Elizabeth Kennedy’s Wagon Wheel Rugs


Some years ago, my mom and dad revived a long-lost family craft by making wagon wheel rugs.

Using a combination of oral history and a trial and error method, they succeeded in making the rugs the same way his great-grandmother Kennedy probably did. She was born Elizabeth Rosebaugh on the western frontier of Pennsylvania in 1826. In raising a large family, Elizabeth always had to make do with what she had, so it would be natural for her to come up with the idea of the wagon wheel rugs.

mural covered wagon st louis

Covered wagon (St Louis museum)

Mom (Gail Lee Martin) wrote about the family for the Schooner Genealogy Magazine, “David was born 14 May 1821 to Edward and Prudence (Burns) Kennedy when they were living in Butler County Pennsylvania. His parents instilled the love of learning in all their children through the many books they acquired. David was 27 years old and had been teaching school for many years when he married Elizabeth Rosebaugh on 22 June 1848. She was the sixth child of George and Eleanor (Dunn) Rosebaugh III.

David and his wife lost one son, John, at birth on the fifth of May 1849. The next year he took a bookkeeping job with the Chess Brothers Tack Factory in Pittsburg. Their next sons and one daughter were born at two-year intervals in that booming industrial town. Edward Newton on 12 February 1851; James Kerr on 1 April 1853; Ellen on 20 February 1855; and Baynard Taylor on 13 August 1857. Oral history passed down in the family has Walter being born 1 March 1861 on the trail to Kansas. The census record gives his birthplace the same as his siblings. Maybe they left right after he was born. No matter which way it happened, Elizabeth would spend most of the trip in the wagon. With her stiff knee, it was probably hard to get in and out of the tall covered wagon.

David and his family were counted in the 1865 Kansas agriculture census with a Baldwin post office, Palmyra township, Douglas County, Kansas on August 11th. The family was all listed including their new daughter, Mary, who was born the first of December 1864.”


Elizabeth Jane Rosebaugh Kennedy – Photo taken in Wellsville, Kansas.

Both Mom and Dad worked on the rugs which they gave to their children and to extended family members. They also sold some at festivals where Mom demonstrated the pioneer craft.

Here are Gail Lee Martin’s stories and instructions for making the rugs. I’ve also blogged about these.

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