Why Did Ward Bond Leave Wagon Train
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Why Did Ward Bond Leave Wagon Train? A Must-Read 

Why did Ward Bond leave Wagon Train? If you are a fan of Wagon Train and don’t understand the reason behind Bond’s decision to leave the show, continue reading this article.

The Wagon Train lasted for eight seasons, having more guest appearances than any other Western series in that period. The regular characters were few, and only two stayed from the first season through to the last.

It wasn’t easy getting attached to the actors on the series because of the transitory nature of the show’s casting. However, some actors were so good and endearing that not getting attached to them would be regrettable. 

Ward Bond was one of those actors. He played the lead role so well that it was almost impossible not to admire or love him. He was a viewer’s favorite, and they expected him to ride with them to the show’s end. Unfortunately, that wasn’t able to happen.

Why did Ward Bond leave Wagon Train? 

The reason Ward Bond no longer appeared in Wagon train after the 4th season. Ward Bond died of a heart attack while the Wagon Train was still on its fourth season. The show was at it’s height of popularity so the network finished playing the 7 recorded episodes with Ward Bond and then intoduced John McIntire into the series. Bond was on the show for four years, between 1957 and 1961.

The network didn’t do what many networks would have done. Usually, the networks try to find a natural transition to write off the character or add a tribute to the deceased actor to the end of their final episode but Ward Bonds character was left without a farewell.

Do you want to know more about this show? Keep reading!

Who Is Ward Bond? 

Ward Bond was a famous American actor who had featured in over 200 films before he died. Some of his most famous roles in movies include Captain Clayton in “The Searchers” and Bert, the cop, in “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

Bond made his debut on the big screen with the movie “Salute.” After his role in that movie, there was no stopping Bond. If the term “booked and busy” were a person, it would have been Bond. For example, in 1935 alone, he got featured in 31 films. 

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Bond was a good actor, but he wasn’t getting as many TV lead roles as someone with his skills should have been getting until the Wagon Train series. He was the “Wagon Master” in the show, which was a big deal.

Additionally, he had a good working relationship with both Frank Capra and John Ford, so he got featured in quite a number of their films. For Frank, it was “Drums Along the Mohawk,” “They Were Expendable,” “The Quiet Man,” and “The Searchers.” On the other hand, Bond was in twenty-five of Ford’s films which includes “Riding high for Capra,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and “It Happened One Night.”

After getting the lead role on the Wagon Train, Bond asked the production team to give Terry Wilson and Frank McGrath roles in the series. They both stayed throughout the entirety of Wagon Train, becoming the only recurring characters from the beginning ’til the final season.

What Was The Wagon Train About? 

The Wagon Train, filmed at 21 different locations in the United States, was a huge success. It was one of the most successful American Westerns to date. The inspiration for the series came from the 50s film the Wagon Master by John Ford. The first episode of the Wagon Train aired on NBC in 1957, and in 1962, they moved to ABC. 

The show was unique because every episode involved a new story with a guest character traveling with or meeting the wagon train. The series was mainly about the journey and adventures of the few recurring and main characters, traveling through the plains of Missouri to the Mountains of Sacramento, California. 

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Several stars graced the Wagon Train set. Some of the notable actors include Joseph Cotten, Ronald Reagan, and Ernest Borgnine. 

What Role Did Ward Bond Play In The Wagon Train? 

Ward Bond played the role of Major Seth Adam, the trainmaster. He was in charge of everyone traveling on the Wagon Train, alongside Scout Flint McCullough. 

The Regular Cast of The Wagon Train

Aside from Ward Bond, there were other regular cast members, although they were few in number. Here are the other regular cast members:

John McIntire:

John McIntire replaced Ward Bond after he died. He first came into the show as Christopher Hale, reappearing in the third season as Andrew Hale.

He fit into the role, and although viewers expected an explanation from the network regarding the changes made, they eventually got used to McIntire on their screens.

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Robert Horton:

Robert Horton, who played scout Flint McCullough, was on the Wagon Train for five seasons before leaving the series to pursue his production (which didn’t face a huge success). As a result, Robert Fuller replaced his character.

Robert Fuller:

The network felt Robert Fuller was the perfect person to replace Robert Horton because of their resemblance. The two actors looked alike despite their age difference. 

Fuller played scout Cooper Smith, a character the network developed to replace scout Flint McCullough, Horton’s character. Fuller stayed in the Wagon Train for two seasons, topping billings almost every week. 

Frank McGrath:

McGrath came on the show upon Bond’s request. They had worked on a previous Western together, and Bond formed a natural bond with him. McGrath played the role of Charlie Wooster, the train’s cook. He was one of two people who stayed in the show from its first season to the last.

Terry Wilson:

Wilson, who played Bill Hawks, was the second member who stayed on the show from seasons one to eight. He was on the show as Bond requested.

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Michael Burns:

Burns was Barnaby West on the Wagon Train. He was on the show for two seasons, seasons six to eight.

Scott Miller:

Miller played Duke Shannon for two seasons before the character got removed. 

What You Should Know About Ward Bond and The Wagon Train 

Ward Bond has many features in the American Film Institute’s 100 greatest: It isn’t shocking to hear that many people considered Bond a legend, given the fact that he has set some records that have remained unmatched to date. His filmography is admirable. He also has more films in the American Institute’s greatest 100 list than most actors considered alive or dead. 

He was in seven of the 100 Greatest Films in America. The seven movies are as follows:

  • Bringing up Baby 
  • The Maltese Falcon 
  • It’s a wonderful life. 
  • It Happened One Night 
  • Gone With The Wind 
  • The Searchers 
  • The Grapes of Wrath. 

Bond used crutches in the Wagon Train after a leg injury:

Viewers thought it was prop when Bond stood with military men on crutches during the closing of “The Clara Beauchamp Story.” The truth is, it wasn’t.

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The actor had sustained a leg injury in a car accident. He even had to fulfill his best man’s duties on John Wayne’s wedding, on crutches.

Bond approved Scripts for the Wagon Train:

Every script had to go through the NBC and Censor for approval. Bond vetted the writings too, and he brought some of his conservative ideas to the show. He steered the show away from violence to a more family-centered theme.

Gene Roddenberry’s idea for star trek came from the Wagon Train:

The show inspired Star Trek. Gene Roddenberry’s first pitch for Star Trek, his hit science-fiction television series, was “Wagon Train to the Stars.”

The two shows had a lot in common. They both show the unending journeys of the main characters and the different people they meet as they go.

Leonard Nimoy was in both shows. 

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The show had more than one theme song:

The show had three theme songs.

The most popular among the three was “Wagons Ho.” It is the most popular because the network has used it for the longest time.

The first theme song was a lyricless song titled “Wagon Train,” by Henri Rene and Bob Russell. The studio wanted a theme song that wasn’t so “traditional,” so they opted for a new theme song.
The second theme song was by Jack Brooks and Sammy Fain. The song, entitled “Roll Along-Wagon Train,” got airplay in the show’s second season. Johnny O’Neill performed it, but the network still wasn’t satisfied with the song, and they wanted something different.

Their dissatisfaction led them to “Wagons Ho” by Jerome Moross. The song went on to become the last and longest-used theme song on the show. The studio started using the music at the start of the third season. Jerome’s inspiration for the song was from the Jayhawkers songs he wrote for the film. The network found this new theme song satisfactory. That is, it was giving what they wanted it to “give,” so it stayed.

John Ford directed an episode of Wagon Train:

Wagon Train was such a massive success that the director of the Wagon Master, John Ford, directed one of its episodes. He ran “the Colter Craven Story” in season four. 

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Ward Bond was a huge deal in the film industry and the Wagon Train. It was sad to see Ward Bond leave the Wagon Train show, mainly because of death. He made a name for himself, and people continue to remember him for his great work as a character actor. 

This post is an overview of Ward Bond— and the circumstances of his death and sudden departure from the Wagon Train series.

Now we know the answer to the question Why Did Ward Bond Leave Wagon Train? If you are looking for other great western books, check out these authors.

32 thoughts on “Why Did Ward Bond Leave Wagon Train? A Must-Read 

  1. Barbara Mowatt

    I loved Ward Bond and they shouldn’t have just replaced him like that. John McIntire couldn’t hold a candle to him. I stopped watching after he was gone.

    1. Daniel M Fernandez

      He died. Curious how exactly there were supposed to replace him. John McIntire did a fine job.

      1. Richard L KOCH

        In full agreement. The first episode with John showed he was capable. Nobody could replace Bond but McIntire brought a equally wonderful character.

    2. Donna Rawson

      I thought John McIntyre did a very good job at taking over a very popular role. I’m sure it wasn’t an easy task. Good job…

  2. Barbara A Cote

    I am almost 72 yrs. old and I guess I never did know why Ward bond left the Wagon Train. In the past few months I started to watch it on MeTV. I fell in love with a Ward Bond who was now about my age. I was disappointed to see Hale take over, but am still watching it. Hale does a good job but I could have watched Ward Bond forever. God Bless him.

    1. Bernadette Glover

      Bond died that is the reason he was re placed

    2. richard

      ward bond may have looked 72 , but he was just 57 when he died in 1960

  3. Ann Farris

    Ward Bond was the best on Wagon train.No body could play his part like he did.

  4. Dawna

    I use to watch Wagon Train with my little brother. We took turns each day saying, “wagons ho”! I didn’t realize I was only 8 years old when the show started. I guess I outgrew it. I recently started watching it again. I enjoy it. I love the story lines. My daughter and grandkids “can’t believe you are watching that show”. Major Adams was the best. I never knew until now why he left the show. I looked it up online. Thank you so much for the reruns.

    1. Sharon Hamilton

      Same…Chris Hale was good too, but Major Adams was sure my favorite. His bark was worse then his bite. He reminded me of my Great-Uncle Perry Allen Smith. Been watching Wagon Train my whole life and I’m 71. In fact watching it right now on MeTV. Thank God for reruns. 🥰

  5. Robb Wochnick

    Ward Bond was the best…his bark was much worse then his bite but he was the glue to the show in my opinion.

  6. Marian Smith

    watch wagon train every night that it is on , Love all the actors wish it was on more often.

  7. EtheL brown

    I watched it with my dad I loved ward bond I was seven when the show came on I am 71 now I watch it now on insp I love it I do not miss one show. Thank you for putting it back on

  8. Bonnie Gallagher

    I watch Wagon Train because of Robert Horton. He was my favorite and there was not enough shows starting him. Ward Bond was ok but he wasn’t the show Flint was.

  9. Jo Anne C. Slater

    I remember watching “Wagon Train” while I was growing up. Ward Bond was wonderful as the
    wagon master. I am so glad that I can watch reruns on INSP now.

    I remember watching “Wagon Train” when I was growing up. Ward Bond was wonderful.

    My dad’s picture of himself on board ship with a mug of coffee is what I call his “Ward Bond” picture.

  10. Carl Kuchler

    Can’t stop watching old Westerns like Wagon Train and Gunsmoke. Ward Bond was and is a staple of American TV Westerns. Loved him in “It’s A Wonderful Life” as Bert. Watching him as we speak in Gentleman Jim with another Icon Errol Flynn. Can’t get enough of both those “gentlemen “.

  11. Mable toliver

    I was 15 when wagon train came on I loved ward bond and all the original characters I also liked the replacements characters at 79 I watch the reruns Mable M Toliver

  12. Chuck Baines

    I am 67 years old and for some unfathomable reason I never saw o e episode of Wagon Train until a few days ago. While growing up we watched Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel and we loved John Wayne. I was also a fan of Ward Bond in other movies. I missed out on alot, I absolutely love Wagon Train. The
    Little Girl Lost episode was so touching it brought tears to my eyes.

  13. Hayley Moran

    I have been watching Wagon Train the last few weeks. I needed ‘comfort food’ Am 69 and don’t like tv shows today. Ward Bond is a great actor and he was Seth Adams. I like Ward Bond as an actor in all his rolls. Terrible that there was no story about what Seth went on to do. He should have been honored.
    It is sad that the depiction of Native Americans is ridiculous and demeaning. Seems Native Americans wore their war bonnets and paint all the time! As a kid, I accepted all this false portrayal of Indians. I wish there could be a remake with Indians as the main characters and their point of view the main focus.

    1. Norm Hardy

      I am 71 and watching one episode per day. Currently I’m in season 2 and have noted the “outdated cultural depictions” for the Indians and other things. It seems the studio tried to get native Americans on screen when possible, rather than the pathetic white men with made up faces playing Indian. Scripts often showed sympathy for the plight of the Indians in the onslaught of settlers coming into their lands.

      The writing is usually pretty good, and the stories did an accurate job depicting the lust and violence of lonesome men without defying the censors of the time.

    2. Trudy

      I hear you, Haley. I thought that too, about how they portrayed Native Americans. That was one the film industry’s ignorance and America’s need to play Cowboy’s and Indians. It was accepted back then. No wonder guns are still so popular. I must say, I loved Ward Bond and also Frank McGrath (Charlie). Frank was an established stunt man. You should read about some of the crazy things he did. He really drove the horses pulling the wagon. Not all actors could do that.

    3. Robert

      If some of the viewers are concerned about the plight of the native Indian, I would suggest the show “Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman” which emphasizes their struggles coping with the invasion of their own land and cultures.

  14. Judi S.

    I loved the Majors interactions with Flint & Charlie. A true curmudgeon! I liked John McIntire with Cooper but neither held a candle to the original charactors. Nobody could act angry & throw an insult to Charlie or Flint & Hawks & turn to walk with a grin. He always got his point across!

  15. Joy L Sharp

    You never caught Ward Bond acting. He was a natural on the show. His character showed warmth and genuine concern for the people traveling with the wagon train. I saw an episode where he announced to the folks he was leaving the train which is confusing to me. Was he having heart issues at the time? Had his doctor recommended he slow down? Such a loss from the show back then.

  16. Sandi

    Whenever my husband hears me in the kitchen yelling “Wagons Ho!” he knows it’s time to settle in for a “Train-a-thon”.

  17. John Motola

    I love this show i watch it all the time

  18. Kim D Seebold

    Absolutely love this show. I’ve watched several episodes over and over. The story lines are some of the best I’ve ever seen. Those writers really knew what they were doing.
    I also loved every actor on this show; Ward Bond, John McIntyre, Robert Horton, Frank McGrath, Terry Wilson, Robert Fuller, Denny Miller, and Michael Burns. Every one of them played their parts to the hilt, and I loved each and every character they portrayed, especially Charlie for his goofiness and big heart, and Flint (honestly, all of the men) for their handsome and protective qualities. Every woman wants a man just like these men.
    I was just a baby when this show was on but it just wouldn’t be the same if it were made today. The fact that it’s in black and white gives it more of a realistic quality and makes me feel like this might actually be what these people went through. What a hard life!
    Anyway, it was a fabulous show with fabulous actors and excellent writing and stories. Good job Wagon Train!

  19. wendell

    Ward Bond died in the shower. Watched him in a movie called Canyon Passage (1946), tonight and he was a villain and played the part to the hilt. He made so many good movies and remember the three amigos.

  20. Karen

    Still love Wagon Train many decades later!
    Missed Ward Bond, but John McIntyre did a good job. Was disappointed that Robert Fuller did not stay, but Horton was the best.
    One note……Ward Bond did a great job in The Quiet Man with John Wayne. They were great friends & the movie was outstanding.

  21. Charlotte Ann Jett

    Robert Fuller didn’t replace Robert Horton. Dennis Miller was in Wagon Train before Robert Fuller came into it. Mr. Robert Fuller even said so himself. They were all great Actors. I watched Reruns after Reruns Over and Over Again. Thanks for all the Reruns on all the great Shows. Thanks for the good old days!!!🤗👍😏👌🤗

  22. Peggy

    Absolutely love Wagon Train I have taped over 70 shows Andi have nights that I call my Wagon Train nights. I recently lost my brother to a devastating illness called cjd, When we were kids we watched s lot of the of the the old westerns. Now I can watch and think of Jim. Great show and cast, thanks for bringing it back.

  23. Kristen Haenggi

    I loved both Major Adams and Chris Hale. Very different wagon masters, but equally as effective. My favorite episode is The Christopher Hale story, where Lee Marvin (Jud Benedict) took over as the new wagon master, and was absolutely ruthless. John McIntire eventually fought him, and Bill Hawks killed Benedict. McIntire (Chris Hale) officially became the new wagon master, on a permanent basis. I will say, I liked Ward Bond’s “Wagons Ho” better though!

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