Bringing Willie Home

A Memoir Of The Oregon Trail

Bringing Willie Home: A Memoir of the Oregon Trail is here. The long-awaited book by author Earl Leggett describing the 1993 Oregon Trail journey with his hardy companions is now on sale in the Old Aurora Colony Museum’s gift shop!


Earl Leggett, retired U.S. Navy Chief, was a natural storyteller. Yet, his talents would remain undiscovered until he and other members of an Aurora volunteer contingent undertook the Oregon Trail journey in 1993. During that trip, Earl kept a daily diary- just as many pioneers had done in the 1800’s. Earl decided to tell this entertaining story through the eyes of the two mules, Ann and Sue. Through cold and heat the mules pulled an 1880’s Moline Plow and Implement Company wooden wagon (with a replica of Willie’s coffin in it) from Independence, Missouri to Aurora, Oregon. The 1993 trip was part of Oregon’s 150th celebration of the Oregon Trail. To rally support and donations for this trip, Earl called this journey “Bringing Willie Home”.

For those of you who don’t know the story about Willie Keil, here are the facts. When the leader of the future Aurora Colonists, Dr. William Keil, readied 200 of his people and 25 wagons for the trek West from Missouri to the Oregon Territory in 1855, he had promised his oldest son and namesake, Willie, that the 19 year- old could lead the wagon train himself. Tragically, Willie died just days before the wagon train was to leave. Dr. Keil had the wagon train wait just long enough to have a coffin built and to have Willie’s body preserved in “Golden Rule” whiskey- a special liquor made by the Colonists. Willie’s body was placed in the coffin and the coffin was placed in the lead wagon. In the end, Willie did lead his people on the Oregon Trail!

Bringing Willie Home is a semi-biographical account of Earl’s own Oregon Trail trip- and a testament to a father’s love and a promise kept.

A great read with pictures of the 1993 trip through 2,500 miles of the original Oregon Trail, Bringing Willie Home will be a unique gift for history buffs and for that person on your list “who has everything”!  Although Earl did not live to see his book published, his wife Dot generously donated the funds to make sure that Earl’s book was produced in time for the holidays. Copies are now in our gift shop for just $12.99. Thanks to Earl and Dot, all proceeds from Bringing Willie Home will benefit the Old Aurora Colony Museum.

We miss you Earl—thank you! And thank you Dot!