American Old West
Overview
 
The American Old West, or the Wild West, comprises the history, geography, people, lore, and cultural expression of life in the Western United States
Western United States
.The Western United States, commonly referred to as the American West or simply "the West," traditionally refers to the region comprising the westernmost states of the United States. Because the U.S. expanded westward after its founding, the meaning of the West has evolved over time...

, most often referring to the latter half of the 19th century, between the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 and the end of the century. After the 18th century and the push beyond the Appalachian Mountains
Appalachian Mountains
The Appalachian Mountains #Whether the stressed vowel is or ,#Whether the "ch" is pronounced as a fricative or an affricate , and#Whether the final vowel is the monophthong or the diphthong .), often called the Appalachians, are a system of mountains in eastern North America. The Appalachians...

, the term is generally applied to anywhere west of the Mississippi River
Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is the largest river system in North America. Flowing entirely in the United States, this river rises in western Minnesota and meanders slowly southwards for to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi's watershed drains...

 in earlier periods and westward from the frontier strip
Frontier Strip
The Frontier Strip are the six states in the United States forming a north-south line from North Dakota to Texas. In the American Old West, westward from this strip was the frontier of the United States toward the latter part of the 19th century...

 toward the later part of the 19th century.
Encyclopedia
The American Old West, or the Wild West, comprises the history, geography, people, lore, and cultural expression of life in the Western United States
Western United States
.The Western United States, commonly referred to as the American West or simply "the West," traditionally refers to the region comprising the westernmost states of the United States. Because the U.S. expanded westward after its founding, the meaning of the West has evolved over time...

, most often referring to the latter half of the 19th century, between the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 and the end of the century. After the 18th century and the push beyond the Appalachian Mountains
Appalachian Mountains
The Appalachian Mountains #Whether the stressed vowel is or ,#Whether the "ch" is pronounced as a fricative or an affricate , and#Whether the final vowel is the monophthong or the diphthong .), often called the Appalachians, are a system of mountains in eastern North America. The Appalachians...

, the term is generally applied to anywhere west of the Mississippi River
Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is the largest river system in North America. Flowing entirely in the United States, this river rises in western Minnesota and meanders slowly southwards for to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi's watershed drains...

 in earlier periods and westward from the frontier strip
Frontier Strip
The Frontier Strip are the six states in the United States forming a north-south line from North Dakota to Texas. In the American Old West, westward from this strip was the frontier of the United States toward the latter part of the 19th century...

 toward the later part of the 19th century. Thus, the Midwest and American South, though not considered part of the Western United States
Western United States
.The Western United States, commonly referred to as the American West or simply "the West," traditionally refers to the region comprising the westernmost states of the United States. Because the U.S. expanded westward after its founding, the meaning of the West has evolved over time...

 today, have Western heritage along with the modern western states. More broadly, the period stretches from the early 19th century to the end of the Mexican Revolution
Mexican Revolution
The Mexican Revolution was a major armed struggle that started in 1910, with an uprising led by Francisco I. Madero against longtime autocrat Porfirio Díaz. The Revolution was characterized by several socialist, liberal, anarchist, populist, and agrarianist movements. Over time the Revolution...

 in 1920.

Through treaties with foreign nations and native peoples, political compromise, technological innovation, military conquest, establishment of law and order, and the great migrations of foreigners, the United States expanded from coast to coast (Atlantic Ocean to Pacific Ocean), fulfilling advocates' belief in Manifest Destiny
Manifest Destiny
Manifest Destiny was the 19th century American belief that the United States was destined to expand across the continent. It was used by Democrat-Republicans in the 1840s to justify the war with Mexico; the concept was denounced by Whigs, and fell into disuse after the mid-19th century.Advocates of...

. In securing and managing the West, the U.S. federal government greatly expanded its powers, as the nation evolved from an agrarian society to an industrialized nation. First promoting settlement and exploitation of the land, by the end of the 19th century the federal government assumed stewardship of the remaining open spaces. As the American Old West passed into history, the myths of the West took firm hold in the imagination of Americans and foreigners alike.

The term "Old West"

The American frontier
Frontier
A frontier is a political and geographical term referring to areas near or beyond a boundary. 'Frontier' was absorbed into English from French in the 15th century, with the meaning "borderland"--the region of a country that fronts on another country .The use of "frontier" to mean "a region at the...

 moved gradually westward decades after the settlement of the first immigrants on the Eastern seaboard in the 17th century. The "West" was always the area beyond that boundary. Scholars, however, sometimes refer to the Old West as the region of the Ohio and Tennessee valleys during the 18th century, when the frontier was being contested by Britain, France, and the American colonies. Most often, however, the "American Old West", the "Old West" or "the Great West" is used to describe the area west of the Mississippi River
Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is the largest river system in North America. Flowing entirely in the United States, this river rises in western Minnesota and meanders slowly southwards for to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi's watershed drains...

 during the 19th century.

Advancing frontier and the Louisiana Purchase

During European settlement of North America in the 17th century, the western frontier was the crest of the Appalachian Mountains
Appalachian Mountains
The Appalachian Mountains #Whether the stressed vowel is or ,#Whether the "ch" is pronounced as a fricative or an affricate , and#Whether the final vowel is the monophthong or the diphthong .), often called the Appalachians, are a system of mountains in eastern North America. The Appalachians...

, the initial geographical impediment to expansion. While the eastern seaboard was being tamed, the area west of these mountains received little concern and speculation. After the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

, the conflict among European powers over the vast American continent and its riches gave way to the new nation of the United States. With peace came an impetus for westward expansion, as veterans returned to areas seen during the war, and land hungry settlers traveled to newly available lands in New York and across the Appalachians.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the American frontier was approximately along the Mississippi River, which bisects the continental United States north-to-south from just west of the Great Lakes to the delta near New Orleans. St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is an independent city on the eastern border of Missouri, United States. With a population of 319,294, it was the 58th-largest U.S. city at the 2010 U.S. Census. The Greater St...

 was the largest town on the frontier, the gateway for travel westward, and a principal trading center for Mississippi River traffic and inland commerce.

The new nation began to exercise some power in domestic and foreign affairs. The British had been driven out of the East after the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

 but remained in Canada and threatened to expand into the Northwest. The French had left the Ohio Valley but still owned the Louisiana Territory from the Mississippi River west to the Rockies, including the strategic port of New Orleans. Spain's dominion (New Spain
New Spain
New Spain, formally called the Viceroyalty of New Spain , was a viceroyalty of the Spanish colonial empire, comprising primarily territories in what was known then as 'América Septentrional' or North America. Its capital was Mexico City, formerly Tenochtitlan, capital of the Aztec Empire...

) included Florida and the territories from present-day Texas to California along the southern tier and up to what later would be Utah and Colorado.
With a stroke of the pen, Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

, the third president of the United States (elected in 1800), more than doubled the size of the United States with the Louisiana Purchase
Louisiana Purchase
The Louisiana Purchase was the acquisition by the United States of America of of France's claim to the territory of Louisiana in 1803. The U.S...

 of 1803 which acquired land France had acquired from Spain just three years earlier. Napoleon Bonaparte had begun to consider it a liability, since the slave rebellion in Haiti
Haitian Revolution
The Haitian Revolution was a period of conflict in the French colony of Saint-Domingue, which culminated in the elimination of slavery there and the founding of the Haitian republic...

 and tropical disease undermined his Caribbean adventures. Robert R. Livingston
Robert Livingston (1746-1813)
Robert R Livingston was an American lawyer, politician, diplomat from New York, and a Founding Father of the United States. He was known as "The Chancellor," after the office he held for 25 years....

, American ambassador to France, negotiated the sale with French foreign minister Talleyrand, who stated, "You have made a noble bargain for yourselves, and I suppose you will make the most of it".

The price was $15 million (about $0.04 per acre), including the cost of settling all claims against France by American citizens. The purchase was controversial. Many of the Federalist Party, the dominant political party in New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

, thought that the territory was "a vast wilderness world which will... prove worse than useless to us" and spread the population across an ungovernable land, weakening federal power to the detriment of New England and the Northeast. But the Jeffersonians thought the territory would help maintain their vision of the ideal republican society, based on agricultural commerce, governed lightly and promoting self-reliance and virtue.

Jefferson quickly ordered exploration and documentation of the vast territory. He charged Lewis and Clark to lead an expedition, starting in 1804, to "explore the Missouri River, and such principal stream of it, as, by its course and communication with the waters of the Pacific Ocean; whether the Columbia, Oregon, Colorado or any other river may offer the most direct and practicable communication across the continent for the purposes of commerce". Jefferson also instructed the expedition to study the region's native tribes (including their morals, language, and culture), weather, soil, rivers, commercial trading, animal and plant life.

The principal commercial goal was to find an efficient route to connect American goods and natural resources with Asian markets, and perhaps to find a means of blocking the growth of British fur trading companies into the Oregon Country
Oregon Country
The Oregon Country was a predominantly American term referring to a disputed ownership region of the Pacific Northwest of North America. The region was occupied by British and French Canadian fur traders from before 1810, and American settlers from the mid-1830s, with its coastal areas north from...

. Asian merchants were already buying sea otter pelts from Pacific coast traders for Chinese customers. An expansion of inland fur trading was also anticipated. With news spreading of the expedition's findings, entrepreneurs like John Jacob Astor
John Jacob Astor
John Jacob Astor , born Johann Jakob Astor, was a German-American business magnate and investor who was the first prominent member of the Astor family and the first multi-millionaire in the United States...

 immediately seized the opportunity and expanded fur trading operations into the Pacific Northwest
Pacific Northwest
The Pacific Northwest is a region in northwestern North America, bounded by the Pacific Ocean to the west and, loosely, by the Rocky Mountains on the east. Definitions of the region vary and there is no commonly agreed upon boundary, even among Pacific Northwesterners. A common concept of the...

. Astor's "Fort Astoria
Fort Astoria
Fort Astoria was the Pacific Fur Company's primary fur trading post in the Northwest, and was the first American-owned settlement on the Pacific coast. After a short two-year term of US ownership, the British owned and operated it for 33 years. It was the first British port on the Pacific coast...

" (later Fort George), at the mouth of the Columbia River, became the first permanent white settlement in that area. However, during the War of 1812
War of 1812
The War of 1812 was a military conflict fought between the forces of the United States of America and those of the British Empire. The Americans declared war in 1812 for several reasons, including trade restrictions because of Britain's ongoing war with France, impressment of American merchant...

, the rival North West Company
North West Company
The North West Company was a fur trading business headquartered in Montreal from 1779 to 1821. It competed with increasing success against the Hudson's Bay Company in what was to become Western Canada...

 (a British-Canadian company) bought the camp from Astor's agents as they feared the British would destroy an American camp. For a while, Astor's fur business suffered. But he rebounded by 1820, took over independent traders to create a powerful monopoly, and left the business as a multi-millionaire in 1834, reinvesting his money in Manhattan real estate.

Fur trade

The quest for furs was the primary commercial reason for the exploration and colonizing of North America by the Dutch, French, and British. The Hudson's Bay Company
Hudson's Bay Company
The Hudson's Bay Company , abbreviated HBC, or "The Bay" is the oldest commercial corporation in North America and one of the oldest in the world. A fur trading business for much of its existence, today Hudson's Bay Company owns and operates retail stores throughout Canada...

, promoting British interests, often competed with French traders who had arrived earlier and had been already trading with indigenous tribes in the northern border region of the colonies. This competition was one of the contributing factors to the French and Indian War
French and Indian War
The French and Indian War is the common American name for the war between Great Britain and France in North America from 1754 to 1763. In 1756, the war erupted into the world-wide conflict known as the Seven Years' War and thus came to be regarded as the North American theater of that war...

 in 1763. British victory in the war led to the expulsion of the French from the American colonies. French trading continued, however, based in Montreal
Montreal
Montreal is a city in Canada. It is the largest city in the province of Quebec, the second-largest city in Canada and the seventh largest in North America...

. Astor's move into the Northwest was a major American attempt to compete with the established French and English traders.

As the frontier moved westward, trappers and hunters
Fur trade
The fur trade is a worldwide industry dealing in the acquisition and sale of animal fur. Since the establishment of world market for in the early modern period furs of boreal, polar and cold temperate mammalian animals have been the most valued...

 moved ahead of settlers, searching out new supplies of beaver
Beaver
The beaver is a primarily nocturnal, large, semi-aquatic rodent. Castor includes two extant species, North American Beaver and Eurasian Beaver . Beavers are known for building dams, canals, and lodges . They are the second-largest rodent in the world...

 and other skins for shipment to Europe. The hunters proceeded and followed Lewis and Clark to the Upper Missouri and the Oregon territory; they formed the first working relationships with the Native Americans in the West. They also added extensive knowledge of the Northwest terrain, including the important South Pass
South Pass
South Pass is two mountain passes on the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains in southwestern Wyoming. The passes are located in a broad low region, 35 miles broad, between the Wind River Range to the north and the Oregon Buttes and Great Divide Basin to the south, in southwestern Fremont...

 through the central Rocky Mountains
Rocky Mountains
The Rocky Mountains are a major mountain range in western North America. The Rocky Mountains stretch more than from the northernmost part of British Columbia, in western Canada, to New Mexico, in the southwestern United States...

. Discovered about 1812, it later became a major route for settlers to Oregon and Washington.

The War of 1812
War of 1812
The War of 1812 was a military conflict fought between the forces of the United States of America and those of the British Empire. The Americans declared war in 1812 for several reasons, including trade restrictions because of Britain's ongoing war with France, impressment of American merchant...

 did little to change the boundaries of the United States and British territories, but its conclusion led to the nations' agreement to make the Great Lakes
Great Lakes
The Great Lakes are a collection of freshwater lakes located in northeastern North America, on the Canada – United States border. Consisting of Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario, they form the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth by total surface, coming in second by volume...

 neutral waters to both navies. Furthermore, competing commercial claims by the UK and the U.S. led to the Anglo-American Convention of 1818. This resulted in their sharing the Oregon territory until a decades later resolution. By 1820, with the fur trade depressed, distances to supply increasing, and conflicts with native tribes rising, the trading system was overhauled by Donald Mackenzie of the North West Company and by William H. Ashley. Previously, Indians caught the animals, skinned them, and brought the furs to trading posts such as Fort Lisa and Fontenelle's Post
Fontenelle's Post
Fontenelle's Post, first known as Pilcher's Post, and the site of the later city of Bellevue, was built in 1822 in the Nebraska Territory by Joshua Pilcher, then president of the Missouri Fur Company. Located on the Missouri River, it developed as one of the first European-American settlements in...

, where trappers sent the goods down river to St. Louis. In exchange for the furs, Indians typically received calico cloth, knives, tomahawks, awls, beads, rifles, ammunition, animal traps, rum, whiskey, and salt pork.

The new "brigade-rendezvous" system, however, sent company men in "brigades" cross-country on long expeditions, bypassing many tribes. It also encouraged "free trappers" to explore new regions on their own. At the end of the gathering season, the trappers would "rendezvous" and turn in their goods for pay at river ports along the Green River
Green River (Utah)
The Green River, located in the western United States, is the chief tributary of the Colorado River. The watershed of the river, known as the Green River Basin, covers parts of Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. The Green River is long, beginning in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming and flowing...

, the Upper Missouri, and the Upper Mississippi. St. Louis was the largest of the rendezvous towns. An early chronicle described the gathering as "one continued scene of drunkenness, gambling, and brawling and fighting, as long as the money and the credit of the trappers last." Trappers competed in wrestling and shooting matches. When they would gamble away all their furs, horses, and their equipment, they would lament, "There goes hos and beaver." By 1830, however, fashions changed in Europe and beaver hats were replaced by silk hats, sharply reducing the need for American furs. Thus ended the era of the "Mountain men", trappers and scouts such as Jedediah Smith
Jedediah Smith
Jedediah Strong Smith was a hunter, trapper, fur trader, trailblazer, author, cartographer, cattleman, and explorer of the Rocky Mountains, the American West Coast and the Southwest during the 19th century...

 (who had traveled through more unexplored western land than any non-Indian and was the first American to reach California overland). The trade in beaver fur virtually ceased by 1845.

Federal government and the West

While the profit motive dominated the movement westward, the Federal government played a vital role in securing land and maintaining law and order, which allowed the expansion to proceed. Despite the Jeffersonian aversion and mistrust of federal power, it bore more heavily in the West than any other region, and made possible the fulfillment of Manifest Destiny
Manifest Destiny
Manifest Destiny was the 19th century American belief that the United States was destined to expand across the continent. It was used by Democrat-Republicans in the 1840s to justify the war with Mexico; the concept was denounced by Whigs, and fell into disuse after the mid-19th century.Advocates of...

. Since local governments were often absent or weak, Westerners, though they grumbled about it, depended on the federal government to protect them and their rights, and displayed little of the outright antipathy of some Easterners to Federalism.

The federal government established a sequence of actions related to control over western lands. First, it acquired western territory from other nations or native tribes by treaty, then it sent surveyors and explorers to map and document the land, next it ordered federal troops to clear out and subdue the resisting natives, and finally, it had bureaucracies manage the land, such as the Bureau of Indian Affairs
Bureau of Indian Affairs
The Bureau of Indian Affairs is an agency of the federal government of the United States within the US Department of the Interior. It is responsible for the administration and management of of land held in trust by the United States for Native Americans in the United States, Native American...

, the Land Office, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Forest Service
United States Forest Service
The United States Forest Service is an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture that administers the nation's 155 national forests and 20 national grasslands, which encompass...

. The process was not a smooth one. Indian resistance, sectionalism, and racism forced some pauses in the process of westward settlement. Nonetheless, by the end of the 19th century, in the process of conquering and managing the West, the federal government amassed great size, power, and influence in national affairs.

Early scientific exploration and surveys

A major role of the federal government was sending out surveyors, naturalists, and artists into the West to discover its potential. Following the Lewis and Clark expeditions, Zebulon Pike
Zebulon Pike
Zebulon Montgomery Pike Jr. was an American officer and explorer for whom Pikes Peak in Colorado is named. As a United States Army captain in 1806-1807, he led the Pike Expedition to explore and document the southern portion of the Louisiana Purchase and to find the headwaters of the Red River,...

 led a party in 1805-6, under the orders of General James Wilkinson
James Wilkinson
James Wilkinson was an American soldier and statesman, who was associated with several scandals and controversies. He served in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, but was twice compelled to resign...

, commander of the western American army. Their mission was to find the head waters of the Mississippi (which turned out to be Lake Itasca
Lake Itasca
Lake Itasca is a small glacial lake, approximately in area, in the Headwaters area of north central Minnesota. The lake is located in southeastern Clearwater County within Itasca State Park and it has an average depth of 20–35 feet , and is 1,475 ft above sea level.The Ojibwe name for...

, and not Leech Lake
Leech Lake
Leech Lake is a lake located in north central Minnesota, United States. It is southeast of Bemidji, located mainly within the Leech Lake Indian Reservation, and completely within the Chippewa National Forest. It is used as a reservoir...

 as Pike concluded). Later, on other journeys, Pike explored the Red and Arkansas Rivers in Spanish territory, eventually reaching the Rio Grande
Rio Grande
The Rio Grande is a river that flows from southwestern Colorado in the United States to the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way it forms part of the Mexico – United States border. Its length varies as its course changes...

. On his return, Pike sighted the peak named after him, was captured by the Spanish and released after a long overland journey. Unfortunately, his documents were confiscated to protect territorial secrets and his later recollections were rambling and not of high quality. Major Stephen H. Long led the Yellowstone and Missouri expeditions of 1819-1820, but his categorizing of the Great Plains
Great Plains
The Great Plains are a broad expanse of flat land, much of it covered in prairie, steppe and grassland, which lies west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains in the United States and Canada. This area covers parts of the U.S...

 as arid and useless led to the region getting a bad reputation as the "Great American Desert", which discouraged settlement in that area for several decades.

In 1811, naturalists Thomas Nuttall
Thomas Nuttall
Thomas Nuttall was an English botanist and zoologist, who lived and worked in America from 1808 until 1841....

 and John Bradbury
John Bradbury (naturalist)
John Bradbury was a Scottish botanist noted for his travels in the United States Midwest and West in the early 19th Century and his eyewitness account of the New Madrid earthquake....

 traveled up the Missouri River
Missouri River
The Missouri River flows through the central United States, and is a tributary of the Mississippi River. It is the longest river in North America and drains the third largest area, though only the thirteenth largest by discharge. The Missouri's watershed encompasses most of the American Great...

 with the Astoria expedition, documenting and drawing plant and animal life. Later, Nuthall explored the Indian Territory (Oklahoma), the Oregon Trail
Oregon Trail
The Oregon Trail is a historic east-west wagon route that connected the Missouri River to valleys in Oregon and locations in between.After 1840 steam-powered riverboats and steamboats traversing up and down the Ohio, Mississippi and Missouri rivers sped settlement and development in the flat...

, and even Hawaii
Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

. His book A Journal of Travels into the Arkansas Territory was an important account of frontier life. Although Nuthall was the most traveled Western naturalist before 1840, unfortunately most of his documentation and specimens were lost. Artist George Catlin
George Catlin
George Catlin was an American painter, author and traveler who specialized in portraits of Native Americans in the Old West.-Early years:...

 traveled up the Missouri as far as present-day North Dakota
North Dakota
North Dakota is a state located in the Midwestern region of the United States of America, along the Canadian border. The state is bordered by Canada to the north, Minnesota to the east, South Dakota to the south and Montana to the west. North Dakota is the 19th-largest state by area in the U.S....

, producing accurate paintings of Native American culture. He was supplemented by Karl Bodmer
Karl Bodmer
Karl Bodmer was a Swiss painter of the American West. He accompanied German explorer Maximilian zu Wied-Neuwied from 1832 through 1834 on his Missouri River expedition...

, who accompanied the Prince Maximilian
Prince Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied
Prince Alexander Philipp Maximilian zu Wied-Neuwied was a German explorer, ethnologist and naturalist....

 expedition, and made compelling landscapes and portraits. In 1820, John James Audubon
John James Audubon
John James Audubon was a French-American ornithologist, naturalist, and painter. He was notable for his expansive studies to document all types of American birds and for his detailed illustrations that depicted the birds in their natural habitats...

 traveled about the Mississippi Basin collecting specimens and making sketches for his monumental books Birds of America
Birds of America (book)
The Birds of America is a book by naturalist and painter John James Audubon, containing illustrations of a wide variety of birds of the United States. It was first published as a series of sections between 1827 and 1838, in Edinburgh and London....

and The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America, classic works of naturalist art. By 1840, the discoveries of explorers, naturalists, and mountain men had produced maps showing the rough outlines of the entire West to the Pacific Ocean.

Mexican rule and Texas independence

Criollo
Criollo people
The Criollo class ranked below that of the Iberian Peninsulares, the high-born permanent residence colonists born in Spain. But Criollos were higher status/rank than all other castes—people of mixed descent, Amerindians, and enslaved Africans...

and mestizo settlers of New Spain declared their independence in 1810 (finally obtaining it in 1821) from Spain's crumbling American colonial empire in the Americas
Americas
The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...

 (which were not yet thought of as being divided in North, Central and South America), forming the new nation of Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 which included the New Mexico territory at its north. A hoped for result of Mexico's independence was more open trade and better relations with the United States where previously Spain had enforced its border strictly and had arrested American traders who ventured into the region. After Mexico's independence, large caravans began delivering goods to Santa Fe along the Santa Fe Trail
Santa Fe Trail
The Santa Fe Trail was a 19th-century transportation route through central North America that connected Missouri with Santa Fe, New Mexico. Pioneered in 1822 by William Becknell, it served as a vital commercial and military highway until the introduction of the railroad to Santa Fe in 1880...

, over the 870 miles (1,400.1 km) journey which took 48 days from Kansas City, Missouri (then known as Westport). Santa Fe was also the trailhead for the "El Camino Real" (the King's Highway), a major trade route which carried American manufactured goods southward deep into Mexico and returned silver, furs, and mules northward (not to be confused with another "Camino Real" which connected the missions in California). A branch also ran eastward near the Gulf (also called the Old San Antonio Road
Old San Antonio Road
The Old San Antonio Road was a historic roadway located in the U.S. states of Texas and Louisiana. Parts of it were based on traditional Native American trails. Its Texas terminus was about southeast of Eagle Pass at the Rio Grande in Maverick County, and its northern terminus was at...

). Santa Fe also connected to California via the Old Spanish Trail
Old Spanish Trail (trade route)
The Old Spanish Trail is a historical trade route which connected the northern New Mexico settlements near or in Santa Fe, New Mexico with that of Los Angeles, California and southern California. Approximately long, it ran through areas of high mountains, arid deserts, and deep canyons. It is...

.

The Mexican government began to attract Americans to the Texas area with generous terms. Stephen F. Austin
Stephen F. Austin
Stephen Fuller Austin was born in Virginia and raised in southeastern Missouri. He was known as the Father of Texas, led the second, but first legal and ultimately successful colonization of the region by bringing 300 families from the United States. The capital of Texas, Austin in Travis County,...

 became an "empresario," receiving contracts from the Mexican officials to bring in immigrants. In doing so, he also became the de facto political and military commander of the area. Tensions rose, however, after an abortive attempt to establish the independent nation of Fredonia in 1826. William Travis, leading the "war party," advocated for independence from Mexico, while the "peace party" led by Austin attempted to get more autonomy within the current relationship. When Mexican president Santa Anna
Antonio López de Santa Anna
Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón , often known as Santa Anna or López de Santa Anna, known as "the Napoleon of the West," was a Mexican political leader, general, and president who greatly influenced early Mexican and Spanish politics and government...

 shifted alliances and joined the conservative Centralist party, he declared himself dictator and ordered soldiers into Texas to curtail new immigration and unrest. However, immigration continued and 30,000 Americans with 3,000 slaves arrived in 1835. A series of battles, including at the Alamo
Alamo
The Battle of the Alamo was a battle fought during the Texas Revolution.Alamo may also refer to:-Places:*Alamo Mission in San Antonio, Texas*Alamo, California*Alamo, Georgia*Alamo Township, Michigan*Alamo, Nevada*Alamo, New Mexico...

, at Goliad, and at the San Jacinto River, led to independence and the establishment of the Republic of Texas
Republic of Texas
The Republic of Texas was an independent nation in North America, bordering the United States and Mexico, that existed from 1836 to 1846.Formed as a break-away republic from Mexico by the Texas Revolution, the state claimed borders that encompassed an area that included all of the present U.S...

 in 1836. The U.S. Congress, however, refused to annex Texas, stalemated by contentious arguments over slavery and regional power. Texas remained an independent country, led by Sam Houston
Sam Houston
Samuel Houston, known as Sam Houston , was a 19th-century American statesman, politician, and soldier. He was born in Timber Ridge in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, of Scots-Irish descent. Houston became a key figure in the history of Texas and was elected as the first and third President of...

, until it became the 28th state in 1845. Mexico, however, viewed the establishment of the statehood of Texas as a hostile act, helping to precipitate the Mexican War
Mexican–American War
The Mexican–American War, also known as the First American Intervention, the Mexican War, or the U.S.–Mexican War, was an armed conflict between the United States and Mexico from 1846 to 1848 in the wake of the 1845 U.S...

.

The Trail of Tears

The expansion of migration into the Southeast in the 1820s and 1830s forced the federal government to deal with the "Indian question." By 1837 the "Indian Removal policy" began, to implement the act of Congress signed by Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson was the seventh President of the United States . Based in frontier Tennessee, Jackson was a politician and army general who defeated the Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend , and the British at the Battle of New Orleans...

 in 1830. The forced march of about twenty Native American
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

 tribes included the "Five Civilized Tribes" (Creek
Creek people
The Muscogee , also known as the Creek or Creeks, are a Native American people traditionally from the southeastern United States. Mvskoke is their name in traditional spelling. The modern Muscogee live primarily in Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida...

, Choctaw
Choctaw
The Choctaw are a Native American people originally from the Southeastern United States...

, Cherokee
Cherokee
The Cherokee are a Native American people historically settled in the Southeastern United States . Linguistically, they are part of the Iroquoian language family...

, Chickasaw
Chickasaw
The Chickasaw are Native American people originally from the region that would become the Southeastern United States...

, and Seminole
Seminole
The Seminole are a Native American people originally of Florida, who now reside primarily in that state and Oklahoma. The Seminole nation emerged in a process of ethnogenesis out of groups of Native Americans, most significantly Creeks from what is now Georgia and Alabama, who settled in Florida in...

). They were pushed beyond the frontier and into the "Indian Territory" (which later became Oklahoma). Of the approximate 70,000 Indians removed, about 20% died from disease, starvation, and exposure on the route. This exodus has become known as The Trail of Tears (in Cherokee "Nunna dual Tsuny," "The Trail Where they Cried"). The impact of the removals was severe. The transplanted tribes had considerable difficulty adapting to their new surroundings and sometimes clashed with the tribes native to the area. In addition, the Smallpox
Smallpox
Smallpox was an infectious disease unique to humans, caused by either of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. The disease is also known by the Latin names Variola or Variola vera, which is a derivative of the Latin varius, meaning "spotted", or varus, meaning "pimple"...

 Epidemic of 1837 decimated the tribes of the Upper Missouri, weakening them, and allowing immigrants easier access to those lands.

The Indian removals were justified by two prevailing philosophies. The "superior race" theory contended that "inferior" peoples (i.e., natives) held land in trust until a "superior race" came along which would be a more productive steward of the land. Humanitarians espoused a second theory stating that the removal of natives would take them away from the contaminating influences of the frontier and help preserve their culture. Neither theory showed any understanding of the natives' intimate connection with their land nor the deadly effect of social and physical uprooting. For example, tribes were dependent on local animals and plants for their food and their medicinal and cultural purposes, which were often unavailable after moving.
In 1827, the Cherokee, on the basis of earlier treaties, declared themselves a sovereign nation within the boundaries of Georgia. When the Georgia state government ignored the declaration and annexed the land, the Cherokee took their case to the U.S. Supreme Court
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

. The court ruled Georgia's laws null and void in the Cherokee nation, but the state ignored the ruling. The court also ruled that the tribes were "domestic dependent nations" and could not make treaties with other nations. Furthermore, it was up to the federal government to protect those rights, making the tribes, in effect, wards of the federal government. President Jackson, having just signed the Indian Removal Act, failed to enforce the court ruling, illegally abdicating to the states the right to make policy regarding the tribes. In effect, Jackson refused to honor the federal government's commitment to protect the southern tribes and to act in its proper role in dealing with the tribes as sovereign, though dependent, nations. Jackson justified his actions by stating that Indians had "neither the intelligence, the industry, the moral habits, nor the desire of improvements."

The only way for a Native American to avoid removal was to accept the federal offer of 640 acres (2.6 km²) or more of land (depending on family size) in exchange for leaving the tribe and becoming a U.S. citizen subject to state law and federal law. However, many natives who took the offer were defrauded by "ravenous speculators" who stole their claims and sold their land to whites. In Mississippi alone, fraudulent claims reached 3800000 acres (15,378.1 km²). Some of those who refused to move or take the offer found sanctuary for a while in remote areas. To motivate natives reluctant to move, the federal government also promised rifles, blankets, tobacco, and cash. Of the five tribes, the Seminole offered the most resistance, hiding out in the Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

 swamps and waging a war which cost the U.S. Army 1,500 lives and $20 million. Through war, abandonment, and the removal policy, the federal government acquired about 442800000 acres (1,791,949.6 km²) of native land in the East from 1776 to 1842.

Oklahoma Land Rush

In 1889, President Benjamin Harrison
Benjamin Harrison
Benjamin Harrison was the 23rd President of the United States . Harrison, a grandson of President William Henry Harrison, was born in North Bend, Ohio, and moved to Indianapolis, Indiana at age 21, eventually becoming a prominent politician there...

 authorized the opening of 2000000 acres (8,093.7 km²) of unoccupied lands in the Oklahoma territory acquired from the native tribes. On April 22, over 100,000 settlers and cattlemen (known as "boomers") lined up at the border, and with the army's guns and bugles giving the signal, began a mad dash into the newly opened land to stake their claims (Land Run of 1889
Land Run of 1889
The Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889 was the first land run into the Unassigned Lands and included all or part of the 2005 modern day Canadian, Cleveland, Kingfisher, Logan, Oklahoma, and Payne counties of the U.S. state of Oklahoma...

). A witness wrote, "The horsemen had the best of it from the start. It was a fine race for a few minutes, but soon the riders began to spread out like a fan, and by the time they reached the horizon they were scattered about as far as the eye could see". In a day, the towns of Oklahoma City
Oklahoma city
Oklahoma City is the capital and largest city of the U.S. state of Oklahoma.Oklahoma City may also refer to:*Oklahoma City metropolitan area*Downtown Oklahoma City*Uptown Oklahoma City*Oklahoma City bombing*Oklahoma City National Memorial...

, Norman
Norman, Oklahoma
Norman is a city in Cleveland County, Oklahoma, United States, and is located south of downtown Oklahoma City. It is part of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. As of the 2010 census, Norman was to have 110,925 full-time residents, making it the third-largest city in Oklahoma and the...

, and Guthrie
Guthrie, Oklahoma
Guthrie is a city in and the county seat of Logan County, Oklahoma, United States, and a part of the Oklahoma City Metroplex. The population was 9,925 at the 2000 census.Guthrie was the territorial and later the first state capital for Oklahoma...

 came into existence. In the same manner, millions of acres of additional land was opened up and settled in the following four years.

Indian policy and attitudes

No sooner had the federal government created the "Indian Territory", than whites began to encroach upon the boundaries, traders began to sell prohibited liquor and settlers took shortcuts across Indian land on their way to Oregon and California. As the migrants moved across the Great Plains. Their livestock trampled Indian land and ate crops. Some tribes struck back by raiding livestock and by demanding payment from settlers crossing their land. The federal government attempted to reduce tensions and create new tribal boundaries in the Great Plains with two new treaties in the early 1850, The Treaty of Fort Laramie
Treaty of Fort Laramie (1851)
Although many European and European-American migrants to western North America had previously passed through the Great Plains on the Oregon and Santa Fe Trails, the California gold rush greatly increased traffic...

 established tribal zones for the Sioux
Sioux
The Sioux are Native American and First Nations people in North America. The term can refer to any ethnic group within the Great Sioux Nation or any of the nation's many language dialects...

, Cheyennes, Arapahos, Crows, and others, and allowed for the building of roads and posts across the tribal lands. A second treaty secured safe passage along the Santa Fe Trail
Santa Fe Trail
The Santa Fe Trail was a 19th-century transportation route through central North America that connected Missouri with Santa Fe, New Mexico. Pioneered in 1822 by William Becknell, it served as a vital commercial and military highway until the introduction of the railroad to Santa Fe in 1880...

 for wagon trains. In return, the tribes would receive, for ten years, annual compensation for damages caused by migrants.

The Kansas and Nebraska territories also became contentious areas as the federal government sought those lands for the future transcontinental railroad
First Transcontinental Railroad
The First Transcontinental Railroad was a railroad line built in the United States of America between 1863 and 1869 by the Central Pacific Railroad of California and the Union Pacific Railroad that connected its statutory Eastern terminus at Council Bluffs, Iowa/Omaha, Nebraska The First...

. In the Far West settlers began to occupy land in Oregon and California before the federal government secured title from the native tribes, causing considerable friction. In Utah, the Mormons
Mormons
The Mormons are a religious and cultural group related to Mormonism, a religion started by Joseph Smith during the American Second Great Awakening. A vast majority of Mormons are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while a minority are members of other independent churches....

 also moved in before federal ownership was obtained. During their flight West, the Mormons established an outpost called Winter Quarters
Winter Quarters, Nebraska
Winter Quarters was an encampment formed by approximately 2,500 members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as they waited during the winter of 1846–47 for better conditions for their trek westward. It followed a preliminary tent settlement some 3½ miles west at Cutler's Park. The...

 with permission from Big Elk
Big Elk
Big Elk, also known as Ontopanga , was a principal chief of the Omaha tribe for many years on the upper Missouri River. He is notable for his oration delivered at the funeral of Black Buffalo in 1813....

 of the Omaha tribe. This set a precedent for such agreements; however, when the Mormons exhausted local timber supplies they were asked to move from the land. Their occupancy in the area that soon became the Nebraska Territory
Nebraska Territory
The Territory of Nebraska was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from May 30, 1854, until March 1, 1867, when the final extent of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of Nebraska. The Nebraska Territory was created by the Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854...

 lasted from 1846 to 1848.
A new policy of establishing reservations came gradually into shape after the boundaries of the "Indian Territory" began to be ignored. In providing for Indian reservations, Congress and the Office of Indian Affairs hoped to detribalize Native Americans and prepare them for integration with the rest of American society, the "ultimate incorporation into the great body of our citizen population." This allowed for the development of dozens of riverfront towns along the Missouri River
Missouri River
The Missouri River flows through the central United States, and is a tributary of the Mississippi River. It is the longest river in North America and drains the third largest area, though only the thirteenth largest by discharge. The Missouri's watershed encompasses most of the American Great...

 in the new Nebraska Territory
Nebraska Territory
The Territory of Nebraska was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from May 30, 1854, until March 1, 1867, when the final extent of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of Nebraska. The Nebraska Territory was created by the Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854...

, which was carved from the remainder of the Louisiana Purchase after the Kansas-Nebraska Act
Kansas-Nebraska Act
The Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854 created the territories of Kansas and Nebraska, opening new lands for settlement, and had the effect of repealing the Missouri Compromise of 1820 by allowing settlers in those territories to determine through Popular Sovereignty if they would allow slavery within...

. Influential pioneer towns included Omaha
Omaha, Nebraska
Omaha is the largest city in the state of Nebraska, United States, and is the county seat of Douglas County. It is located in the Midwestern United States on the Missouri River, about 20 miles north of the mouth of the Platte River...

, Nebraska City
Nebraska City, Nebraska
Nebraska City is a city in Otoe County, Nebraska, United States. The population was 7,228 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Otoe County...

 and St. Joseph.

White
White people
White people is a term which usually refers to human beings characterized, at least in part, by the light pigmentation of their skin...

 attitudes towards Indians during this period ranged from extreme malevolence ("the only good Indian is a dead Indian") to misdirected humanitarianism (Indians live in "inferior" societies and by assimilation into white society they can be redeemed) to somewhat realistic (Native Americans and settlers could co-exist in separate but equal societies, dividing up the remaining western land). Dealing with nomadic tribes complicated the reservation strategy and decentralized tribal power made treaty making difficult among the Plains Indians. Conflicts erupted in the 1850s, resulting in the Indian Wars
Indian Wars
American Indian Wars is the name used in the United States to describe a series of conflicts between American settlers or the federal government and the native peoples of North America before and after the American Revolutionary War. The wars resulted from the arrival of European colonizers who...

.

Frémont's expeditions

John Charles Frémont, son-in-law of powerful Missouri senator and expansionist Thomas Hart Benton
Thomas Hart Benton (senator)
Thomas Hart Benton , nicknamed "Old Bullion", was a U.S. Senator from Missouri and a staunch advocate of westward expansion of the United States. He served in the Senate from 1821 to 1851, becoming the first member of that body to serve five terms...

, led a series of expeditions in the mid 1840s which answered many of the outstanding geographic questions about the West. He crossed through the Rocky Mountains by five different routes, reached deep into the Oregon territory, traveled the length of California, and into Mexico below Tucson. With the help of legendary scouts Christopher "Kit" Carson
Kit Carson
Christopher Houston "Kit" Carson was an American frontiersman and Indian fighter. Carson left home in rural present-day Missouri at age 16 and became a Mountain man and trapper in the West. Carson explored the west to California, and north through the Rocky Mountains. He lived among and married...

 and Thomas "Broken Hand" Fitzpatrick
Thomas Fitzpatrick (trapper)
Thomas Fitzpatrick, known as "Broken Hand", was a trapper and a trailblazer who became the head of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. With Jedediah Smith, he led a trapper band that discovered South Pass, Wyoming....

, and German cartographer Charles Preuss
Charles Preuss
George Karl Ludwig Preuss , Anglicized as Charles Preuss, was a surveyor and cartographer who accompanied John C. Fremont on his exploratory expeditions of the American west, including the expedition where he and Fremont were the first to record seeing Lake Tahoe from a mountaintop vantage point as...

, Frémont produced detailed maps, filled in gaps of knowledge, and provided route information that fostered the "Great Migrations" to Oregon, California, and the Great Basin
Great Basin
The Great Basin is the largest area of contiguous endorheic watersheds in North America and is noted for its arid conditions and Basin and Range topography that varies from the North American low point at Badwater Basin to the highest point of the contiguous United States, less than away at the...

. He also disproved the existence of the mythical Rio San Buenaventura, featured on old maps, which was a large river believed to drain all of the West and which exited at San Francisco into the Pacific.

Manifest Destiny and the early migrations

Manifest Destiny was the belief that the United States was pre-ordained by God to expand from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific coast. The concept was expressed during Colonial times, but the term was coined by newspaperman John O'Sullivan
John L. O'Sullivan
John Louis O'Sullivan was an American columnist and editor who used the term "Manifest Destiny" in 1845 to promote the annexation of Texas and the Oregon Country to the United States. O'Sullivan was an influential political writer and advocate for the Democratic Party at that time, but he faded...

, and became a rallying cry for expansionists in the 1840s. It was a moral/religious as well as political/economic justification for growth, regardless of the social and legal consequences for Native Americans. Implicit is the position that the American claim supersedes―by God's favor―that of foreign nations or the native peoples. O'Sullivan wrote, "Away, away with all these cobweb tissues of rights of discovery, exploration, settlement, continuity, etc.... The American claim is by the right of our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federative self-government entrusted to us".

The Polk and Tyler administrations successfully promoted this nationalistic doctrine over sectionalists and others who objected for moral reasons or over concerns about the spread of slavery. Starting with the annexation of Texas, the expansionists got the upper hand. To gain the acceptance of Northerners, Texas was even promoted by expansionists as a place where slavery could be concentrated, and from where blacks and slavery would eventually leave the U.S. entirely, solving the problem forever.

Henry Clay
Henry Clay
Henry Clay, Sr. , was a lawyer, politician and skilled orator who represented Kentucky separately in both the Senate and in the House of Representatives...

 and Daniel Webster
Daniel Webster
Daniel Webster was a leading American statesman and senator from Massachusetts during the period leading up to the Civil War. He first rose to regional prominence through his defense of New England shipping interests...

, among others, did not vote for conquest and expansion, and preferred co-existence with friendly foreign powers sharing the continent. John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams was the sixth President of the United States . He served as an American diplomat, Senator, and Congressional representative. He was a member of the Federalist, Democratic-Republican, National Republican, and later Anti-Masonic and Whig parties. Adams was the son of former...

 believed the Texas annexation to be "the heaviest calamity that ever befell myself and my country". However, Manifest Destiny's popularity in the Midwest states and the addition of federal encouragement overcame the opposition and created a climate which helped start the "Great Migrations" to Oregon, California, and the Great Basin
Great Basin
The Great Basin is the largest area of contiguous endorheic watersheds in North America and is noted for its arid conditions and Basin and Range topography that varies from the North American low point at Badwater Basin to the highest point of the contiguous United States, less than away at the...

.

Also spurring settlers westward were the emigrant "guide books" of the 1840s featuring route information supplied by the fur traders and the Frémont expeditions, and promising fertile farm land beyond the Rockies. Independence, Missouri
Independence, Missouri
Independence is the fourth largest city in the U.S. state of Missouri, and is contained within the counties of Jackson and Clay. It is part of the Kansas City Metropolitan Area...

 became the starting point for caravans of "Chicago" and "Prairie Schooner" wagons which traveled the Oregon
Oregon Trail
The Oregon Trail is a historic east-west wagon route that connected the Missouri River to valleys in Oregon and locations in between.After 1840 steam-powered riverboats and steamboats traversing up and down the Ohio, Mississippi and Missouri rivers sped settlement and development in the flat...

 and California trail
California Trail
The California Trail was an emigrant trail of about across the western half of the North American continent from Missouri River towns to what is now the state of California...

s. Starting in late 1848 over 250,000 settlers passed over the California trail to California. The trip was slow and arduous, but unlike the depiction in films, generally absent of Indian attacks. One Oregon pioneer wrote, "Our journey is ended. Our toils are over. But... no tongue can tell, nor pen describe the heart rending scenes through which we passed". On the 2000 miles (3,218.7 km) journey, settlers had to overcome extreme climate, lack of food and clean water, disease, broken down wagons, and exhausted draft animals. The Oregon territory, filling up with Americans, was ceded to the U.S. in 1846 by Great Britain, which was anxious to fix the northern boundary at the 49th parallel. Oregon gained statehood in 1859.

Brigham Young
Brigham Young
Brigham Young was an American leader in the Latter Day Saint movement and a settler of the Western United States. He was the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1847 until his death in 1877, he founded Salt Lake City, and he served as the first governor of the Utah...

, also influenced by Frémont's discoveries and seeking to escape persecution, led his followers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the "Mormons
Mormons
The Mormons are a religious and cultural group related to Mormonism, a religion started by Joseph Smith during the American Second Great Awakening. A vast majority of Mormons are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while a minority are members of other independent churches....

") to the valley of the Great Salt Lake
Great Salt Lake
The Great Salt Lake, located in the northern part of the U.S. state of Utah, is the largest salt water lake in the western hemisphere, the fourth-largest terminal lake in the world. In an average year the lake covers an area of around , but the lake's size fluctuates substantially due to its...

, bypassed by other immigrants headed to Oregon, because of its aridity. Eventually, nearly one hundred Mormon settlements sprang up in what Young called "Deseret
State of Deseret
The State of Deseret was a proposed state of the United States, propositioned in 1849 by Latter-day Saint settlers in Salt Lake City. The provisional state existed for slightly over two years and was never recognized by the United States government...

", which later became Utah, California, Nevada, Arizona, and Nebraska. The Salt Lake City settlement served as the hub of their network, and was proclaimed "Zion, the seat of God's kingdom on earth". The communalism and advanced farming practices of the Mormons enabled them to succeed in a region other settlers rejected as too harsh but which Frémont believed to have great potential. During the gold rushes of the 1850s, Salt Lake City became an important supply point, adding to its economic strength.

In California, the twenty-one mission settlements established by the Catholic Church had failed to attract sufficient Mexican settlers who had viewed the region as too remote. The Spanish aristocracy (the "californios") controlled the territory through vast land grants on which large cattle ranches spread. Manned mostly by Christianized Indians supervised by the friars, the ranches supplied English and American merchant ships with hides and tallow. The few Americans in the area were mostly traders, merchants, and sailors, many from "Yerba Buena" (renamed San Francisco in 1846). Although Presidents Jackson and Tyler's efforts to buy California from Mexico had failed, American settlers started to enter the territory by 1841. The Bartleson-Bidwell Party
Bartleson-Bidwell Party
In 1841, the Bartleson–Bidwell Party led by Captain John Bartleson and John Bidwell, became the first American emigrants to attempt a wagon crossing from Missouri to California.-The trail:...

 brought the first overland family migrations to Sacramento, California
Sacramento, California
Sacramento is the capital city of the U.S. state of California and the county seat of Sacramento County. It is located at the confluence of the Sacramento River and the American River in the northern portion of California's expansive Central Valley. With a population of 466,488 at the 2010 census,...

, followed by several more caravans which established the California Trail. Thousands of settlers and miners made the trip in the following decade after the discovery of gold. When Frémont's third expedition brought him to California in 1845, he joined the Bear Flag Revolt, and allied with other American forces, captured and controlled considerable California territory. In 1847, a counter-revolt by "rancheros" failed. At the same time that the Mexican War
Mexican–American War
The Mexican–American War, also known as the First American Intervention, the Mexican War, or the U.S.–Mexican War, was an armed conflict between the United States and Mexico from 1846 to 1848 in the wake of the 1845 U.S...

 was underway in the central Southwest, Mexico decided to formally cede California to the U.S. in the Treaty of Cahuenga
Treaty of Cahuenga
The Treaty of Cahuenga, also called the "Capitulation of Cahuenga," ended the fighting of the Mexican-American War in Alta California in 1847. It was not a formal treaty between nations but an informal agreement between rival military forces in which the Californios gave up fighting...

.

The Mexican War

A crisis with Mexico had been brewing from the time Texas won its independence in 1836. The annexation of Texas by the United States brought feelings on both sides to a boil. Additionally, the two nations disputed the border, the U.S. insisting on the Rio Grande
Rio Grande
The Rio Grande is a river that flows from southwestern Colorado in the United States to the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way it forms part of the Mexico – United States border. Its length varies as its course changes...

 and Mexico claiming the Nueces River, 150 miles (241.4 km) north. Also, an international commission decided that American settlers were owed damages in the millions of dollars for past wrongs by the Mexican government, which it refused to pay. President Polk attempted to use the debts as leverage in offering to buy the Mexican territories of New Mexico and California, while he made a show of force along the border area. Negotiations got nowhere, and as Polk prepared to ask Congress to declare war, the Mexican cavalry began an attack on American outposts. After the declaration of war, Whigs
Whig Party (United States)
The Whig Party was a political party of the United States during the era of Jacksonian democracy. Considered integral to the Second Party System and operating from the early 1830s to the mid-1850s, the party was formed in opposition to the policies of President Andrew Jackson and his Democratic...

 accused the President of imperialism and claimed that the administration had employed "an artful perversion of truth—a disingenuous statement of facts to make people believe a lie". Northerners also feared the extension of slavery into the new territories, though the linchpin of slavery—the plantation—seemed improbable in the dusty plains of Texas.
General (and later president) Zachary Taylor
Zachary Taylor
Zachary Taylor was the 12th President of the United States and an American military leader. Initially uninterested in politics, Taylor nonetheless ran as a Whig in the 1848 presidential election, defeating Lewis Cass...

 was ordered to the scene and his troops forced the Mexicans back to the Rio Grande. Then he advanced into Mexico where several battles ensued. Also General Winfield Scott
Winfield Scott
Winfield Scott was a United States Army general, and unsuccessful presidential candidate of the Whig Party in 1852....

 undertook a naval assault on Veracruz
Veracruz, Veracruz
Veracruz, officially known as Heroica Veracruz, is a major port city and municipality on the Gulf of Mexico in the Mexican state of Veracruz. The city is located in the central part of the state. It is located along Federal Highway 140 from the state capital Xalapa, and is the state's most...

, then marched his 12,000 man force west to Mexico City, winning the final battle at Chapultepec. Some advocated for the complete take over of Mexico by the U.S., but practical arguments as well as racism prevented the attempt. The "Cincinnati Herald" voiced the racist sentiment asking what would the U.S. do with millions of Mexicans "with their idol worship, heathen superstition, and degraded mongrel races?"

The surrender by Mexico took place on September 17, 1847. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo is the peace treaty, largely dictated by the United States to the interim government of a militarily occupied Mexico City, that ended the Mexican-American War on February 2, 1848...

, signed in 1848, ceded the territories of California and New Mexico (which included the states-to-be of Utah, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming) to the United States for $18.5 million (which included the assumption of claims against Mexico by settlers). The Gadsden Purchase
Gadsden Purchase
The Gadsden Purchase is a region of present-day southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico that was purchased by the United States in a treaty signed by James Gadsden, the American ambassador to Mexico at the time, on December 30, 1853. It was then ratified, with changes, by the U.S...

 in 1853, covering southern Arizona and New Mexico, pushed the border southward and acquired land for an anticipated railroad route, and had the unintended effect of heightening conflicts with southern Apaches now habitating U.S. territory. The Mexican War was the smallest but deadliest of American wars—one in six American soldiers died from bullets or disease—but the spoils of that war were substantial. The completed Mexican cession covered over half a million square miles and increased the size of the U.S. by nearly 20%. Managing the new territories and dealing with the slavery issue were challenges which lay ahead. The Compromise of 1850
Compromise of 1850
The Compromise of 1850 was a package of five bills, passed in September 1850, which defused a four-year confrontation between the slave states of the South and the free states of the North regarding the status of territories acquired during the Mexican-American War...

 kept California a free state and allowed Utah and New Mexico to make their own decisions regarding slavery. It also imposed some border adjustments.

Gold rushes and the mining industry

On January 24, 1848, James Marshall discovered gold in the tailrace of the mill he had built for John Sutter
John Sutter
Johann Augus Sutter was a Swiss pioneer of California known for his association with the California Gold Rush by the discovery of gold by James W. Marshall and the mill making team at Sutter's Mill, and for establishing Sutter's Fort in the area that would eventually become Sacramento, the...

. Sutter, a Swiss entrepreneur, had acquired a land grant for over 49000 acres (198.3 km²) near present day Sacramento
Sacramento
Sacramento is the capital of the state of California, in the United States of America.Sacramento may also refer to:- United States :*Sacramento County, California*Sacramento, Kentucky*Sacramento – San Joaquin River Delta...

 and built himself what was, in effect, an independent principality. According to Sutter's reminiscence, "Marshall pulled out of his trousers pocket a white cotton rag which contained something rolled up in it... Opening the cloth, he held it before me in his hand... 'I believe this is gold,' said Marshall, 'but the people at the mill laughed at me and called me crazy.' I carefully examined it and said to him: 'Well, it looks like gold. Let us test it.'" Prior to this discovery, gold mining in the United States had been limited to primitive mines in the Southeast, especially in Georgia. Word spread quickly across the United States, after Polk told Congress in December 1848, "The accounts of the abundance of gold in that territory are of such an extraordinary character as would scarcely command belief were they not corroborated by the authentic reports of officers in the public service."
The word also reached experienced miners in South America and Europe, who quickly headed to California. Thousands of "Forty-Niners" reached California, many along the California trail, boosting the population from about 14,000 in 1848 to over 200,000 in 1852. San Francisco was the main port of arrival, with Asians, South Americans, Australians, and Europeans making long ocean journeys, and the town grew from 800 to 20,000 people in eighteen months, with only a fractional number of women and children. Experienced foreign miners sometimes taught the willing American amateurs, but most newcomers arrived, grabbed some supplies, and headed willy-nilly to the gold camps without the slightest idea of what mining entailed.

As in many other boomtowns, rapid growth in San Francisco resulted in hastily erected housing, mob rule, vigilante justice, hyper-inflated prices, environmental degradation, and considerable squalor. Field conditions for miners were even worse. They lived in log cabins and tents, and worked in all kinds of weather, suffering disease without treatment. Supplies were expensive and food poor, subsisting mostly of pork, beans, and whiskey. These highly male, transient communities with no established institutions were prone to high levels of violence, drunkenness, profanity, and greed-driven behavior. A weekend's entertainment with a prostitute and plentiful drink could cost hundreds of dollars, not including gambling losses, wiping out a month or more of found gold.

Without courts or law officers in the mining communities to enforce claims and justice, miners developed their own ad hoc legal system, based on the "mining codes" used in other mining communities abroad. Each camp had its own rules and often handed out justice by popular vote, sometimes acting fairly and at times exercising vigilantism—with Indians, Mexicans, and Chinese generally receiving the harshest sentences. As miner John Cowden wrote, "Very few ever think of stealing in the country of plenty and those who do so are immediately strung up."

Prostitution
Prostitution in the United States
Prostitution in the United States is illegal except in some small rural communities in Nevada. In the United States, each state has the power to regulate prostitution in that state. Only in parts of Nevada is prostitution legal. In all other states prostitution is usually classified as a...

 grew rapidly in the Western boom towns, attracting many female workers from the East and Mid-West. In many towns, the ratio of "honest" women to men was 1 to 100, thereby encouraging the flesh trade. Until the 1890s, madams predominately ran the businesses, after which "pimps" took over, and the treatment of the women generally declined. The openness of bordellos in western towns depicted in films was somewhat realistic, though the true appearance of most prostitutes was far less attractive than those depicted by Hollywood starlets. Gambling and prostitution were central to life in these western towns, and only later―as the female population increased, reformers moved in, and other civilizing influences arrived―did prostitution become less blatant and less common.

The Gold Rush radically changed the California economy and brought in an array of professionals, including precious metal specialists, merchants, doctors, and attorneys, who supplemented the numerous miners, saloonkeepers, gamblers, and prostitutes. A San Francisco newspaper stated, "The whole country... resounds to the sordid cry of gold! Gold! Gold! while the field is left half planted, the house half built, and everything neglected but the manufacture of shovels and pick axes." Gold fever was a widespread affliction among all classes. Black Elk
Black Elk
Heȟáka Sápa was a famous Wičháša Wakȟáŋ of the Oglala Lakota . He was Heyoka and a second cousin of Crazy Horse.-Life:...

 recalled, gold was "the yellow metal that makes whites crazy." Later rushes, though notable, possessed less of the "lunacy" and urgency of the California strikes. The extraordinary size of early finds (including nuggets of over 20 lb (9.1 kg). each), the surprise of the finds, and the abundance of surface gold helps explain that irrational fervor. Most of the gold discoveries of the California Gold Rush were achieved through placer mining, the finding of nuggets and grains loosened from rock by nature through erosion and carried down streams from the Sierras. This was relatively easier and required less capital and expertise than vein mining, which required drilling down into rock and breaking gold and silver loose. Over 250,000 miners found a total of more than $200 million in gold in the five years of the California Gold Rush. As thousands arrived, however, fewer and fewer miners struck their fortune, and most ended exhausted and broke.

Camps spread out north and south of the American River
American River
The American River is a California watercourse noted as the site of Sutter's Mill, northwest of Placerville, California, where gold was found in 1848, leading to the California Gold Rush...

 and eastward into the Sierras. In a few years, nearly all of the independent miners were displaced as mines were purchased and run by mining companies, who then hired low-paid salaried miners. As gold became harder to find and more difficult to extract, individual prospectors gave way to paid work gangs, specialized skills, and mining machinery. Bigger mines, however, caused greater environmental damage. In the mountains, shaft mining predominated, producing large amounts of waste. Independent miners began to leave California in the 1850s as mines gave out, and moved on to new finds in Nevada
Nevada
Nevada is a state in the western, mountain west, and southwestern regions of the United States. With an area of and a population of about 2.7 million, it is the 7th-largest and 35th-most populous state. Over two-thirds of Nevada's people live in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, which contains its...

, Idaho
Idaho
Idaho is a state in the Rocky Mountain area of the United States. The state's largest city and capital is Boise. Residents are called "Idahoans". Idaho was admitted to the Union on July 3, 1890, as the 43rd state....

, Montana
Montana
Montana is a state in the Western United States. The western third of Montana contains numerous mountain ranges. Smaller, "island ranges" are found in the central third of the state, for a total of 77 named ranges of the Rocky Mountains. This geographical fact is reflected in the state's name,...

, Arizona
Arizona
Arizona ; is a state located in the southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the western United States and the mountain west. The capital and largest city is Phoenix...

, New Mexico
New Mexico
New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...

, and Colorado
Colorado
Colorado is a U.S. state that encompasses much of the Rocky Mountains as well as the northeastern portion of the Colorado Plateau and the western edge of the Great Plains...

. An exception were the Chinese
Chinese American
Chinese Americans represent Americans of Chinese descent. Chinese Americans constitute one group of overseas Chinese and also a subgroup of East Asian Americans, which is further a subgroup of Asian Americans...

. After white prospectors left the placer mining areas, many Chinese miners, previously excluded by racism, found the freedom to buy up the old claims and re-work them.

The discovery of the Comstock Lode
Comstock Lode
The Comstock Lode was the first major U.S. discovery of silver ore, located under what is now Virginia City, Nevada, on the eastern slope of Mount Davidson, a peak in the Virginia Range. After the discovery was made public in 1859, prospectors rushed to the area and scrambled to stake their claims...

, containing vast amounts of silver, resulted in the Nevada boomtown
Boomtown
A boomtown is a community that experiences sudden and rapid population and economic growth. The growth is normally attributed to the nearby discovery of a precious resource such as gold, silver, or oil, although the term can also be applied to communities growing very rapidly for different reasons,...

s of Virginia City
Virginia City
Virginia City is a city located in Storey County, Nevada.Virginia City may also refer to:* Virginia City, Montana* Virginia City, Nevada* Virginia City, Virginia* Virginia City , a 1940 film starring Errol Flynn...

, Carson City, and Silver City
Silver City, Nevada
Silver City is a town in Lyon County, Nevada, USA, near the Lyon/Carson border. The population as of the 2000 census was 170....

. The wealth from silver, more than from gold, fueled the maturation of San Francisco in the 1860s and helped the rise of some of its wealthiest families.

Following the California and Nevada discoveries, miners left those areas and hunted for gold along the Rockies and in the southwest. Soon gold was discovered in Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Idaho, Montana, and South Dakota (by 1864). Deadwood, South Dakota
Deadwood, South Dakota
Deadwood is a city in South Dakota, United States, and the county seat of Lawrence County. It is named for the dead trees found in its gulch. The population was 1,270 according to a 2010 census...

, in the Black Hills, was an archetypical late gold town, founded in 1875. In 1876, Wild Bill Hickok
Wild Bill Hickok
James Butler Hickok , better known as Wild Bill Hickok, was a folk hero of the American Old West. His skills as a gunfighter and scout, along with his reputation as a lawman, provided the basis for his fame, although some of his exploits are fictionalized.Hickok came to the West as a stagecoach...

, accompanied by Calamity Jane
Calamity Jane
Martha Jane Cannary Burke , better known as Calamity Jane, was an American frontierswoman, and professional scout best known for her claim of being an acquaintance of Wild Bill Hickok, but also for having gained fame fighting Native Americans...

, came to town and cemented Deadwood's fame when he was murdered there ten days later.

Tombstone, Arizona
Tombstone, Arizona
Tombstone is a city in Cochise County, Arizona, United States, founded in 1879 by Ed Schieffelin in what was then Pima County, Arizona Territory. It was one of the last wide-open frontier boomtowns in the American Old West. From about 1877 to 1890, the town's mines produced USD $40 to $85 million...

 was another notorious mining town. Silver was discovered there in 1877, and by 1881 the town had a population of over 10,000. Wyatt Earp
Wyatt Earp
Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp was an American gambler, investor, and law enforcement officer who served in several Western frontier towns. He was also at different times a farmer, teamster, bouncer, saloon-keeper, miner and boxing referee. However, he was never a drover or cowboy. He is most well known...

 and his brothers arrived in 1879. They bought interests in the Vizina mine, water rights, and gambling concessions, but Virgil, Morgan and Wyatt were soon appointed as federal and local marshals. They killed three outlaw Cowboys
The Cowboys (Cochise County)
The Cowboys were a loosely associated group of outlaw cowboys in Pima and Cochise County, Arizona Territory in the late 19th century. They were cattle rustlers and robbers who rode across the border into Mexico and rounded up cattle that they then sold in the United States...

 in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral was a roughly 30-second gunfight that took place at about 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 26, 1881, in Tombstone, Cochise County, Arizona Territory, of the United States. Outlaw Cowboys Ike Clanton and Billy Claiborne ran from the fight, unharmed, but Ike's brother...

, the most famous gunfight of the Old West. In the aftermath, Virgil Earp
Virgil Earp
Virgil Walter Earp fought in the Civil War. He was U.S. Deputy Marshal for south-eastern Arizona and Tombstone City Marshal at the time of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in the Arizona Territory. Two months after the shootout in Tombstone, outlaw Cowboys ambushed Virgil on the streets of...

 was maimed in an ambush and Morgan Earp
Morgan Earp
Morgan Seth Earp was the younger brother of Deputy U.S. Marshals Virgil and Wyatt Earp. Morgan was a deputy of Virgil's and all three men were the target of repeated death threats made by outlaw Cowboys who were upset by the Earps' interference in their illegal activities. This conflict eventually...

 was assassinated while playing billiards
Billiards
Cue sports , also known as billiard sports, are a wide variety of games of skill generally played with a cue stick which is used to strike billiard balls, moving them around a cloth-covered billiards table bounded by rubber .Historically, the umbrella term was billiards...

. Wyatt and others, including his brother Warren Earp
Warren Earp
Baxter Warren Earp was the youngest brother of Wyatt, Morgan, Virgil, James, and Newton Earp. He was not present during the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. After Virgil was maimed in an ambush, he joined Wyatt and was in town when Morgan was assassinated. He helped Wyatt in the hunt for the outlaw...

, pursued those they believed responsible in a vendetta
Earp vendetta ride
The Earp Vendetta Ride, lasting from March 20 to April 15, 1882, was a manhunt for outlaw Cowboys led by newly appointed Deputy U.S. Marshal Wyatt Earp. He was searching for men he held responsible for maiming his brother Virgil, the Tombstone Marshal and Deputy U.S. Marshal, and assassinating his...

 and warrants were issued for their arrest in the murder of Frank Stilwell
Frank Stilwell
Frank C. Stilwell was an outlaw Cowboy who murdered at least two men in Cochise County during 1877-1882. For four months he was a deputy sheriff in Tombstone, Arizona Territory for Cochise County Sheriff Johnny Behan...

. Wyatt later pursued various business interests in Colorado, Idaho, California, Arizona, and Alaska. In his later years, a fictionalized biography written by Stuart Lake
Stuart Lake
Stuart Lake, or Nak'albun in the Carrier language is a lake situated in the Northern Interior of British Columbia, Canada. The town of Fort St. James is situated by the lake near the outlet...

 made him famous, while the 1957 film Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957 film)
The film was based on a real event which took place on October 26, 1881. It was directed by John Sturges and featuring a screenplay written by novelist Leon Uris, and the movie's supporting cast included Rhonda Fleming, John Ireland, Jo Van Fleet, Martin Milner, Dennis Hopper, Jack Elam, Lee Van...

cemented his modern-day reputation as that of Old West's "toughest and deadliest gunmen of his day.".

As gold and silver played out, the large work force of experienced miners gradually found work as industrial miners—working copper, iron, coal, and rare earth deposits which fueled a rapidly expanding national economy. Working the deeper mines was extremely hazardous. Temperatures could exceed 150 °F (65.6 °C) below 2000 feet (609.6 m) and many died from heat stroke. Poor ventilation concentrated a toxic brew of carbon dioxide, dust, and other compounds and caused frequent headaches and dizziness. Accidents, premature explosions, and cave-ins were common and deadly. About half the miners had lung disorders, shortening their lives to an average of 43 years. In the hard rock mines, accidents annually disabled 1 of every 30 miners and killed 1 out of 80, the highest rates of any U.S. industry.

The Great Reconnaissance

The end of the Mexican War and the first migrations to California and Oregon prompted the federal government to undertake an additional series of surveys to chart the remaining unexplored regions of the West, to establish boundaries, and to plan possible routes for a transcontinental railroad. Much of this work was undertaking by the U.S. Army's
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 Corps of Engineers
United States Army Corps of Engineers
The United States Army Corps of Engineers is a federal agency and a major Army command made up of some 38,000 civilian and military personnel, making it the world's largest public engineering, design and construction management agency...

, Corps of Topographical Engineers
Corps of Topographical Engineers
The U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers, was separately authorized on 4 July 1838, consisted only of officers, and was used for mapping and the design and construction of federal civil works such as lighthouses and other coastal fortifications and navigational routes. It included such...

, and Bureau of Explorations and Surveys, and became known as "The Great Reconnaissance." Debates ensued among advocates of the "northern route", "central route", and "southern route" for the railroad. Speculators were quick to follow the most activities of the surveyors and this prompted further migration and business development.

Major requirements for the rail route were an adequate supply of water and wood, surmountable geography, and a politically and economically acceptable solution. The survey parties also had civilian scientists who collected specimens of flora and fauna along the way, for study by institutions like the Smithsonian. In some instances, as in the Whipple Expedition, Indians provided assistance, but at other times, such as with the Gunnison Party, Indians harassed and killed surveyors. By 1855, a twelve volume report was issued but without any recommendation for a preferred route. The survey did offer many more alternatives than expected as well as providing a wealth of scientific knowledge which heightened public awareness of the West. It also spurred further settlement which ultimately increased conflict with the tribes of the Great Plains.

Pony Express and telegraph

The Gold Rush
Gold rush
A gold rush is a period of feverish migration of workers to an area that has had a dramatic discovery of gold. Major gold rushes took place in the 19th century in Australia, Brazil, Canada, South Africa, and the United States, while smaller gold rushes took place elsewhere.In the 19th and early...

 and the subsequent spurt of migration to California hastened the need for better communications across the continent. Mail was being transported to San Francisco by ship from New York, with a land crossing across the Isthmus of Panama, normally a month's trip. Then the federal government provided subsidies for the development of mail and freight delivery, and by 1856, Congress authorized road improvements and an overland mail service to California. There was even an experiment to use camels for transportation. Commercial wagon trains began to haul freight out west. For mail, the Overland Mail Company
Butterfield Overland Mail
The Butterfield Overland Mail Trail was a stagecoach route in the United States, operating from 1857 to 1861. It was a conduit for the U.S. mail from two eastern termini, Memphis, Tennessee and St. Louis, Missouri, meeting Fort Smith, Arkansas, and continuing through Indian Territory, New Mexico,...

 was formed, using what was called the "Butterfield route", through Texas, then New Mexico and into Arizona, over the dangerous Apache Pass protected by Fort Bowie
Fort Bowie
Fort Bowie was a 19th century outpost of the United States Army located in southeastern Arizona near the present day town of Willcox, Arizona.Fort Bowie was established in 1862 after a series of engagements between the U.S. Military and the Chiricahua Apaches. The most violent of which was the...

. This route was abandoned by 1862, after Texas joined the confederacy, in favor of stagecoach services established via Fort Laramie and Salt Lake City, a 24 day journey, with Wells Fargo & Co. as the foremost provider (initially keeping the "Butterfield" name).

William Russell, hoping to get a government contract for more rapid mail delivery service, started the Pony Express
Pony Express
The Pony Express was a fast mail service crossing the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains, and the High Sierra from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California, from April 3, 1860 to October 1861...

 in 1860, cutting delivery time to ten days. He set up over 150 stations about 15 miles (24.1 km) apart. Riders were required to be expert and weigh less than 125 lb (56.7 kg)., with an advertisement of the time asking for, "young skinny wiry fellows, not over eighteen... willing to risk death daily... Orphans preferred... Wages: $25 per week." If a relief rider was not available at the next station, the rider was required to change horses and keep going.

The service was short-lived, however, as the continental telegraph was completed on October 24, 1861, just eighteen months later. Samuel F. B. Morse
Samuel F. B. Morse
Samuel Finley Breese Morse was an American contributor to the invention of a single-wire telegraph system based on European telegraphs, co-inventor of the Morse code, and an accomplished painter.-Birth and education:...

 developed his telegraph system in the 1830s. It found acceptance by the mid 1840s, and over 50000 miles (80,467 km) of wire were laid out to form a single national network. The telegraph and the Morse Code
Morse code
Morse code is a method of transmitting textual information as a series of on-off tones, lights, or clicks that can be directly understood by a skilled listener or observer without special equipment...

 made possible the instantaneous transmission of information and the beginning of the tele-communications industry. The new national communication system soon proved a boon to newspapers, to freight hauling, to weather reporting, to law enforcement, and to the railroads.

Though Russell did get a government contract, his business had considerable losses anyway and failed. After the Pony Express service folded, mail continued by overland coach and by sea. However, Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo & Company is an American multinational diversified financial services company with operations around the world. Wells Fargo is the fourth largest bank in the U.S. by assets and the largest bank by market capitalization. Wells Fargo is the second largest bank in deposits, home...

 (established in 1852) maintained special courier services across the Sierras for carrying gold and mail through the 1860s, and its banking, freighting, and business services flourished in California. It grew through the consolidation of other overland mail companies until the opening of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 caused Wells Fargo to realign its services and delivery routes.

Bleeding Kansas

By the mid-1850s, the Kansas territory had a population of only a few hundred settlers but it became the focus of the slavery question. Of its neighboring states, Missouri was a slave state and Iowa was not. With the Kansas-Nebraska Act
Kansas-Nebraska Act
The Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854 created the territories of Kansas and Nebraska, opening new lands for settlement, and had the effect of repealing the Missouri Compromise of 1820 by allowing settlers in those territories to determine through Popular Sovereignty if they would allow slavery within...

 of 1854, Congress repealed the Missouri Compromise
Missouri Compromise
The Missouri Compromise was an agreement passed in 1820 between the pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions in the United States Congress, involving primarily the regulation of slavery in the western territories. It prohibited slavery in the former Louisiana Territory north of the parallel 36°30'...

 which blocked slavery in Kansas, therefore leaving the decision up to Kansas. The stakes were high. Adoption of slavery in Kansas would have given the slave states a two-vote majority in the Senate and abolitionists were intent on blocking that. To influence the territorial decision, abolitionists (also called "Jayhawkers" or "Free-soilers") financed the migration of anti-slavery settlers. But pro-slavery advocates secured the outcome of the territorial vote by bringing in "Border Ruffians", rowdies from Missouri who stuffed ballot boxes and intimidated voters. The anti-slavers then sent Sharps rifle
Sharps Rifle
Sharps rifles were those of a series begun with a design by Christian Sharps. Sharps rifles were renowned for long range and high accuracy in their day.-History:Sharps's initial rifle was patented September 17, 1848 and manufactured by A. S...

s ("Beecher's Bibles
Beecher's Bibles
"Beecher's Bibles" was the name given to the breech loading Sharps rifles that were supplied to the anti-slavery immigrants in Kansas.The name came from the eminent New England minister Henry Ward Beecher, of the New England Emigrant Aid Society, of whom it was written in a February 8, 1856,...

") and ammunition to supporters in Kansas, leading to widespread violence and destruction which prompted the New York Tribune
New York Tribune
The New York Tribune was an American newspaper, first established by Horace Greeley in 1841, which was long considered one of the leading newspapers in the United States...

to call the territory "Bleeding Kansas."

Dred Scott

The Dred Scott decision by the Supreme Court of the United States
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

 in 1857 declared the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional and that Congress had no authority to exclude slavery
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

 from the territories, thus opening these areas to slavery again depending on the local vote. Despite the efforts by presidents Franklin Pierce
Franklin Pierce
Franklin Pierce was the 14th President of the United States and is the only President from New Hampshire. Pierce was a Democrat and a "doughface" who served in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. Pierce took part in the Mexican-American War and became a brigadier general in the Army...

 and James Buchanan
James Buchanan
James Buchanan, Jr. was the 15th President of the United States . He is the only president from Pennsylvania, the only president who remained a lifelong bachelor and the last to be born in the 18th century....

 to influence Kansas territorial governors to vote pro-slavery, Kansas voted to become a free state and the thirty-fourth state of the Union in 1861. The conflict also helped to foster the organization and development of the Republican Party
Republican Party (United States)
The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP . The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S...

 in 1856, a mixture of free-soilers, expansionists, and federalists who opposed the extension of slavery into the Western territories. Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

, an early Republican, made clear his position on slavery in the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates which helped propel him to the presidency in 1860, "Never forget that we have before us this whole matter of the right or wrong of slavery in this Union, though the immediate question is as to its spreading out into new Territories and States". Lincoln branded slavery as a "monstrous injustice" and a "moral, social, and political evil". In 1862, Lincoln signed a law prohibiting the spread of slavery into all the remaining territorial possessions. During Lincoln's administration, two other important acts were passed which impacted the West—the Homestead Act
Homestead Act
A homestead act is one of three United States federal laws that gave an applicant freehold title to an area called a "homestead" – typically 160 acres of undeveloped federal land west of the Mississippi River....

 and the Pacific Railroad Act.

Civil War in the West

At the outset of the American Civil War, Westerners looked to the Civil War to settle the question of slavery in their territories. But they also feared that the federal government would be too preoccupied with the war to worry about the stability of the territorial governments and that lawlessness might spread. The Dred Scott Decision had made the choice of making slavery legal in all of the land west of the Mississippi River, except for Kansas, Oregon, and California.

Although most of the battles of the Civil War took place east of the Mississippi River, a few important campaigns occurred in the West. However, Kansas, a major area of conflict building up to the war, was the scene of only one battle, at Mine Creek
Battle of Mine Creek
The Battle of Mine Creek, also known as the Battle of the Osage, was a battle that occurred on October 25, 1864 in Kansas as part of Price's Raid during the American Civil War...

. But its proximity to Confederate states enabled guerillas, such as Quantrill's Raiders
Quantrill's Raiders
Quantrill's Raiders were a loosely organized force of pro-Confederate Partisan rangers, "bushwhackers", who fought in the American Civil War under the leadership of William Clarke Quantrill...

, to attack Union strongholds, causing considerable damage. Both sides attacked civilians, murdering and plundering with little discrimination, creating an atmosphere of terror.

In Texas, citizens voted to join the confederacy. Local troops took over the federal arsenal in San Antonio, with plans to grab the territories of northern New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado, and possibly California. Confederate Arizona was created by Arizona citizens who wanted protection against the Apache
Apache
Apache is the collective term for several culturally related groups of Native Americans in the United States originally from the Southwest United States. These indigenous peoples of North America speak a Southern Athabaskan language, which is related linguistically to the languages of Athabaskan...

 after the United States Army abandoned them to go fight in the South. At the Battle of Glorieta Pass
Battle of Glorieta Pass
The Battle of Glorieta Pass, fought from March 26 to 28, 1862 in northern New Mexico Territory, was the decisive battle of the New Mexico Campaign during the American Civil War. Dubbed the "Gettysburg of the West" by some historians, it was intended as the killer blow by Confederate forces to break...

, the Confederate campaign was defeated strategically by Union troops from Colorado and from Fort Union. Missouri, a Union state where slavery was legal, became a battleground when the pro-secession governor, against the vote of the legislature, led troops to the federal arsenal at St. Louis
St. Louis Arsenal
The St. Louis Arsenal is a large complex of military weapons and ammunition storage buildings owned by the United States Army in St. Louis, Missouri. During the American Civil War, the St...

. When Confederate forces from Arkansas and Louisiana joined him, Union General Samuel Curtis
Samuel Curtis
Samuel Ryan Curtis was an American military officer, and one of the first Republicans elected to Congress. He was most famous for his role as a Union Army general the Trans-Mississippi Theater of the American Civil War.-Biography:Born near Champlain, New York, Curtis graduated from the United...

 was dispatched to the area and regained Missouri for the Union for the duration of the war.

The decreased presence of Union troops in the West left behind untrained militias which encouraged native uprisings and skirmishes with settlers. President Lincoln appears to have had little time to formulate new Indian policy. Some tribes took sides in the war, even forming regiments that joined the Union or the rebel cause, while others took the opportunity to avenge past wrongs by the federal government. Engagements were fought against natives in Utah
Utah
Utah is a state in the Western United States. It was the 45th state to join the Union, on January 4, 1896. Approximately 80% of Utah's 2,763,885 people live along the Wasatch Front, centering on Salt Lake City. This leaves vast expanses of the state nearly uninhabited, making the population the...

 against the Shoshone
Shoshone
The Shoshone or Shoshoni are a Native American tribe in the United States with three large divisions: the Northern, the Western and the Eastern....

, all across New Mexico Territory against Apaches and the Navajo
Navajo people
The Navajo of the Southwestern United States are the largest single federally recognized tribe of the United States of America. The Navajo Nation has 300,048 enrolled tribal members. The Navajo Nation constitutes an independent governmental body which manages the Navajo Indian reservation in the...

, conflict also occurred in Oregon
Oregon
Oregon is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It is located on the Pacific coast, with Washington to the north, California to the south, Nevada on the southeast and Idaho to the east. The Columbia and Snake rivers delineate much of Oregon's northern and eastern...

. Within the Indian Territory
Indian Territory
The Indian Territory, also known as the Indian Territories and the Indian Country, was land set aside within the United States for the settlement of American Indians...

, now Oklahoma
Oklahoma
Oklahoma is a state located in the South Central region of the United States of America. With an estimated 3,751,351 residents as of the 2010 census and a land area of 68,667 square miles , Oklahoma is the 28th most populous and 20th-largest state...

, conflicts arose among the Five Civilized Tribes
Five Civilized Tribes
The Five Civilized Tribes were the five Native American nations—the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole—that were considered civilized by Anglo-European settlers during the colonial and early federal period because they adopted many of the colonists' customs and had generally good...

, some of whom sided with the South being slaveholders themselves.

While the question of whether western territories would be free or slave-owning had preoccupied antebellum political debate, in 1862, Congress enacted two major laws to facilitate settlement of the West: the Homestead Act
Homestead Act
A homestead act is one of three United States federal laws that gave an applicant freehold title to an area called a "homestead" – typically 160 acres of undeveloped federal land west of the Mississippi River....

 and the Pacific Railroad Act.

Territorial governance after the Civil War

With the war over, the federal government focused on improving the governance of the territories. It subdivided several territories, preparing them for statehood, following the precedents set by the Northwest Ordinance
Northwest Ordinance
The Northwest Ordinance was an act of the Congress of the Confederation of the United States, passed July 13, 1787...

 of 1787. It also standardized procedures and the supervision of territorial governments, taking away some local powers, and imposing much "red tape", growing the federal bureaucracy significantly.

Federal involvement in the territories was considerable. In addition to direct subsidies, the federal government maintained military posts, provided safety from Indian attacks, bankrolled treaty obligations, conducted surveys and land sales, built roads, staffed land offices, made harbour improvements, and subsidized overland mail delivery. Territorial citizens came to both decry federal power and local corruption, and at the same time, lament that more federal dollars were not sent their way.

Territorial governors were political appointees and beholden to Washington so they usually governed with a light hand, allowing the legislatures to deal with the local issues. In addition to his role as civil governor, a territorial governor was also a militia commander, a local superintendent of Indian affairs, and the state liaison with federal agencies. State legislators, on the other hand, spoke for the local citizens and they were given considerable leeway by the federal government to make local law, except in extreme cases, as when the Federal government suppressed polygamy
Polygamy
Polygamy is a marriage which includes more than two partners...

 by the Mormons in Utah.

These improvements to governance still left plenty of room for profiteering. As Mark Twain
Mark Twain
Samuel Langhorne Clemens , better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist...

 wrote while working for his brother, the secretary of Nevada, "The government of my country snubs honest simplicity, but fondles artistic villainy, and I think I might have developed into a very capable pickpocket if I had remained in the public service a year or two." "Territorial rings", corrupt associations of local politicians and business owners buttressed with federal patronage, embezzled from Indian tribes and local citizens, especially in the Dakota and New Mexico territories.

Federal land system

In acquiring, preparing, and distributing public land to private ownership, the federal government generally followed the system set forth by the Land Ordinance
Land Ordinance
In U.S. land history, there are at least three land ordinances of note:* Land Ordinance of 1784* Land Ordinance of 1785* Land Ordinance of 1796...

 of 1785. Federal exploration and scientific teams would undertake reconnaissance of the land and determine Native American habitation. Through treaty, land title would be ceded by the resident tribes. Then surveyors would create detailed maps marking the land into squares of six miles (10 km) on each side, subdivided first into one square mile blocks, then into 160 acre (0.6474976 km²) lots. Townships would be formed from the lots and sold at public auction
Public auction
A public auction is an auction held on behalf of a government in which the property to be auctioned is either property owned by the government, or property which is sold under the authority of a court of law or a government agency with similar authority....

. Unsold land could be purchased from the land office at a minimum price of $1.25 per acre.

In theory, the system would provide a fair distribution of land and reduce large accumulations of land by private owners. In reality, speculators could exploit loopholes and acquire large tracts of land. There was no limit to purchases of the unsold land by speculators. Furthermore, settlers often got to the land ahead of the surveyors and became squatters, living on land they held no title to.

As part of public policy, the government would award public land to certain groups such as veterans, through the use of "land script". The script traded in a financial market, often at below the $1.25 per acre minimum price set by law, which gave speculators, investors, and developers another way to acquired large tracts of land cheaply. Land policy became politicized by competing factions and interests, and the question of slavery on new lands was contentious. As a counter to land speculators, farmers formed "claims clubs" to enable them to buy larger tracts than the 160 acre (0.6474976 km²) allotments by trading among themselves at controlled prices.

The federal government also began to give away land for agricultural colleges, Indian reservations, public institutions, and the construction of railroads. It also gave away land when a territory became a state, and it gave each state 30000 acres (121.4 km²) for each senator and representative.

In 1862, Congress passed three important bills that impacted the land system. The Homestead Act
Homestead Act
A homestead act is one of three United States federal laws that gave an applicant freehold title to an area called a "homestead" – typically 160 acres of undeveloped federal land west of the Mississippi River....

 granted 160 acre (0.6474976 km²) to each settler who improved the land for five years, to citizens and non-citizens including squatters, for no more than modest filing fees. If a six months residency was complied with, the settler then had the option to buy the parcel at $1.25 per acre. The property could then be sold or mortgaged and neighboring land acquired if expansion was desired. Though the act was on the whole successful, the 160 acre (0.6474976 km²) size of parcels was not large enough for the needs of Western farmers and ranchers, and it failed to address the needs of the mining and timber operations as well.

Early on after the California Gold Rush
California Gold Rush
The California Gold Rush began on January 24, 1848, when gold was found by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California. The first to hear confirmed information of the gold rush were the people in Oregon, the Sandwich Islands , and Latin America, who were the first to start flocking to...

, the federal government decided to leave the regulation of mining claims to local governments. This was reversed by later acts, which helped legitimate land acquisition for all purposes but which also made it easier for speculators and swindlers, especially in the timber and ranching industries. Given the necessity of water for ranching, squabbles over water rights ensued and complicated the situation. The railroads got much of the best land, and the land available to homesteaders was not always arable or commercially useful. On the whole, only about one-third of all Homestead Act claimants actually completed the process of obtaining title to their land.

The Pacific Railway Acts
Pacific Railway Acts
The Pacific Railroad Acts were a series of acts of Congress that promoted the construction of the transcontinental railroad in the United States through authorizing the issuance of government bonds and the grants of land to railroad companies. The Pacific Railroad Act of 1862 was the original act...

 provided for the land needed to build the transcontinental railroad. Since several routes were under consideration, the amount of land so provided was huge, over 174000000 acres (704,153.6 km²). The land given the railroads alternated with government-owned tracts saved for distribution to homesteaders. In an effort to be equitable, the federal government reduced each tract to 80 acres (323,748.8 m²) because of its perceived higher value given its proximity to the rail line. Railroads had up to five years to sell or mortgage their land, after tracks were laid, after which unsold land could be purchased by anyone. Often railroads sold some of their government acquired land to homesteaders immediately to encourage settlement and the growth of markets the railroads would then be able to serve. However, the railroads were slow to build in some areas, waiting for the population to grow adequately on its own, before selecting final routes. This caused a "chicken-and-egg" situation which, in some cases, impeded rather than hastened settlement. Congress also made loans to the railroads based on the mileage of rail.

The Morrill Act provided land grants to states to build institutions of higher education for agricultural purposes, in an effort to stimulate rural economic growth and the education programs to support it. The states would sell the bulk of the land to raise funds to build the institutions.

The federal government even attempted to forest the prairies to make better use of undesirable land. Relying on the theory that planting trees would alter the climate enough to produce the rainfall need to sustain the forests long term, the government encouraged homesteaders to plant trees. When the "rain-follows-the-plow program" failed due to drought and pests, the federal government turned instead to more practical programs to develop irrigation, though large-scale irrigation projects came decades later. But by the 1870s, the large land giveaways raised concerns about the management of remaining public lands, particularly those of unique value such as the Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is a steep-sided canyon carved by the Colorado River in the United States in the state of Arizona. It is largely contained within the Grand Canyon National Park, the 15th national park in the United States...

 and Yellowstone, and the conservation movement was born. In 1872, Yellowstone became the first national park
National park
A national park is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or owns. Although individual nations designate their own national parks differently A national park is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or...

 in the United States (and in the world).

Transcontinental railroad

The Pacific Railroad Act of 1862 finally hastened the transition of the transcontinental railroad from dream to reality. Existing rail lines, particularly belonging to the Union Pacific, had already reached westward to Omaha, Nebraska
Omaha, Nebraska
Omaha is the largest city in the state of Nebraska, United States, and is the county seat of Douglas County. It is located in the Midwestern United States on the Missouri River, about 20 miles north of the mouth of the Platte River...

, about half way across the continent. The Central Pacific, starting in Sacramento, California
Sacramento, California
Sacramento is the capital city of the U.S. state of California and the county seat of Sacramento County. It is located at the confluence of the Sacramento River and the American River in the northern portion of California's expansive Central Valley. With a population of 466,488 at the 2010 census,...

, was extended eastward across the Sierras to link with the Union Pacific heading west. The two finally met at Promontory Summit, Utah on May 10, 1869. Leland Stanford
Leland Stanford
Amasa Leland Stanford was an American tycoon, industrialist, robber baron, politician and founder of Stanford University.-Early years:...

, one of the prime backers of the Central Pacific, hammered the golden spike
Golden spike
The "Golden Spike" is the ceremonial final spike driven by Leland Stanford to join the rails of the First Transcontinental Railroad across the United States connecting the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads on May 10, 1869, at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory...

 in triumph, linking the two lines. A cross-country trip was reduced from about four months to one week by the completion of the railroad.

Building the railroad required six main activities: surveying the route, blasting a right of way, building tunnels and bridges, clearing and laying the roadbed, laying the ties and rails, and maintaining and supplying the crews with food and tools. The work was highly labor intensive, using mostly plows, scrapers, picks, axes, chisels, sledgehammers, and handcarts. A few steam-driven machines, such as shovels, were employed as well. Each iron rail weighed 700 lb (317.5 kg). and required five men to lift. For blasting, they used gunpowder, nitroglycerine, and limited amounts of dynamite. The Central Pacific employed over 12,000 Chinese workers, 90 percent of the work force. The Union Pacific employed mostly Irishmen. The crews averaged about two miles (3 km) of new track per day but they were driven to do more. Each man lifted a few tons a day of weight. In the haste to complete the project, engineering errors caused collapsing roadbeds and badly graded curves. Substandard rails and ties were also serious problems. The defects became even more apparent with freight runs, causing many accidents, and the line eventually required millions of dollars to repair and replace bad track.

With grants and loans, the federal government stimulated the land and capital acquisition needed for the project. Leland Stanford
Leland Stanford
Amasa Leland Stanford was an American tycoon, industrialist, robber baron, politician and founder of Stanford University.-Early years:...

, former governor and part of a group of businessmen known as the "Big Four", sold stock and bonds in the enterprise to finance construction, with the help of Wall Street money men like Jay Gould
Jay Gould
Jason "Jay" Gould was a leading American railroad developer and speculator. He has long been vilified as an archetypal robber baron, whose successes made him the ninth richest American in history. Condé Nast Portfolio ranked Gould as the 8th worst American CEO of all time...

 who connected with investors in the United States and Europe. The enterprise was considered risky, given the high construction costs, and the bonds need to yield high interest (similar to today's "junk bonds") to be attractive to investors. The huge dollars involved in the project and the participation of so many groups out to profit resulted in substantial corruption and influence peddling. The owners of both construction companies, using mostly "other people's money", insured their own profits with shady dealing and with slush funds used to bribe government officials.

The worst corruption revolved around George Francis Train
George Francis Train
George Francis Train was an entrepreneurial businessman who organized the clipper ship line that sailed around Cape Horn to San Francisco; he organized the Union Pacific Railroad and the Credit Mobilier in the United States, and a horse tramway company in England while there during the American...

's Crédit Mobilier
Crédit Mobilier
Crédit Mobilier was a French banking company, and one of the most important financial institutions of the world during the 19th century. It had a major role in the financing of numerous railroads and other infrastructure projects in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East by mobilizing the savings...

, the construction company for the Union Pacific, which, according to author Richard White, drew in "dozens of congressmen, a secretary of the treasury, two vice-presidents, a leading presidential contender, and an eventual president. It caused a scandal
Crédit Mobilier of America scandal
The Crédit Mobilier scandal of 1872 involved the Union Pacific Railroad and the Crédit Mobilier of America construction company in the building of the First Transcontinental Railroad. The distribution of Crédit Mobilier shares of stock by Congressman Oakes Ames along with cash bribes to...

 that remained an issue in four presidential elections". Train's other enterprises, including the Credit Foncier of America
Credit Foncier of America
Credit Foncier of America was a late 19th century financing and real estate company in Omaha, Nebraska. The company existed primarily to promote the townsites along the Union Pacific railroad, and was incorporated by a special act of the Nebraska Legislature in 1866...

, Train Town
Train Town
Train Town, today called the Credit Foncier Addition, was a suburb of Omaha, Nebraska owned by noted eccentric Union Pacific promoter George Francis Train's company called Credit Foncier. The area was 20 blocks by 20 blocks, which was approximately the size of Omaha at the time...

 and Omaha's Cozzens Hotel, succeeded, further burnishing Train's image. While the Central Pacific-Union Pacific railroad succeeded, other transcontinental projects failed to reach the Pacific coast until many years later. The most notorious was the Northern Pacific project which failed to sell its bonds, resulting in the collapse of the Jay Cooke & Company
Jay Cooke & Company
Jay Cooke & Company was a U.S. bank from 1861 to 1873. It was the first brokerage house to use telegraph messages to confirm with clients the purchase and sale of securities. Headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, it had branches in New York City and Washington, DC...

 investment house and helping to trigger the financial Panic of 1873
Panic of 1873
The Panic of 1873 triggered a severe international economic depression in both Europe and the United States that lasted until 1879, and even longer in some countries. The depression was known as the Great Depression until the 1930s, but is now known as the Long Depression...

. The most profitable of the transcontinental lines was the Great Northern railroad which ran along the northern tier of the United States, providing freight service to the Northwest. The cost of moving freight on the Great Northern was 2.88 cents per ton early on, falling to less than 0.80 cents by 1907.

Despite the engineering problems and political scandals, the transcontinental railroad was a big success in helping to open up the West. In the first year, 150,000 passengers made the trip for "pleasure, health, or business" and enjoyed the "luxurious cars and eating houses" as advertised by the Union Pacific. Settlers were encouraged with promotions to come West on scouting trips to buy land near the line and to use the rails for freight needs. The railroads had "Immigration Bureaus" which advertised the "promised land" abroad. Railroad "Land Departments" sold land on easy terms. The Great Plains
Great Plains
The Great Plains are a broad expanse of flat land, much of it covered in prairie, steppe and grassland, which lies west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains in the United States and Canada. This area covers parts of the U.S...

, a harder "sell" than California or Oregon, was promoted as "prairie which is ready for the plow" and "a flowery meadow" only requiring "diligent labor and economy to ensure an early reward."

The transcontinental railroad spurred the development of trunk and feeder lines and the rapid growth of Omaha
Railroads in Omaha
Railroads in Omaha, Nebraska have been integral to the growth and development of the city, the state of Nebraska, the Western United States and the entire United States...

 specifically, creating a rail network extending from the city that eventually reached over most of the West. The railroads made possible the transformation of the United States from an agrarian society to a modern industrial nation. Not only did they bring eastern products west and agricultural products east, but they also helped the establishment of western branches of eastern companies. Mail order businesses grew rapidly, bringing city products to rural families, sometimes dominating local companies and forcing them out of business. The building and the operation of railroads, which required vast amounts of coal and lumber, spurred the timber and mining industries. Most industries benefited from the lower costs of transportation and the expanding markets made possible by the railroads. Railroads also had a profound social effect. Rail travel brought immigrant families to the West as women were less intimidated by the rail journey west than by wagon. The greater numbers of women and children migrating west helped stabilize and tame some of the wild frontier towns, as these settlers organized and demanded schools, law enforcement, churches, and other institutions supportive of family life.

Migration after the Civil War

After the Civil War, many from the East Coast and Europe were lured west by reports from relatives and by extensive advertising campaigns promising "the Best Prairie Lands", "Low Prices", "Large Discounts For Cash", and "Better Terms Than Ever!". The new railroads provided the opportunity for migrants to go out and take a look, with special "land exploring tickets", the cost of which could be applied to land purchases offered by the railroads. As one farm wife stated, "There's nothing up there but Indians and rattlesnakes and blue northers and prairie fires". The truth was that farming the plains was indeed more difficult than back east. Water management was more critical, lightning fires were more prevalent, the weather was more extreme, rainfall was less predictable.

Most migrants, however, put those concerns aside. Their chief motivation to move west was to find a better economic life than the one they had. Farmers sought larger and more fertile areas; merchants and tradesman new customers and less competitive markets; laborers higher paying work and better conditions.

Mormons

The Mormons
Mormons
The Mormons are a religious and cultural group related to Mormonism, a religion started by Joseph Smith during the American Second Great Awakening. A vast majority of Mormons are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while a minority are members of other independent churches....

 sought a religious and economic utopia in Utah--an area not under any national government when they arrived. The U.S. took control in 1848 and for a half century there was a sort of warfare--sometimes violent--between the Mormons and the federal government over the issue of polygamy. In 1890 the Mormons finally gave up polygamy and peace ensued. The Mormons grew by high birth rates and by successful missions, such as those in Scandinavia and England that brought in thousands of converts.

Ethnicity

European immigrants built communities of similar religious and ethnic backgrounds. For example, many Finns
Finnish American
Finnish Americans are Americans of Finnish descent, who currently number about 700,000.-History:Some Finns, like the ancestors of John Morton, came to the Swedish colony of New Sweden, that existed in mid-17th century....

 went to Minnesota and Michigan, Swedes
Swedish American
Swedish Americans are Americans of Swedish descent, especially the descendants of about 1.2 million immigrants from Sweden during 1885-1915. Most were Lutherans who affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America ; some were Methodists...

 to South Dakota, Norwegians
Norwegian American
Norwegian Americans are Americans of Norwegian descent. Norwegian immigrants went to the United States primarily in the later half of the 19th century and the first few decades of the 20th century. There are more than 4.5 million Norwegian Americans according to the most recent U.S. census, and...

 to North Dakota, Irish
Irish American
Irish Americans are citizens of the United States who can trace their ancestry to Ireland. A total of 36,278,332 Americans—estimated at 11.9% of the total population—reported Irish ancestry in the 2008 American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau...

 to Montana, Chinese
Chinese American
Chinese Americans represent Americans of Chinese descent. Chinese Americans constitute one group of overseas Chinese and also a subgroup of East Asian Americans, which is further a subgroup of Asian Americans...

 to San Francisco, German Mennonites
Mennonite
The Mennonites are a group of Christian Anabaptist denominations named after the Frisian Menno Simons , who, through his writings, articulated and thereby formalized the teachings of earlier Swiss founders...

 in Kansas, and German Jews to Portland, Oregon.

The California Gold Rush set off large migrations of Hispanic and Asian people which continued after the Civil War. Chinese migrants, many of whom were impoverished peasants, provided the major part of the workforce for the building of Central Pacific portion of the transcontinental railroad. They also worked in mining, agriculture, and small businesses, and many lived in San Francisco. Significant numbers of Japanese
Japanese American
are American people of Japanese heritage. Japanese Americans have historically been among the three largest Asian American communities, but in recent decades have become the sixth largest group at roughly 1,204,205, including those of mixed-race or mixed-ethnicity...

 also arrived in California. Some migrants intended to make their fortune and return home and others sought to stay and start a new life.

Many Hispanics who had been living in the former territories of New Spain
New Spain
New Spain, formally called the Viceroyalty of New Spain , was a viceroyalty of the Spanish colonial empire, comprising primarily territories in what was known then as 'América Septentrional' or North America. Its capital was Mexico City, formerly Tenochtitlan, capital of the Aztec Empire...

, lost their land rights to fraud and governmental action when Texas, New Mexico, and California were formed. In some cases, Hispanics were simply driven off their land. In Texas, the situation was most acute, as the "Tejano
Tejano
Tejano or Texano is a term used to identify a Texan of Mexican heritage.Historically, the Spanish term Tejano has been used to identify different groups of people...

s", who made up about 75% of the population, ended up as laborers employed by the large white ranches which took over their land. In New Mexico
New Mexico
New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...

, only six percent of all claims by Hispanics were confirmed by the Claims Court. As a result, many Hispanics became permanently migrating workers, seeking seasonal employment in farming, mining, ranching, and on the railroads. Border towns sprang up with barrio
Barrio
Barrio is a Spanish word meaning district or neighborhood.-Usage:In its formal usage in English, barrios are generally considered cohesive places, sharing, for example, a church and traditions such as feast days...

s of intense poverty. In response, some Hispanics joined labor unions, and in a few cases, led revolts. The California "Robin Hood", Joaquin Murieta, led a gang in the 1850s which burned houses, killed miners, and robbed stagecoaches. In Texas, Juan Cortina
Juan Cortina
Juan Nepomuceno Cortina Goseacochea , also known by his nicknames Cheno Cortina and the Red Robber of the Rio Grande, was a Mexican rancher, politician, military leader, outlaw and folk hero...

 led a 20-year campaign against Texas land grabbers and the Texas Rangers
Texas Ranger Division
The Texas Ranger Division, commonly called the Texas Rangers, is a law enforcement agency with statewide jurisdiction in Texas, and is based in Austin, Texas...

, starting around 1859. Instead of the reality of Hispanic life, in the United States the public's image became one of quaint peasants happy with their lot.

Among the first African-Americans to arrive in the West were deserting sailors and slaves of white prospectors who came during the California Gold Rush, numbering about four thousand by 1860. However, the number of blacks in the West remained at only a few thousand throughout the 19th century. Blacks did participate in nearly all segments of Western society but many lived in segregated communities. They served in expeditions that mapped the West and as fur traders, miners, cowboys, Indian fighters, scouts, woodsmen, farm hands, saloon workers, cooks, and outlaw
Outlaw
In historical legal systems, an outlaw is declared as outside the protection of the law. In pre-modern societies, this takes the burden of active prosecution of a criminal from the authorities. Instead, the criminal is withdrawn all legal protection, so that anyone is legally empowered to persecute...

s. The famed Buffalo Soldiers were members of the Negro regiments of the U.S. Army and they played a substantial role in fighting the Plains Indians and the Apache in Arizona. Relatively few freed slaves, known as "Exodusters
Exodusters
Exodusters was a name given to African Americans who fled the Southern United States for Kansas in 1879 and 1880. After the end of Reconstruction, racial oppression and rumors of the reinstitution of slavery led many freedmen to seek a new place to live....

", became prairie settlers in all-black towns like Nicodemus, Kansas
Nicodemus, Kansas
Nicodemus is a small unincorporated community in Graham County in North Central Kansas, located 2000 ft above sea level in the middle of the Great Plains region of the United States. The community was founded in 1877 and is named for an African American who escaped enslavement...

.

Childhood

Childhood on the American frontier is contested territory. One group of scholars, following the lead of novelists Willa Cather
Willa Cather
Willa Seibert Cather was an American author who achieved recognition for her novels of frontier life on the Great Plains, in works such as O Pioneers!, My Ántonia, and The Song of the Lark. In 1923 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for One of Ours , a novel set during World War I...

 and Laura Ingalls Wilder
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder was an American author who wrote the Little House series of books based on her childhood in a pioneer family...

 argue the rural environment was salubrious. Historians Katherine Harris and Elliott West write that rural upbringing allowed children to break loose from urban hierarchies of age and gender, promoted family interdependence, and in the end produced children who were more self-reliant, mobile, adaptable, responsible, independent and more in touch with nature than their urban or eastern counterparts. On the other hand historians Elizabeth Hampsten and Lillian Schlissel offer a grim portrait of loneliness, privation, abuse, and demanding physical labor from an early age. Riney-Kehrberg takes a middle position.

Bison versus cattle

The rise of the cattle industry and the cowboy is directly tied to the demise of the huge bison
American Bison
The American bison , also commonly known as the American buffalo, is a North American species of bison that once roamed the grasslands of North America in massive herds...

 herds of the Great Plains. Once numbering over 25 million, bison were a vital resource animal for the Plains Indians, providing food, hides for clothing and shelter, and bones for implements. Loss of habitat, disease, and over-hunting steadily reduced the herds through the 19th century to the point of near extinction. Overland trails and growing settlements began to block the free movement of the herds to feeding and breeding areas. Initially, commercial hunters sought bison to make "pemmican
Pemmican
Pemmican is a concentrated mixture of fat and protein used as a nutritious food. The word comes from the Cree word pimîhkân, which itself is derived from the word pimî, "fat, grease". It was invented by the native peoples of North America...

", a mixture of pounded buffalo meat, fat, and berries, which was a long-lasting food used by trappers and other outdoorsmen. Not only did white hunters impact the herds, but Indians who arrived from the East also contributed to their reduction. Adding to the kill was the wanton slaughter of bison by sportsmen, migrants, and soldiers. Shooting bison from passing trains was common sport. However, the greatest negative effect on the herds was the huge markets opened up by the completion of the transcontinental railroad. Hides in great quantities were tanned into leather and fashioned into clothing and furniture. Killing far exceeded market requirements, reaching over one million per year. As many as five bison were killed for each one that reached market, and most of the meat was left to rot on the plains and at trackside after removal of the hides. Skulls were often ground for fertilizer. A skilled hunter could kill over 100 bison in a day.

By the 1870s, the great slaughter of bison had a major impact on the Plains Indians, dependent on the animal both economically and spiritually. Soldiers of the U.S. Army deliberately encouraged and abetted the killing of bison as part of the campaigns against the Sioux and Pawnee, in an effort to deprive them of their resource animal and to demoralize them.

The sharp decline of the herds of the Plains created a vacuum which was exploited by the growing cattle industry. Spanish cattlemen had introduced cattle ranching and longhorn cattle to the Southwest in the 17th century, and the men who worked the ranches, called "vaqueros", were the first "cowboys" in the West. After the Civil War―with railheads available at Abilene, Kansas City, Dodge City, and Wichita―Texas ranchers raised large herds of longhorn cattle and drove them north along the Western, Chisholm, and Shawnee trails. The cattle were slaughtered in Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City. The Chisholm Trail
Chisholm Trail
The Chisholm Trail was a trail used in the late 19th century to drive cattle overland from ranches in Texas to Kansas railheads. The portion of the trail marked by Jesse Chisholm went from his southern trading post near the Red River, to his northern trading post near Kansas City, Kansas...

, laid out by cattleman Joseph McCoy along an old trail marked by Jesse Chisholm, was the major artery of cattle commerce, carrying over 1.5 million head of cattle between 1867 and 1871 over the 800 miles (1,287.5 km) from south Texas to Abilene, Kansas
Abilene, Kansas
Abilene is a city in and the county seat of Dickinson County, Kansas, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 6,844.-History:...

. The long drives were treacherous, especially crossing water such as the Brazos and the Red River
Red River (Mississippi watershed)
The Red River, or sometimes the Red River of the South, is a major tributary of the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers in the southern United States of America. The river gains its name from the red-bed country of its watershed. It is one of several rivers with that name...

 and when they had to fend off Indians and rustlers looking to make off with their cattle. A typical drive would take three to four months and contained two miles (3 km) of cattle six abreast. Despite the risks, the long Texas drives proved very profitable and attracted investors from the United States and abroad. The price of one head of cattle raised in Texas was about $4 but was worth more than $40 back East.

By the 1870s and 1880s, cattle ranches expanded further north into new grazing grounds and replaced the bison herds in Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Nebraska and the Dakota territory, using the rails to ship to both coasts. Many of the largest ranches were owned by Scottish and English financiers. The single largest cattle ranch in the entire West was owned by American John W. Iliff, "cattle king of the Plains", operating in Colorado and Wyoming. Gradually, longhorns were replaced by the American breeds of Hereford
Hereford (cattle)
Hereford cattle are a beef cattle breed, widely used both in intemperate areas and temperate areas, mainly for meat production.Originally from Herefordshire, England, United Kingdom, more than five million pedigree Hereford Cattle now exist in over 50 countries...

 and Angus, introduced by settlers from the Northwest. Though less hardy and more disease-prone, these breeds produced better tasting beef and matured faster.

Then disaster struck the cattle industry. A terribly severe winter engulfed the plains toward the end of 1886 and well into 1887, locking the prairie grass under ice and crusted snow which starving herds could not penetrate. After their livestock died by the thousands, great syndicates and “barons”, already under pressure from declining prices and tightening credit, were financially ruined. Many of them had spent much more each year than they made to expand their land and cattle empires, but now they were forced to liquidate most of their remaining holdings just to pay for living expenses and to help satisfy a host of demanding creditors.

Sheep grazing took over as sheep were easier to feed and needed less water. However, sheep also helped cause ecological changes that enabled foreign grasses to invade the Plains and also caused increased erosion. Open range cattle ranching came to an end and was replaced by barbed wire spreads where water, breeding, feeding, and grazing could be controlled. This led to "fence wars" which erupted over disputes about water rights. Cattlemen and sheep ranchers sometimes engaged in violence against each other as did large and small cattle ranchers, culminating in the Johnson County War
Johnson County War
The Johnson County War, also known as the War on Powder River, was a range war which took place in April 1892 in Johnson County, Natrona County and Converse County in the U.S. state of Wyoming...

.

Anchoring the booming cattle industry of the 1860s and 1870s were the cattle towns in Kansas and Missouri. Like the mining towns in California and Nevada, cattle towns such as Abilene
Abilene, Kansas
Abilene is a city in and the county seat of Dickinson County, Kansas, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 6,844.-History:...

, Dodge City, and Ellsworth
Ellsworth, Kansas
Ellsworth is a city in and the county seat of Ellsworth County, Kansas, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 3,120.-19th century:...

 experienced a short period of boom and bust lasting about five years. The cattle towns would spring up as land speculators would rush in ahead of a proposed rail line and build a town and the supporting services attractive to the cattlemen and the cowboys. If the railroads complied, the new grazing ground and supporting town would secure the cattle trade. However, unlike the mining towns which in many cases became ghost town
Ghost town
A ghost town is an abandoned town or city. A town often becomes a ghost town because the economic activity that supported it has failed, or due to natural or human-caused disasters such as floods, government actions, uncontrolled lawlessness, war, or nuclear disasters...

s and ceased to exist after the ore played out, cattle towns often evolved from cattle to farming and continued on after the grazing lands were exhausted. In some cases, resistance by moral reformers and alliances of businessmen drove the cattle trade out of town. Ellsworth, on the other hand, floundered as the result of Indian raids, floods, and cholera
Cholera
Cholera is an infection of the small intestine that is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The main symptoms are profuse watery diarrhea and vomiting. Transmission occurs primarily by drinking or eating water or food that has been contaminated by the diarrhea of an infected person or the feces...

.

The early years of male-dominated life in cattle towns gave way to a more balanced community of farm families and small businesses as the boom passed. Though lawlessness, prostitution, and gambling were significant in cattle towns, especially early on, the greed factor in the mining towns added an extra element of danger and violence. Since these towns grew rapidly, law and order often took a while to establish itself. Vigilante justice did occur, but in many cases, it subsided when adequate police forces were appointed. While some vigilante committees served the public good fairly and successfully in the absence of law officers and judges, more often than not vigilantism was motivated by bigotry and base emotion and produced imperfect justice directed at those considered socially inferior. Indian hunting and race riots against the Chinese were severe manifestations of vigilantism.

A contemporary eyewitness of Hays City, Kansas paints a vivid image of a cattle town:
"Hays City by lamplight was remarkably lively, but not very moral. The streets blazed with a reflection from saloons, and a glance within showed floors crowded with dancers, the gaily dressed women striving to hide with ribbons and paint the terrible lines which that grim artist, Dissipation, loves to draw upon such faces... To the music of violins and the stamping of feet the dance went on, and we saw in the giddy maze old men who must have been pirouetting on the very edge of their graves."


To control violence, sometimes cowboys were segregated into brothel districts away from the main part of town. Cattle rustling was a serious offense sometimes punished by lynching. However, free-shooting brawls, also known as "hurrahing", were not as frequent as in the movies. In Wichita, handguns were outlawed within city limits and in many towns some form of gun control existed. Also unlike in the movies, marshals rarely shot outlaws, especially in the middle of Main Street in a showdown. Famed lawmen such as Wyatt Earp
Wyatt Earp
Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp was an American gambler, investor, and law enforcement officer who served in several Western frontier towns. He was also at different times a farmer, teamster, bouncer, saloon-keeper, miner and boxing referee. However, he was never a drover or cowboy. He is most well known...

, Bat Masterson
Bat Masterson
William Barclay "Bat" Masterson was a figure of the American Old West known as a buffalo hunter, U.S. Marshal and Army scout, avid fisherman, gambler, frontier lawman, and sports editor and columnist for the New York Morning Telegraph...

, and Wild Bill Hickok
Wild Bill Hickok
James Butler Hickok , better known as Wild Bill Hickok, was a folk hero of the American Old West. His skills as a gunfighter and scout, along with his reputation as a lawman, provided the basis for his fame, although some of his exploits are fictionalized.Hickok came to the West as a stagecoach...

, and less remembered ones like Michael Meagher, Thomas James Smith
Thomas James Smith
Thomas James Smith was the founder of Smith & Nephew, one of the United Kingdom's largest medical devices businesses.-Career:After training as a pharmacist at a dispensing chemist in Grantham and then at University College, London, Thomas Smith opened his own chemist's shop in Hull in 1856...

, and Bill Tilghman
Bill Tilghman
William Matthew "Bill" Tilghman was a lawman in the American Old West.-Early life :Bill Tilghman was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa, on July 4, 1854. He became a buffalo hunter at age 15 and claimed he killed over 1000 bison over his five years of activity...

 actually averaged only one or two killings in a year.

Code of the West

A new code of behavior was becoming acceptable in the West. People no longer had a duty to retreat
Duty to retreat
In the criminal law, the duty to retreat is a specific component which sometimes appears in the defense of self-defense, and which must be addressed if the defendant is to prove that his or her conduct was justified. In those jurisdictions where the requirement exists, the burden of proof is on the...

 when threatened. This was a departure from British common law that required citizens to have their back to the wall before they could protect themselves with deadly force. In 1876 an Ohio court held if attacked a citizen was not "obligated to fly". The Indiana Supreme Court upheld the legality of "no duty to retreat". The code of the West dictated that a man did not have to back away from a fight, needing to retreat no further than "the air at his back", and could pursue an adversary even if it resulted in death.
In reality, the main activity of law enforcement in cattle towns was knocking down drunks and hauling them away before they hurt themselves or others. They also disarmed cowboys who violated gun control edicts, tried to prevent dueling, and dealt with flagrant breaches of gambling and prostitution ordinances. When the cattle were not in town, Wyatt Earp and other lawmen might be heading up street repair projects or doing other civic chores, or tending to their own business interests.

Most justices of the peace were poorly schooled in law, politically corrupt, and depended on assessing fees and fines to make a living. The better ones ruled by common sense and experience, but could be inconsistent as they did not refer to statutes to guide their rulings. Federal judges tended to have better qualifications and were more inclined to follow written law. However, the West also inherited the Anglo-American system of jury trial
Jury trial
A jury trial is a legal proceeding in which a jury either makes a decision or makes findings of fact which are then applied by a judge...

s for serious cases in spite of the fact that most potential jurors were biased by their personal relationships and acquaintances and/or struggling to make ends meet, a combination which made honest and impartial jurors difficult to find in the best of circumstances.

Some of the banditry of the West was carried out by Mexicans and Indians against white targets of opportunity along the U.S. –Mexico border, particularly in Texas, Arizona, and California. Pancho Villa
Pancho Villa
José Doroteo Arango Arámbula – better known by his pseudonym Francisco Villa or its hypocorism Pancho Villa – was one of the most prominent Mexican Revolutionary generals....

, after leaving his father's employ, took up the life of banditry in Durango
Durango
Durango officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Durango is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. The state is located in Northwest Mexico. With a population of 1,632,934, it has Mexico's second-lowest population density, after Baja...

 and later in the state of Chihuahua. He was caught several times for crimes ranging from banditry to horse thievery and cattle rustling but, through influential connections, was always able to secure his release. Villa later became a controversial revolutionary folk hero, leading a band of Mexican raiders in attacks against various regimes and was sought after by the U.S. government. The second major type of banditry was conducted by the infamous outlaws of the West, including Jesse James
Jesse James
Jesse Woodson James was an American outlaw, gang leader, bank robber, train robber, and murderer from the state of Missouri and the most famous member of the James-Younger Gang. He also faked his own death and was known as J.M James. Already a celebrity when he was alive, he became a legendary...

, Billy the Kid
Billy the Kid
William H. Bonney William H. Bonney William H. Bonney (born William Henry McCarty, Jr. est. November 23, 1859 – c. July 14, 1881, better known as Billy the Kid but also known as Henry Antrim, was a 19th-century American gunman who participated in the Lincoln County War and became a frontier...

, the Dalton Gang
Dalton Gang
The Dalton Gang, also known as The Dalton Brothers, was a family of both lawmen and outlaws in the American Old West during 1890-1892. They specialized in bank and train robberies. They were related to the Younger brothers, who rode with Jesse James, though they acted later and independently of...

, Black Bart, Butch Cassidy
Butch Cassidy
Robert LeRoy Parker , better known as Butch Cassidy, was a notorious American train robber, bank robber, and leader of the Wild Bunch Gang in the American Old West...

 and the Wild Bunch
Wild Bunch
The Wild Bunch, also known as the Doolin–Dalton Gang or the Oklahombres, was a gang of outlaws based in the Indian Territory that terrorized Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma Territory during the 1890s—robbing banks and stores, holding up trains, and killing lawmen. They were...

 and hundreds of others who preyed on banks, trains, and stagecoaches. Some of the outlaws, such as Jesse James, were products of the violence of the Civil War (James had ridden with Quantrill's Raiders
Quantrill's Raiders
Quantrill's Raiders were a loosely organized force of pro-Confederate Partisan rangers, "bushwhackers", who fought in the American Civil War under the leadership of William Clarke Quantrill...

) and others became outlaws during hard times in the cattle industry. Many were misfits and drifters who roamed the West avoiding the law. When outlaw gangs were near, towns would raise a posse (like in the movies) to attempt to drive them away or capture them. Seeing that the need to combat the gunslingers was a growing business opportunity, Allan Pinkerton
Allan Pinkerton
Allan Pinkerton was a Scottish American detective and spy, best known for creating the Pinkerton National Detective Agency.-Early life, career and immigration:...

 ordered his detective agency to open branches out West, and they got into the business of pursuing and capturing outlaws, like the James Gang
James-Younger gang
The James-Younger Gang was a notable 19th-century gang of American outlaws that included Jesse James.The gang was centered in the state of Missouri. Membership fluctuated from robbery to robbery, as the outlaws' raids were usually separated by many months...

, Butch Cassidy
Butch Cassidy
Robert LeRoy Parker , better known as Butch Cassidy, was a notorious American train robber, bank robber, and leader of the Wild Bunch Gang in the American Old West...

, Sam Bass
Sam Bass
Sam Bass was a nineteenth-century American train robber and outlaw.-Early life:Bass was orphaned at the age of 10. For the next five years, he and his siblings lived with an abusive uncle. In 1869, he set out on his own and spent the next year in Mississippi...

, and dozens of others. Pinkerton devised the "rogues gallery" and employed a systematic method for identifying bodies of criminals.

Cowboys

Central to the myth and the reality of the West is the American cowboy
Cowboy
A cowboy is an animal herder who tends cattle on ranches in North America, traditionally on horseback, and often performs a multitude of other ranch-related tasks. The historic American cowboy of the late 19th century arose from the vaquero traditions of northern Mexico and became a figure of...

. His real life was a hard one and revolved around two annual roundups, spring and fall, the subsequent drives to market, and the time off in the cattle towns spending his hard earned money on food, clothing, gambling, and prostitution. During winter, many cowboys hired themselves out to ranches near the cattle towns, where they repaired and maintained equipment and buildings. On a long drive, there was usually one cowboy for each 250 head of cattle.

Before a drive, a cowboy's duties included riding out on the range and bringing together the scattered cattle. The best cattle would be selected, roped, and branded, and most male cattle were castrated. The cattle also needed to be dehorned and examined and treated for infections. On the long drives, the cowboys had to keep the cattle moving and in line. The cattle had to be watched day and night as they were prone to stampedes and straying. The work days often lasted fourteen hours, with just six hours of sleep. It was grueling, dusty work, with just a few minutes of relaxation before and at the end of a long day. On the trail, drinking, gambling, brawling, and even cursing was often prohibited and fined. It was often monotonous and boring work. Food was barely adequate and consisted mostly of bacon, beans, bread, coffee, dried fruit, and potatoes. On average, cowboys earned $30 to $40 per month. Because of the heavy physical and emotional toll, it was unusual for a cowboy to spend more than seven years on the range. As open range ranching and the long drives gave way to fenced in ranches in the 1880s, the glory days of the cowboy came to an end, and the myths about the "free living" cowboy began to emerge.

Many of the cowboys were veterans of the Civil War, particularly from the Confederacy
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

, who returned to ruined home towns and found no future, so they went west looking for opportunities. Some were Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, and even Britons. Nearly all were in their twenties or teens. The earliest cowboys in Texas learned their trade, adapted their clothing, and took their jargon from the Mexican vaqueros or "buckaroos", the heirs of Spanish cattlemen from Andalusia
Andalusia
Andalusia is the most populous and the second largest in area of the autonomous communities of Spain. The Andalusian autonomous community is officially recognised as a nationality of Spain. The territory is divided into eight provinces: Huelva, Seville, Cádiz, Córdoba, Málaga, Jaén, Granada and...

 in Spain. Chaps, the heavy protective leather trousers worn by cowboys, got their name from the Spanish "chaparreras", and the lariat, or rope, was derived from "la reata". All the distinct clothing of the cowboy—boots, saddle
Saddle
A saddle is a supportive structure for a rider or other load, fastened to an animal's back by a girth. The most common type is the equestrian saddle designed for a horse, but specialized saddles have been created for camels and other creatures...

s, hats
Cowboy hat
The cowboy hat is a high-crowned, wide-brimmed hat best known as the defining piece of attire for the North American cowboy. Today it is worn by many people, and is particularly associated with ranch workers in the western and southern United States, western Canada and northern Mexico, with...

, pants
Trousers
Trousers are an item of clothing worn on the lower part of the body from the waist to the ankles, covering both legs separately...

, chaps
Chaps
Chaps are sturdy coverings for the legs consisting of leggings and a belt. They are buckled on over trousers with the chaps' integrated belt, but unlike trousers they have no seat and are not joined at the crotch. They are designed to provide protection for the legs and are usually made of leather...

, slickers, bandannas, gloves, and collar-less shirts—were practical and adaptable, designed for protection and comfort. The cowboy hat
Cowboy hat
The cowboy hat is a high-crowned, wide-brimmed hat best known as the defining piece of attire for the North American cowboy. Today it is worn by many people, and is particularly associated with ranch workers in the western and southern United States, western Canada and northern Mexico, with...

 quickly developed the capability, even in the early years, to identify its wearer as someone associated with the West. The most enduring fashion adapted from the cowboy, popular nearly worldwide today, are "blue jeans", originally made by Levi Strauss
Levi Strauss
Levi Strauss was a German-Jewish immigrant to the United States who founded the first company to manufacture blue jeans. His firm, Levi Strauss & Co., began in 1853 in San Francisco, California.-Origins:...

 for miners in 1850. It was the cowboy hat, however, that came to symbolize the American West.

The modern rodeo
Rodeo
Rodeo is a competitive sport which arose out of the working practices of cattle herding in Spain, Mexico, and later the United States, Canada, South America and Australia. It was based on the skills required of the working vaqueros and later, cowboys, in what today is the western United States,...

 or "Frontier Day" show is the only American sport to evolve from an industry. It exists on both the amateur and professional level, and it remains a favorite form of entertainment in many towns of the West. Rodeos combine the traditional skills of the range cowboy — calf and steer roping, steer wrestling, team roping, bronco riding, and horsemanship with the showmanship of bull riding, and barrel racing.

Military forts and outposts

As the frontier moved westward, the establishment of U.S. military forts moved with it, representing and maintaining federal sovereignty over new territories. The military garrisons usually lacked defensible walls but were seldom attacked. They served as bases for troops at or near strategic areas, particularly for counteracting the Indian presence. For example, Fort Bowie
Fort Bowie
Fort Bowie was a 19th century outpost of the United States Army located in southeastern Arizona near the present day town of Willcox, Arizona.Fort Bowie was established in 1862 after a series of engagements between the U.S. Military and the Chiricahua Apaches. The most violent of which was the...

 protected Apache Pass
Apache Pass
Apache Pass is a historic passage in the U.S. state of Arizona between the Dos Cabezas Mountains and Chiricahua Mountains, approximately 32 km E-SE of Willcox, Arizona.-Apache Spring:...

 in southern Arizona along the mail route between Tucson and El Paso and was used to launch attacks against Cochise
Cochise
Cochise was a chief of the Chokonen band of the Chiricahua Apache and the leader of an uprising that began in 1861. Cochise County, Arizona is named after him.-Biography:...

 and Geronimo
Geronimo
Geronimo was a prominent Native American leader of the Chiricahua Apache who fought against Mexico and the United States for their expansion into Apache tribal lands for several decades during the Apache Wars. Allegedly, "Geronimo" was the name given to him during a Mexican incident...

. Fort Laramie and Fort Kearny
Fort Kearny
Fort Kearny was a historic outpost of the United States Army founded in 1848 in the western U.S. during the middle and late 19th century. The outpost was located along the Oregon Trail near present-day Kearney, Nebraska, which took its name from the fort .-Origins and various missions of the...

 helped protect immigrants crossing the Great Plains and a series of posts in California protected miners. Forts were constructed to launch attacks against the Sioux. As Indian reservations sprang up, the military set up forts to protect them. Forts also guarded the Union Pacific and other rail lines. Other important forts were Fort Sill
Fort Sill
Fort Sill is a United States Army post near Lawton, Oklahoma, about 85 miles southwest of Oklahoma City.Today, Fort Sill remains the only active Army installation of all the forts on the South Plains built during the Indian Wars...

, Oklahoma, Fort Smith
Fort Smith National Historic Site
Fort Smith National Historic Site is a United States National Historic Site located primarily in Fort Smith, Arkansas along the Arkansas River, and also along the opposite bank of the river near Moffett, Oklahoma....

, Arkansas, Fort Snelling, Minnesota, Fort Union Montana, Fort Worth, Texas, and Fort Walla Walla
Fort Walla Walla
Fort Walla Walla is a fort located in Walla Walla, Washington. It was established in 1858. Today, the complex contains a park, a museum, and a hospital.Fort Walla Walla should be distinguished from Fort Nez Percés or Old Fort Walla Walla ....

 in Washington. By the 1890s, with the threat from Indian nations eliminated, and with white populations increasing enough to provide their own law enforcement, most frontier forts were abandoned. Fort Omaha
Fort Omaha
Fort Omaha, originally known as Sherman Barracks and then Omaha Barracks, is an Indian War-era United States Army supply installation. Located at 5730 North 30th Street, with the entrance at North 30th and Fort Streets in modern-day North Omaha, Nebraska, the facility is primarily occupied by ...

, Nebraska was home to the Department of the Platte
Department of the Platte
The Department of the Platte was a military administrative district established by the U.S. Army on March 5, 1866, with boundaries encompassing Iowa, Nebraska, Dakota Territory, Utah Territory and a small portion of Idaho...

, and was responsible for outfitting most Western posts for more than 20 years after its founding in the late 1870s. Fort Huachuca
Fort Huachuca
Fort Huachuca is a United States Army installation under the command of the United States Army Installation Management Command. It is located in Cochise County, in southeast Arizona, about north of the border with Mexico. Beginning in 1913, for 20 years the fort was the base for the "Buffalo...

 in Arizona was also originally a frontier post which is still in use by the United States Army. During the Mexican Revolution
Mexican Revolution
The Mexican Revolution was a major armed struggle that started in 1910, with an uprising led by Francisco I. Madero against longtime autocrat Porfirio Díaz. The Revolution was characterized by several socialist, liberal, anarchist, populist, and agrarianist movements. Over time the Revolution...

, the United States was forced to build a new series of twelve forts for protection along the Mexican-American border. Fort Naco in Naco, Arizona
Naco, Arizona
Naco is a census-designated place in Cochise County, Arizona, United States. Its population was 833 at the 2000 census. It is across the United States–Mexico border from Naco, Sonora. The Naco port of entry is open 24 hours per day....

 was one of these. At this time in the southwest United States, towns were still being established and all wilderness was still considered frontier.

Indian Wars

As settlement sped up across the West after the transcontinental railroad was completed, clashes with Native Americans of the Plains and southwest reached a final phase. The military's mission was to clear the land of free-roaming Indians and put them onto reservations. The stiff resistance after the Civil War of battle-hardened, well-armed Indian warriors resulted in the Indian Wars.

According to Gregory Michno, author of the Encyclopedia of Indian wars: western battles and skirmishes, 1850-1890, there were more conflicts with native Americans in the states bordering Mexico than in the interior states. Arizona ranked highest, with 310 known battles fought within the state's boundaries between Americans and the natives. Also, when determining how many deaths resulted from the wars, in each of the American states, Arizona ranked highest. At least 4,340 people were killed, including soldiers, civilians and native Americans, over twice as many as occurred in Texas, the second highest ranking state. Most of the deaths in Arizona were caused by the Apache
Apache
Apache is the collective term for several culturally related groups of Native Americans in the United States originally from the Southwest United States. These indigenous peoples of North America speak a Southern Athabaskan language, which is related linguistically to the languages of Athabaskan...

. Micho also says that fifty-one percent of the Indian war battles between 1850 and 1890 took place in Arizona, Texas and New Mexico, as well as thirty-seven percent of the casualties in the county west of the Mississippi River.

In the Apache
Apache Wars
The Apache Wars were a series of armed conflicts between the United States and Apaches fought in the Southwest from 1849 to 1886, though other minor hostilities continued until as late as 1924. The Confederate Army participated in the wars during the early 1860s, for instance in Texas, before being...

 and Navajo Wars
Navajo Wars
The Navajo Wars were a series of battles and other conflicts, often separated with treaties that involved raids by different Navajo bands on the rancheras along the Rio Grande and the counter campaigns by the Spanish, Mexican, and United States governments, and sometimes their civilian elements....

, Colonel Christopher "Kit" Carson
Kit Carson
Christopher Houston "Kit" Carson was an American frontiersman and Indian fighter. Carson left home in rural present-day Missouri at age 16 and became a Mountain man and trapper in the West. Carson explored the west to California, and north through the Rocky Mountains. He lived among and married...

 fought the Apache around the reservations in 1862. Skirmishes between Americans and Apaches continued unil after the turn of the century. Kit Carson used a scorched earth
Scorched earth
A scorched earth policy is a military strategy or operational method which involves destroying anything that might be useful to the enemy while advancing through or withdrawing from an area...

 policy in the Navajo campaign, burning Navajo fields and homes, and capturing or killing their livestock. He was aided by other Indian tribes with long-standing enmity toward the Navajos, chiefly the Utes
Ute Tribe
The Ute are an American Indian people now living primarily in Utah and Colorado. There are three Ute tribal reservations: Uintah-Ouray in northeastern Utah ; Southern Ute in Colorado ; and Ute Mountain which primarily lies in Colorado, but extends to Utah and New Mexico . The name of the state of...

. He later fought a combined force of Kiowa
Kiowa
The Kiowa are a nation of American Indians and indigenous people of the Great Plains. They migrated from the northern plains to the southern plains in the late 17th century. In 1867, the Kiowa moved to a reservation in southwestern Oklahoma...

, Comanche
Comanche
The Comanche are a Native American ethnic group whose historic range consisted of present-day eastern New Mexico, southern Colorado, northeastern Arizona, southern Kansas, all of Oklahoma, and most of northwest Texas. Historically, the Comanches were hunter-gatherers, with a typical Plains Indian...

 and Cheyenne
Cheyenne
Cheyenne are a Native American people of the Great Plains, who are of the Algonquian language family. The Cheyenne Nation is composed of two united tribes, the Só'taeo'o and the Tsétsêhéstâhese .The Cheyenne are thought to have branched off other tribes of Algonquian stock inhabiting lands...

 to a draw at the First Battle of Adobe Walls
First Battle of Adobe Walls
The First Battle of Adobe Walls, was a battle between the United States Army and native Americans. The Kiowa, Comanche and Plains Apache tribes drove from the battlefield a United States Expeditionary Force that was reacting to attacks on white settlers moving into the Southwest...

, but he managed to destroy the Indian village and winter supplies. On June 27, 1874 'Bat' Masterson and a small group of buffalo hunters fought a much larger Indian force at the Second Battle of Adobe Walls
Second Battle of Adobe Walls
The Second Battle of Adobe Walls was fought on June 27, 1874 between Comanche forces and a group of twenty-eight U.S. bison hunters defending the settlement of Adobe Walls, Texas in what is now Hutchinson County, Texas.-Adobe Walls Settlement:...

.

Red Cloud's War
Red Cloud's War
Red Cloud's War was an armed conflict between the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho and the United States in the Wyoming Territory and the Montana Territory from 1866 to 1868. The war was fought over control of the Powder River Country in north central present day Wyoming...

 was led by the Lakota chief Makhpyia luta
Red Cloud
Red Cloud , was a war leader and the head Chief of the Oglala Lakota . His reign was from 1868 to 1909...

 (Red Cloud) against the military who were erecting forts along the Bozeman trail. It was the most successful campaign against the U.S. during the Indian Wars. By the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868)
Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868)
The Treaty of Fort Laramie was an agreement between the United States and the Oglala, Miniconjou, and Brulé bands of Lakota people, Yanktonai Dakota, and Arapaho Nation signed in 1868 at Fort Laramie in the Wyoming Territory, guaranteeing to the Lakota ownership of the Black Hills, and further...

, the U.S. granted a large reservation to the Lakota, without military presence or oversight, no settlements, and no reserved road building rights. The reservation included the entire Black Hills.

Captain Jack was a chief of the Native American Modoc tribe of California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 and Oregon
Oregon
Oregon is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It is located on the Pacific coast, with Washington to the north, California to the south, Nevada on the southeast and Idaho to the east. The Columbia and Snake rivers delineate much of Oregon's northern and eastern...

, and was their leader during the Modoc War
Modoc War
The Modoc War, or Modoc Campaign , was an armed conflict between the Native American Modoc tribe and the United States Army in southern Oregon and northern California from 1872–1873. The Modoc War was the last of the Indian Wars to occur in California or Oregon...

. With 53 Modoc warriors, Captain Jack held off 1,000 men of the U.S. Army for 7 months. Captain Jack killed Edward Canby
Edward Canby
Edward Richard Sprigg Canby was a career United States Army officer and a Union general in the American Civil War, Reconstruction era, and the Indian Wars...

.

The Great Sioux War of 1876-77
Great Sioux War of 1876-77
The Great Sioux War of 1876, also known as the Black Hills War, was a series of battles and negotiations which occurred between 1876 and 1877 involving the Lakota and Northern Cheyenne, against the United States...

 was conducted by the Lakota under Sitting Bull
Sitting Bull
Sitting Bull Sitting Bull Sitting Bull (Lakota: Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake (in Standard Lakota Orthography), also nicknamed Slon-he or "Slow"; (c. 1831 – December 15, 1890) was a Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux holy man who led his people as a tribal chief during years of resistance to United States government policies...

 and Crazy Horse
Crazy Horse
Crazy Horse was a Native American war leader of the Oglala Lakota. He took up arms against the U.S...

. The conflict began after repeated violations of the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868)
Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868)
The Treaty of Fort Laramie was an agreement between the United States and the Oglala, Miniconjou, and Brulé bands of Lakota people, Yanktonai Dakota, and Arapaho Nation signed in 1868 at Fort Laramie in the Wyoming Territory, guaranteeing to the Lakota ownership of the Black Hills, and further...

 once gold was discovered in the hills. One of its famous battles was the Battle of the Little Bighorn
Battle of the Little Bighorn
The Battle of the Little Bighorn, also known as Custer's Last Stand and, by the Indians involved, as the Battle of the Greasy Grass, was an armed engagement between combined forces of Lakota, Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho people against the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army...

, in which combined Sioux
Sioux
The Sioux are Native American and First Nations people in North America. The term can refer to any ethnic group within the Great Sioux Nation or any of the nation's many language dialects...

 and Cheyenne
Cheyenne
Cheyenne are a Native American people of the Great Plains, who are of the Algonquian language family. The Cheyenne Nation is composed of two united tribes, the Só'taeo'o and the Tsétsêhéstâhese .The Cheyenne are thought to have branched off other tribes of Algonquian stock inhabiting lands...

 forces defeated the 7th Cavalry, led by General George Armstrong Custer
George Armstrong Custer
George Armstrong Custer was a United States Army officer and cavalry commander in the American Civil War and the Indian Wars. Raised in Michigan and Ohio, Custer was admitted to West Point in 1858, where he graduated last in his class...

.

The end of the Sioux Wars came at the Wounded Knee Massacre
Wounded Knee Massacre
The Wounded Knee Massacre happened on December 29, 1890, near Wounded Knee Creek on the Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, USA. On the day before, a detachment of the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment commanded by Major Samuel M...

 on December 29, 1890 where Sitting Bull's half-brother, Big Foot
Spotted Elk
Spotted Elk , , was the name of a chief of the Miniconjou Lakota Sioux. He was a son of chief One Horn and became a chief upon the death of his father. He was a highly renowned chief with skills in war and negotiations...

, and some 200 Sioux were killed by the 7th Cavalry
U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment
The 7th Cavalry Regiment is a United States Army Cavalry Regiment, whose lineage traces back to the mid-19th century. Its official nickname is "Garryowen," in honor of the Irish air Garryowen that was adopted as its march tune....

. Only thirteen days before, Sitting Bull had been killed with his son Crow Foot
Crow Foot
Crow Foot was the son of Sitting Bull of the Lakota. He also had sisters named Standing Holy and Lodge. He had brothers named Henry, Little Soldier, Red Scout, and Theodore. His mother was either Seen By Her Nation or Four Robes....

 in a gun battle with a group of Indian police that had been sent by the American government to arrest him.

Other engagements between Americans and native Americans occurred after the massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890 which is considered the final trial of the American Indian Wars. The period came to an end in 1918 after the skirmish in Arizona locally called the Battle of Bear Valley
Battle of Bear Valley
The Battle of Bear Valley was a small engagement between the revolutionary Yaqui natives and the United States Army on January 9, 1918 in southern Arizona. This skirmish is widely recognized as the final battle of the American Indian Wars.-Background:...

. In the fight, the 10th Cavalry captured a group of Yaquis and killed their chief. In 1907 two soldiers from Fort Wingate
Fort Wingate
Fort Wingate is near Gallup, New Mexico. There were two locations in New Mexico that had this name. The first one was located near San Rafael. The current fort was established on the southern edge of the Navajo territory in 1862. The initial purpose of the fort was to control the large Navajo...

, New Mexico skirmished with Navajo rifleman and in 1911 they quelled an uprising in Chaco Canyon. Also in 1911 the Last Massacre occurred when a family of hostile Shoshone
Shoshone
The Shoshone or Shoshoni are a Native American tribe in the United States with three large divisions: the Northern, the Western and the Eastern....

s killed three ranchers in Nevada. A posse was formed and after an engagement popularly called the Battle of Kelly Creek, the Shoshone family of twelve was mostly killed with the exception of three children.

Johnson County War

The 1892 Johnson County range war
Range war
A range war is a type of conflict that occurs in agrarian or stockrearing societies. Typically fought over water rights or grazing rights to unfenced/unowned land, it could pit competing farmers or ranchers against each other...

 took place in Wyoming
Wyoming
Wyoming is a state in the mountain region of the Western United States. The western two thirds of the state is covered mostly with the mountain ranges and rangelands in the foothills of the Eastern Rocky Mountains, while the eastern third of the state is high elevation prairie known as the High...

's Powder River
Powder River (Montana)
Powder River is a tributary of the Yellowstone River, approximately long in the southeastern Montana and northeastern Wyoming in the United States. It drains an area historically known as the Powder River Country on the high plains east of the Bighorn Mountains.It rises in three forks in eastern...

 country. The large ranches were organized as the Wyoming Stock Growers Association and hired killers from Texas; an expedition of fifty men was organized, which proceeded by train from Cheyenne
Cheyenne, Wyoming
Cheyenne is the capital and most populous city of the U.S. state of Wyoming and the county seat of Laramie County. It is the principal city of the Cheyenne, Wyoming, Metropolitan Statistical Area which encompasses all of Laramie County. The population is 59,466 at the 2010 census. Cheyenne is the...

 to Casper
Casper, Wyoming
Casper is the county seat of Natrona County, Wyoming, United States.. Casper is the second-largest city in Wyoming , according to the 2010 census, with a population of 55,316...

, then toward Johnson County, intending to eliminate alleged rustlers and also, apparently, to replace the government in Johnson County. After initial hostilities, the sheriff of Johnson County raised a posse of 200 men and set out for the ruffians' location. The posse led by the sheriff besieged the invading force at the TA Ranch on Crazy Woman Creek
Crazy Woman Creek
Crazy Woman Creek is a creek in the United States, in Johnson County, Wyoming.There are several legends about the name. It was the site of a trading post and the site of battles in the American Indian Wars. It was also a locale of the Johnson County War....

. After two days, one of the invaders escaped and was able to contact the acting governor of Wyoming. Frantic efforts to save the besieged invaders ensued, and telegraphs to Washington resulted in intervention by President Benjamin Harrison
Benjamin Harrison
Benjamin Harrison was the 23rd President of the United States . Harrison, a grandson of President William Henry Harrison, was born in North Bend, Ohio, and moved to Indianapolis, Indiana at age 21, eventually becoming a prominent politician there...

. The Sixth Cavalry from Fort McKinney was ordered to proceed to the TA ranch and take custody of the invaders and save them from the posse. In the end, the invaders went free after the court venue was changed and the charges were dropped.

Border War

In 1910 the last conflict
Mexican Revolution
The Mexican Revolution was a major armed struggle that started in 1910, with an uprising led by Francisco I. Madero against longtime autocrat Porfirio Díaz. The Revolution was characterized by several socialist, liberal, anarchist, populist, and agrarianist movements. Over time the Revolution...

 of the Old West began when Mexican Carrancistas rebelled against their government. Fighting spread all across Mexico and along the Mexican-American border, several battles were fought between American soldiers and citizens against Mexicans. On many different occasions Mexican bandits crossed the border and raided American settlements. Also, thousands of Americans joined the rebellion in Mexico and fought at all of the major engagements in the north including the Battle of Ciudad Juarez
Battle of Ciudad Juárez
The First Battle of Ciudad Juárez took place in April and May 1911 between federal forces loyal to Porfirio Díaz and rebel forces of Francisco Madero, during the Mexican Revolution. Pascual Orozco and Pancho Villa commanded Madero's army which besieged Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. After two days of...

 in 1911 and the Siege of Naco in 1914. In 1916 an army of American cavalry invaded Mexico as part of the Punitive Expedition
Pancho Villa Expedition
The Pancho Villa Expedition—officially known in the United States as the Mexican Expedition and sometimes colloquially referred to as the Punitive Expedition—was a military operation conducted by the United States Army against the paramilitary forces of Mexican insurgent Francisco "Pancho" Villa...

, an attempt to capture the famous border bandit and rebel Pancho Villa
Pancho Villa
José Doroteo Arango Arámbula – better known by his pseudonym Francisco Villa or its hypocorism Pancho Villa – was one of the most prominent Mexican Revolutionary generals....

. By the end of the revolution the Old West era was coming to an end with the rise of modern society in the region.

End of the Old West

After the eleventh U.S. Census was taken in 1890, the superintendent announced that there was no longer a clear line of advancing settlement, and hence no longer a frontier in the continental United States. However, according to author Samuel Eliot Morison
Samuel Eliot Morison
Samuel Eliot Morison, Rear Admiral, United States Naval Reserve was an American historian noted for his works of maritime history that were both authoritative and highly readable. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1912, and taught history at the university for 40 years...

, in 1890, when the frontier was declared "over", there was still thousands of square miles of unsettled land which took another few decades to populate or utilize. In his highly influential Frontier Thesis
Frontier Thesis
The Frontier Thesis, also referred to as the Turner Thesis, is the argument advanced by historian Frederick Jackson Turner in 1893 that the origin of the distinctive egalitarian, democratic, aggressive, and innovative features of the American character has been the American frontier experience...

 in 1893, Frederick Jackson Turner
Frederick Jackson Turner
Frederick Jackson Turner was an American historian in the early 20th century. He is best known for his essay "The Significance of the Frontier in American History", whose ideas are referred to as the Frontier Thesis. He is also known for his theories of geographical sectionalism...

 concluded that the frontier was all but gone. But with the discovery of gold in the Klondike
Klondike Gold Rush
The Klondike Gold Rush, also called the Yukon Gold Rush, the Alaska Gold Rush and the Last Great Gold Rush, was an attempt by an estimated 100,000 people to travel to the Klondike region the Yukon in north-western Canada between 1897 and 1899 in the hope of successfully prospecting for gold...

 in 1896, a new frontier was opened up in the vast northern territory. Alaska
Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

 became known as "the last frontier".

By century's end, the population of the West had reached an average of two people per square mile, which was enough to be considered "settled". Towns and cities began to grow around industrial centers, transportation hubs, and farming areas. In 1880, San Francisco dwarfed all other Western cities with a population of nearly 250,000. Over opposition from mining and timber interests, the federal government began to take steps to preserve and manage the remaining public land and resources, hence exercising more control over the affairs of Westerners.

The mythologizing of the West began with minstrel shows and popular music in the 1840s. During the same period, P. T. Barnum
P. T. Barnum
Phineas Taylor Barnum was an American showman, businessman, scam artist and entertainer, remembered for promoting celebrated hoaxes and for founding the circus that became the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus....

 presented Indian chiefs, dances, and other Wild West exhibits in his museums, However, large scale awareness really took off when the dime novel
Dime novel
Dime novel, though it has a specific meaning, has also become a catch-all term for several different forms of late 19th-century and early 20th-century U.S...

 appeared in 1859, the first being Malaeska, the Indian Wife of the White Hunter. By simplifying reality and grossly exaggerating the truth, the novels captured the public's attention with sensational tales of violence and heroism, and fixed in the public's mind stereotypical images of heroes and villains—courageous cowboys and savage Indians, virtuous lawmen and ruthless outlaws, brave settlers and predatory cattlemen. Millions of copies and thousands of titles were sold. The novels relied on a series of predictable literary formulas appealing to mass tastes and were often written in as little as a few days. The most successful of all dime novels was Edward S. Ellis' Seth Jones (1860). Ned Buntline
Ned Buntline
Ned Buntline , was a pseudonym of Edward Zane Carroll Judson , an American publisher, journalist, writer and publicist best known for his dime novels and the Colt Buntline Special he is alleged to have commissioned from Colt's Manufacturing Company.-Naval and military experience:Edward Judson was...

's stories glamorized Buffalo Bill Cody and Edward L. Wheeler created "Deadwood Dick", "Hurricane Nell", and "Calamity Jane".
Buffalo Bill Cody grabbed the opportunity to hop on his own bandwagon and to promote his own legend as well as other Western stereotypes. He presented the first "Wild West" show in 1883, creating a caricature of the Old West with skits and demonstrations by Indians and cowboys hired for the occasion. He offered feats of roping, marksmanship, and riding, including those of sure-shooting Annie Oakley
Annie Oakley
Annie Oakley , born Phoebe Ann Mosey, was an American sharpshooter and exhibition shooter. Oakley's amazing talent and timely rise to fame led to a starring role in Buffalo Bill's Wild West show, which propelled her to become the first American female superstar.Oakley's most famous trick is perhaps...

. Cody took his show to Europe and was wildly received, further spreading the myth of the West to nations abroad.

Toward the close of the century, magazines like Harper's Weekly
Harper's Weekly
Harper's Weekly was an American political magazine based in New York City. Published by Harper & Brothers from 1857 until 1916, it featured foreign and domestic news, fiction, essays on many subjects, and humor...

featured illustrations by artists Frederic Remington
Frederic Remington
Frederic Sackrider Remington was an American painter, illustrator, sculptor, and writer who specialized in depictions of the Old American West, specifically concentrating on the last quarter of the 19th century American West and images of cowboys, American Indians, and the U. S...

, Charles M. Russell, and others, and married them to action-filled stories by writers like Owen Wister
Owen Wister
Owen Wister was an American writer and "father" of western fiction.-Early life:Owen Wister was born on July 14, 1860, in Germantown, a well-known neighborhood in the northwestern part of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His father, Owen Jones Wister, was a wealthy physician, one of a long line of...

, together conveying vivid images of the Old West to the public. Remington lamented the passing of an era he helped to chronicle when he wrote, "I knew the wild riders and the vacant land were about to vanish forever...I saw the living, breathing end of three American centuries of smoke and dust and sweat."

The discovery, exploration, settlement, exploitation, and conflicts of the "American Old West" form a unique tapestry of events, which has been celebrated by Americans and foreigners alike—in art, music, dance, novels, magazines, short stories, poetry, theater, video games, movies, radio, television, song, and oral tradition—which continues in the modern era.

See also

General
  • Cowboy action shooting
    Cowboy action shooting
    Cowboy Action Shooting , also known as Western Action Shooting or Single Action Shooting, is a competitive shooting sport that originated in California, USA, in the early 1980s...

     is a competitive shooting sport which originated in the early 1980s that requires shooters to compete using firearms typical of the mid-to-late 19th century including single action revolvers, lever action rifles (chambered in pistol calibers) and side by side double barrel shotguns or pump action shotguns with external hammers.
  • Cowboy hat
    The Cowboys (Cochise County)
    The Cowboys were a loosely associated group of outlaw cowboys in Pima and Cochise County, Arizona Territory in the late 19th century. They were cattle rustlers and robbers who rode across the border into Mexico and rounded up cattle that they then sold in the United States...

     a hat
  • Boss of the plains
    Boss of the plains
    The Boss of the Plains was a lightweight all-weather hat designed by John B. Stetson for the demands of the American west. It was intended to be durable, waterproof and elegant...

     a hat
  • Historical reenactment
    Historical reenactment
    Historical reenactment is an educational activity in which participants attempt torecreate some aspects of a historical event or period. This may be as narrow as a specific moment from a battle, such as the reenactment of Pickett's Charge at the Great Reunion of 1913, or as broad as an entire...

     : an activity in which participants recreate some aspects of a historical event or period.
  • National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
    National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
    The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is a museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, with more than 28,000 Western and American Indian art works and artifacts. The facility also has the world's most extensive collection of American rodeo, photographs, barbed wire, saddlery, and early rodeo trophies...

     : museum and art gallery, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, housing one of the largest collections in the world of Western, American cowboy, American rodeo, and American Indian art, artifacts, and archival materials.
  • Reno Gang
    Reno Gang
    The Reno Brothers Gang, also known as the Reno Gang and The Jackson Thieves, were a group of criminals that operated in the Midwestern United States during and just after the American Civil War. Though short-lived, they carried out the first three peacetime train robberies in U.S. history...

     : Southern Indiana post civil war gang. First Train Robbers in US History. 10 members lynched by vigilante
    Vigilante
    A vigilante is a private individual who legally or illegally punishes an alleged lawbreaker, or participates in a group which metes out extralegal punishment to an alleged lawbreaker....

     mob in 1868.
  • Rodeo
    Rodeo
    Rodeo is a competitive sport which arose out of the working practices of cattle herding in Spain, Mexico, and later the United States, Canada, South America and Australia. It was based on the skills required of the working vaqueros and later, cowboys, in what today is the western United States,...

     : demonstration of cattle wrangling
    Wrangler (profession)
    In North America, a wrangler is someone employed to handle animals professionally, especially horses, but also other types of animals. Wranglers also handle the horses and other animals during the making of motion pictures...

     skills.
  • The Oregon-California Trails Association
    Oregon-California Trails Association
    The Oregon-California Trails Association is an interdisciplinary organization based at Independence, Missouri, United States. OCTA is dedicated to the preservation and protection of overland emigrant trails and the emigrant experience....

     preserves, protects and shares the histories of emigrants who followed these trails westward.
  • Wanted poster
    Wanted poster
    A wanted poster is a poster distributed to let the public know of an alleged criminal whom authorities wish to apprehend. They will generally include either a picture of the alleged criminal when a photograph is available, or of a facial composite image produced by a police artist...

     : a poster, popular in mythic scenes of the west, let the public know of criminals whom authorities wish to apprehend.
  • Wild West Shows
    Wild West Shows
    Wild West Shows were traveling vaudeville performances in the United States and Europe. The first and prototypical wild west show was Buffalo Bill's, formed in 1883 and lasting until 1913...

     : a following of the wild west shows of the American frontier.


People
  • List of American Old West outlaws : list of known outlaw
    Outlaw
    In historical legal systems, an outlaw is declared as outside the protection of the law. In pre-modern societies, this takes the burden of active prosecution of a criminal from the authorities. Instead, the criminal is withdrawn all legal protection, so that anyone is legally empowered to persecute...

    s and gunfighters of the American frontier popularly known as the "Wild West".
  • Big Nose George
    Big Nose George
    George Parrott, also known as Big Nose George, George Manuse and George Warden, was a cattle rustler in the American Wild West in the late 19th century...

  • List of cowboys and cowgirls
  • Schoolmarm : A female teacher that usually works in a one-room schoolhouse
  • List of Western lawmen : list of notable law enforcement officials of the American frontier. They occupied positions as sheriff
    Sheriff
    A sheriff is in principle a legal official with responsibility for a county. In practice, the specific combination of legal, political, and ceremonial duties of a sheriff varies greatly from country to country....

    , marshal
    Marshal
    Marshal , is a word used in several official titles of various branches of society. The word is an ancient loan word from Old French, cf...

    , Texas Rangers
    Texas Ranger Division
    The Texas Ranger Division, commonly called the Texas Rangers, is a law enforcement agency with statewide jurisdiction in Texas, and is based in Austin, Texas...

    , and others.
  • Gunfighter

:Category:Gunmen of the American Old West
:Category:Lawmen of the American Old West
:Category:Outlaws of the American Old West

Fiction
  • Chris Enss
    Chris Enss
    Chris Enss is an American author and screenwriter. Enss has written more than 20 books on the subject of women in the Old West, and has collaborated with producer Howard Kazanjian on four books, including two about Roy Rogers and Dale Evans....

     : author of historical nonfiction that documents the forgotten women of the Old West.
  • Zane Grey
    Zane Grey
    Zane Grey was an American author best known for his popular adventure novels and stories that presented an idealized image of the Old West. Riders of the Purple Sage was his bestselling book. In addition to the success of his printed works, they later had second lives and continuing influence...

     : author of many popular novels on the Old West
  • Karl May
    Karl May
    Karl Friedrich May was a popular German writer, noted mainly for adventure novels set in the American Old West, and similar books set in the Orient and Middle East . In addition, he wrote stories set in his native Germany, in China and in South America...

     : best selling German writer of all time, noted chiefly for wild west books set in the American West.
Winnetou
Winnetou
Winnetou is a fictional Native American hero of several novels written by Karl May in German, including the sequels Winnetou I through Winnetou IV....

 : American-Indian hero of several novels written by Karl May.
  • Deadlands
    Deadlands
    Deadlands is a genre-mixing alternate history roleplaying game which combines the Western and horror genres, with some Steampunk elements. It was written by Shane Lacy Hensley and published by Pinnacle Entertainment Group....

     : an alternate history western horror roleplaying game.
  • Dust Devils
    Dust Devils
    Dust Devils is an independently published role-playing game set in the Old West, written by Matt Snyder. It was voted the 2002 Indie RPG of the Year; it also won the Best Synergy of Game and Rules category, as well as placing in the Best Production and Most Innovative Game categories.The game uses...

     : a western roleplaying game modeled after Clint Eastwood films and similar darker Westerns.
  • List of Western computer and video games: a list of computer and video games patterned after Westerns.

Further reading

  • Lamar, Howard, ed. The New Encyclopedia of the American West (1998); this is a revised version of Reader's Encyclopedia of the American West ed. by Howard Lamar (1977)
  • Jules David Prown, Nancy K. Anderson, and William Cronon, eds. Discovered Lands, Invented Pasts: Transforming Visions of the American West (1994)

External links

Culture

History

Media
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