SESQUICENTENNIAL WAGON TRAIN – Betty Magaha’s Story

McGaha’s wagon is on display at the Clay County 1890 Jail Museum in Henrietta. (Photo by Judy Wade)

By Judy Wade

“WAGONS, HO!” Was a cry Betty McGaha heard every time the Sesquicentennial Wagon Train began its day’s journey as it trekked over 3,000 miles across Texas to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Texas’ independence from Mexico.
The six-month odyssey began Jan. 2, 1986, in Sulphur Springs and zigzagged its way across the state, coming within approximately 100 miles of every city or town in Texas so each could host the wagon train and its own celebration.

Some folks traveled the entire route; others joined for a day or a week. A total of 10,000 riders from 27 states traveled at least part of the way. While people and wagons came and went, a core group of participants and support staff completed the entire trip, ending up at the Fort Worth Stockyards on July 3, 1986.

One of those who made the entire journey was Betty McGaha. She and two friends, Randy Chadwick and Pam (Blancet) Schenk, teamed up with a wagon. “I knew nothing about horses,” McGaha admitted. “I was raised on a farm, but my dad made his living in construction and as a substitute mail carrier.

“After I graduated from Hirschi, I attended UNT for a year and then Tarrant County Junior College with a dental hygienist degree and worked in Fort Worth five years before returning to Wichita Falls and finally Clay County,” she added. “I learned about the wagon train through the Historical Society, and I thought it would be an adventure, but the main reason was for my son Shad to learn about Texas the way I love Texas,” McGaha explained.

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