain confined, but stated that his condition was no longer considered dangerous.
Medford Mail Tribune, August 31, 1936, page 8
MRS. J. C. BERRANG TAKEN BY DEATH
Mrs. Catherine Berrang, 76, a resident of Rural Route 4, Medford, for 21 years, passed away at a local hospital early Tuesday. Mrs. Berrang was born in Girardville, Penn., on June 11, 1868.
On February 4, 1886 she was married to Jacob C. Berrang at Ashland, Penn.
Mr. and Mrs. Berrang crossed the country in a covered wagon drawn by ox team, starting their journey in Connecticut in 1920. It took three years, four months and 16 days. Remains of the old wagon still stand near Phoenix and may be seen from the Pacific Highway.
Mrs. Berrang leaves to mourn her passing her husband, one daughter, Mrs. Florence Siegel, of Medford, and one son, Charles Berrang, of New York, N.Y., also one grandchild.
Funeral services will be held at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church Thursday at 9 a.m., the Rev. Father Hamilton officiating. Recitation of the Rosary will be held at the Perl Funeral Home Wednesday at 8 p.m. Interment will be in Siskiyou Memorial Park.
Medford Mail Tribune, May 15, 1945
Jacob Berrang, 87, a resident of Medford and Phoenix for the past 27 years, died at a local hospital Monday. He was born in Ashland, Pa. on Jan. 18, 1863. He and his wife traveled across the United States with a covered wagon and ox team in 1920, arriving in the valley three years later.
They settled near Phoenix, where they operated a restaurant, the "Covered Wagon." He sold out after Mrs. Berrang passed away in 1945.
Survivors include one son, Charles, Astoria, N.Y.; one daughter, Mrs. Florence Siegel, Medford, and one grandchild.
Funeral services will be held at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 10th Street and Oakdale Avenue, Wednesday at 9 a.m., with the Very Rev. John Berger officiating. Interment will be in the Siskiyou Memorial Park. The family requests that no flowers be sent to the services.
Perl Funeral Home will be in charge of services.
Medford Mail Tribune, November 21, 1950
Last revised February 8, 2017