Who all were on this wagon train that arrived in Big Fork in the winter-early spring of 1852? No one has a complete list so this is just a few people. According to Rhoda Vandiver Vanhorn, who was five years old at the time, in an article for the Mena Star, there were over sixty families when the train was at its largest. The train picked up people along the way and dropped off people according to where they decided to stop and settle. Many had stopped to settle before the wagon train reached Mt. Ida.
They traveled in the wintertime as many wagon trains did. After crossing the Mississippi, they entered the east part of Arkansas called the Grand Prairie. It's a flat, swampy area. Being winter they had to deal with ice and bayous to cross. Most wagons were pulled by oxen but Fleming Bates' wagon was pulled by horses. Being a little faster, he went ahead and scouted for good camping spots. A wagon train could only travel about fifteen or twenty miles a day if there were no problems. Not everyone could sleep in the wagon at night so the men cut Blackjack or Scrub Oaks and piled them up to put beds on. When they came to a bayou, the men cut trees on each side and let the tops of the trees come together in the middle of the water. This provided a bridge for the women and children. Then the men would gelp the wagon and oxen teams to get across. Some had to actually get down in the cold water to hold the wagons. After leaving the flatland and entering more hilly country, they were very thankful. It sounded good to hear the wheels rolling over the rocky road instead of ice, water and mud.
When they reached Mt. Ida in Montgomery County, they held an all-night celebration. From Mt. Ida, they went west to the head of the Caddo River. Other people, such as the Cox family. were already settled since 1848. The Cox family came from Northern Georga along with the Riders, Royals, Shedds and others. Some of the Shedd family settled at Big Fork.
Putting together family researcher's information and old articles from the Mena Star newspaper, the incomplete list of folks, that I know of, who settled in or near Big Fork were:
Sarah (Cox) Bates, 67 years old, wife of Stephen Bates-deceased
William Fleming Bates, 50 years old, son of Stephen and Sarah Bates
His wife: Mary "Polly" (Whisenant) Bates
Stephen Christopher Bates (possibly), 27 years old with wife, Sarah E. (Corley) Bates and their children.
John Wesley Bates, 24 years old, with wife: Mary Lucinda (Baker) Bates
Margaret Sarah Ann Bates
James M. Bates
Rachel Tursa Bates
Thomas Jefferson Bates, son of Sarah and Stephen, 44 years old, with wife: Dicey (Rider) Bates.
Mary Ann Bates
Margaret Bates (baby)
Nancy (Bates) Vandiver, daughter of Stephen and Sarah, 47 years old, with husband, Enoch Vandiver and children:
Mary P. Vandiver Abernathy and her husband, James Alexander Abernathy and children:
Sarah Abernathy and Laura Abernathy
Sarah Caroline (Vandiver) Christenberry and her son, William Christenberry
William Stephen Vandiver
Elena Elizabeth Jane Vandiver
Mary Ann (Bates) King, 38 years old, with son, John King.
Sarah (Bates) Ellison, 34 years old, with husband, Israel Ellison and all their children:
Mary Ann Ellison
George V. Bates, 32 years old, with wife, Hortense "Tennie" Mansina (Walker) Bates and children:
John Calvin Bates
Abram Royal Bates
Thomas Jefferson Bates
Nancy Elizabeth Bates
Sarah Jane Bates (baby)
Margaret "Peggy" (Bates) Abernathy, 23 years old, with husband, Phillip Abernathy, and child:
Other people on this wagon train included:
Abraham Walker, brother to Hortense Mansina (Walker) Bates, and wife and child
Some family researchers also think some of Israel Ellison's relatives came too.
One Mena Star article mentioned the McBeele family and Anderson family who did not settle in Big Fork; they stopped at Black Springs, east of Big Fork.