$1 Million Wagon

ABOVE: Henderson Luelling

It's likely that only one emigrant wagon ever carried a million dollars worth of goods, but this wagon wasn't filled with gold or silver--instead, it carried fruit trees.

Henderson Luelling took his family to Oregon from Iowa in 1846. He brought two extra wagons filled with apple, cherry, pear, plum and black walnut trees. It was an odd sight, the covered wagon filled with dirt and with trees sticking out. Throughout the trip, Luelling pampered his prized cargo. His daughter, Eliza, wondered if he cared more about the trees than about her.

Luelling's plants thrived in fruit-bare Oregon, and his orchards were an immense success. Trailblazer William Barlow once estimated the resulting value of Luelling's trees at well over $1 million.

The success of Luelling's trees inspired Illinois dentist James R. Cardell to pack up his own "fruit wagon." Hoping for great profits, Cardell began the great journey west in 1852. After 1,500 miles of tough travel, Cardell's wagon slid on a bank of the Snake River and overturned.

Cardell's fortune floated away.