Writing Books/Creative nonfiction
I'm writing a history of the public square in Springfield, Missouri. Springfield was settled by a man from Columbia, Tennessee. I want to bring authenticity to my description of his trips to Springfield. Where would I go to find such things as how long it would take to travel by horse from Columbia to Springfield in 1829? Number of camps along the way? Provisions needed? Indians and other obstacles along the way? Weather? No biography of the founder exists. Thanks.
Interesting questions, to be sure. I'll provide the best advice I can.
First, estimating the length of travel should be fairly straightforward. Using the accounts of riders of the Pony Express, early military and civil war era accounts, and early accounts from the post office, we can conclude that the average horse during that period only travelled about 30 miles per day. Experienced riders could ride more than 50, but they risked injury to the horse, so it wasn't common practice. Since Springfield is 441 miles from Columbia, we can assume that it took approximately 15 days to traverse this distance.
"Camps" for resupply would not necessarily have been every 30 miles. It may have been several days before he came across another town. Almost certainly he would have stopped at Jackson, TN, probably Dyersberg or Lenox. Kennett, MO seems like an unlikely stop. It was very new then and was called Chilletecaux. But, Poplar Bluff was almost certainly a stop. Back then, Poplar Bluff was first settled by white settlers in 1819, but the region contained a tribe of more than 300 native americans. None of the other townships or villages beyond Poplar Bluff existed in 1829.
He would have passed through territory that was owned at one point by the Chickasaw, Quapaw, and Osage tribes. (http://www.native-languages.org/missouri.htm
). Fortunately, many of these tribes were friendly and would have likely traded with him. Springfield is in the middle of the former Osage lands so it's very likley that he would have encountered them. In 1808 they began treating with the US government to cede the land to the US for compensation so they were clearly not very hostile.
Provisions would have likely included water, whiskey, hard breads like "hard tack", and salted meat or jerky. The best information for this type of provisions beyond that would probably come from historical reinactors, or historical societies, particularly those who focus on horses or cavalry. They might be able to give you a better idea.
As far as weather goes, you could try looking for some old Farmer's Almanacs. The earliest weather stations didn't keep accurate records until the 1890's. But, you could also try contacting someone over at the Missouri Climate Center at U-Miss. (http://climate.missouri.edu/
) They would probably have, or know where to find historical weather data for the region. And, if not, I'd trust their guess more than anyone else's. ;)
I hope that helps get you started. Please let me know if there's anything else I can help with.