• Karen Baney

Teamsters: How Freighting Supplied the West


In Beauty for Ashes (Desert Manna Book 1), several characters work for a freight company as teamsters. Freighting in the early days of the Arizona Territory was an unpredictable job. While there was almost always work to be had, teamsters often picked up freight from ports along the Colorado River and transported it wherever it needed to go within the territory.


That is a far cry from our modern supply chain. In our era, freight moves with contracted vendors, drivers, and shipping companies. Sometimes things may be subcontracted, but for the most part, a company has set vendors they work with for shipping goods.



As I researched about freighting in the territory, I found a great firsthand account called My Arizona Adventures by Thomas Sanders. He lived in Prescott from 1863 to roughly the 1920s, with a few years spent in California and in the Midwest. During his time in Arizona, he worked as a miner, freighter, and rancher at various times in his life. A large portion of the book included his firsthand stories of the different trips he went on as a teamster. His stories served as the inspiration for many of the freight trips I wrote into Beauty for Ashes (Desert Manna Book 1).


Thomas Sanders experienced the unpredictable nature of freighting. Sometimes he knew what loads he would pick up. Other times he subcontracted with other freighters because there were more goods available to ship than there were teamsters to transport them. Sometimes he hauled supplies, goods, and people for the military. Other times, he transported flour from one of the major flour mills in Tempe or Florence.


One major difference between real life freighting and what I wrote into the novel, was that the teamsters almost always traveled in groups. It was highly unusual to have a lone wagon and two-man team. More often than not, freight was transported by three to four wagons, with two men each. I chose to simplify the process in my writing.


The brave and hardy teamsters transported food, goods, and supplies all over the rugged territory which allowed settlers to survive in some tough conditions.

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