Wichita's River Festival annually celebrates Admiral Windwagon Smith, who, legend has it, harnessed the wind to sail the prairie.
But the real story belongs to Samuel Peppard.
In 1860, Peppard built a wind-powered wagon to take him quickly across the Kansas prairie to the mountains in western Kansas Territory — now central Colorado — where gold had been discovered.
Peppard had homesteaded in Oskaloosa in 1856, where he built a mill. Although Peppard was not the first to sail the Kansas prairie, he was by far the most successful.
The first windwagon in Kansas was built in 1853 in the community of Westport near Kansas City. A "Windwagon Thomas" built a sailboat on wheels. So enthusiastic were town residents about the prospects of a windwagon, that the Westport & Santa Fe Overland Transportation Co. was formed and there was talk of building a fleet of windwagons.
On a trial run the wagon smashed into a gully, thwarting Windwagon Thomas' plans.
The second windwagon in Kansas was designed by John Parker and William Willis of Westport. The two had planned to test-sail the wagon, but their plans were delayed for lack of wind.
They didn't bother to lower the sails, and when the wind picked up in the night — and no one was around — the windwagon disappeared.
Peppard's windwagon was the only one that saw any success. He and three friends set sail from Oskaloosa on May 11, 1860.
The wagon crew soon found the wagon sailed so fast along the prairie the wheels needed to be greased frequently. Other times, the wagon sat at a standstill because there was no wind.
Question: When the wind was blowing, how fast could the crew get the windwagon to move?
Answer to Wednesday’s question: The Underwood brothers had offices in England, Canada and New York City.
Check back on Kansas.com Friday for the answer to today’s question.