Carol Watkins

Magician, Puppeteer, Ventriloquist, and Storyteller

american history programs

Trails and Tales


Between 1803 and 1853, the United States tripled in size.  From 1840 to 1880, more than 500,000 settlers headed west in wagon trains over crude wilderness trails.  The most popular of these were the Oregon, Mormon, and California trails.  The settlers came for a multitude of reasons.  Most had heard reports of endless fertile farmland, abundant game, and mild climate.  A number came searching for gold in California during the famous gold rush of 1849-1850.  They began their journeys at jumping-off points known as trailheads.  The most important of these was Independence, Missouri.  In the early years of the Westward Expansion, Missouri was the last place to purchase provisions for the long, grueling trek that lay ahead.

Carol Watkins presents an interactive program featuring a giant map of the United States depicting the trails and geographic change from 1803 to 1853.  The presentation will include


  • Campfire songs and stories
  • Excerpts from letters of pioneer settlers
  • A day in the life of a wagon train
  • Sketches of Missourians connected to the Westward Expansion
  • How the Homestead Act of 1862 attracted settlers to the plains
  • Why one out of ten pioneers did not survive the journey


Recommended for grades 2-6 and also suitable for adult audiences

​Mountain Men and Westward Expansion

​The Mountain Man's role in westward expansion was crucial.  Mountain men were trappers by trade and explored the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains.  They drew crude maps, had maps in their heads, and knew how to navigate from the Mississippi River westward.  They were instrumental in exploring the land west of the Mississippi, laying the groundwork for the Oregon Trail, and finding the South Pass through the Rocky Mountains.  After the fur trade disappeared around 1840, many mountain men became trail guides for the wagon trains going west.  Their exciting adventures became popular stories in books and newspapers.  Carol Watkins will introduce you to Jedediah Smith, Jim Bridger, and Kit Carson and their amazing, larger-than-life stories of adventure and courage.


Recommended for grades 3-6 and also suitable for adult audiences

Abraham Lincoln:  A Portrait Painted by Those Who Knew Him Best

2011 marks the sesquicentennial of the beginning of the Civil War.  Come meet Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president of the United States, as those who knew him best paint for us a picture of this great man.  Through biographies, letters, newspapers articles, first-person accounts, and diaries, a picture of Abraham Lincoln emerges:  a man whose determination, wisdom, and wit brought a divided country through its darkest hour.  Carol Watkins presents this energetic and interactive program to help young children know and appreciate Lincoln.  Recommended grades:  2-6 and also suitable for adult audiences.


Saint Charles:  Trailhead on the Missouri

Saint Charles celebrated the two hundredth anniversary of its incorporation in 2009.  Learn about the history of this city and its importance to the expansion of the United States.  Travel through time as we meet such famous individuals as Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and Daniel Boone.  Discover the connection of the Boone’s Lick Trail to later trails carrying travelers westward out of Missouri to New Mexico and Oregon.  Carol Watkins presents an overview and timeline of St. Charles’ history as a frontier town and a city of firsts.  Her interactive presentation will whet your pupils’ desire for further exploration of this great city.  Recommended grades:  3-6 and also suitable for adult audiences.