300,000 Traveled Oregon Trail 1840 S-50 S

300,000 Traveled Oregon Trail 1840 S-50 S

The Way West

George Catlin – painting & sketching “the looks and customs of the vanishing race of Native man in America – set out to record the grace and dignity of their history & customs

300,000 traveled Oregon trail 1840’s-50’s

Pushed into the LA Purchase – plains, deserts, mountains & ocean coast few Americans had seen before

People of diverse cultures – Plains Indians, Mexicans of SW – white people convinced of superiority and God given right to defeat and subjugate those in their way

Manifest Destiny – justification for expansionist Polk & Mexican American War

  1. The Agricultural Frontier
  • 5.8 million in 1800 --- 23 million by 1850 – shift westward 1 in 10 W of Appalachian in 1800 --- by 1850 half did
  • Size of US more than 3X in 1st half of 1800’s – 6-8 children living to adolescence
  • Declining soil fertility & rising pop. – common desire for economic opportunity – sectioned by geography and slave/free
  1. The Crowded East

1. Heading west did not guarantee success but was best option to land starved easterners looking to raise a family

2. By the early 19th century NE was out of land for young men – even VT felt overcrowded

3. S land was productive but expensive – mid-Atlantic tied to wheat (commercialized) – 1/3-1/2 of the young men in NJ & PN

landless – they headed west (Scots-Irish & German)

4. Slave states along coast high pressure to move – soil more exhausted and landholdings more concentrated – not enoughland for younger sons of even the wealthy

5. West had abundant, accessible land ($2-$3 an acre)

6. Public policy and private aspirations key to preserving American Freedom

7. Price and amount of land you needed to buy dropped – The Preemption Act of 1841 – right to purchase up to 160 acresminimum @ $1.25 per acre

  1. The Old Northwest

1. 1810-1840 OH, IN & IL 10X – end of War of 1812 open region to flood of migrants

2. One stream of Northern migrants and one stream of Southern migrants

3.Became a mosaic of settlements – NE and upstate NYers spread over Upper Midwest (OH,

IN, IL, WS & MI) – antislavery –- Southerners settled in southern OH, IN, IL and KY

distrusting of Yankees and centralized authority

4.Took 10 years hard labor to create 80 acre farm – clear woods, cultivate soil, grow food,

tend to livestock etc.

5.Claims Clubs – helped intimidated land speculators until locals had acquired land they

wanted (help raise cabins/barns)

6. Initially territories built on bartering – eventually more commercialized agriculture comes

about with steamboats, canals &RR

7. 1st major market down the Oh & MS Rivers – corn & hogs – Eventually Erie Canal opened

up upper Midwest

8. 1840’s wheat production skyrocketed – new plows – mechanical reaper led to 12 acres a

day (6X as much previously)

9. Commercial crop growth in west led to increase in Eastern manufacturing (symbiotic

relationship) – leads to MI, IA & WS

10. Favorable farm prices & dropping transportation costs – led to disposable income leads to

growth of cities on RR lines

  1. The Old Southwest
  1. “Alabama Fever” – 1850 600,000 settlers from MD, VA and Carolina’s living south and west bringing 800,000 slaves with them –soaring cotton prices post war and crushing NA opened land in Black Belt
  2. 1830’s cotton prices high again – NA forced out – less than 30 years 2 new slave states

(MS, AL, MO, AK, FL & TX)

  1. Both plantation and small farmers – Alabama a “garden of plenty” compared to old fields in


  1. Cotton grow with 210 frost free days – cotton gin (removal of seeds 50X faster), GB textile

industry, fertile land, availablelabor ----- 9% of world cotton production in 1800 to 68% by 1850

5. Many typical settlers on southern frontier poor working farmers – with no slaves

6. Two waves of Yeomen farmers – 1st were hunters, restless transient group spread from

Western Carolina’s-TX andmeasured wealth in livestock and were quick to moved out when

2nd group started to clear land

7. 2nd wave were the farmers – diversified agriculture aimed at feeding families (corn & pork)

and his labor was his family

8. Old SW was wealthier society (cotton money) in 1850 – more important to national

development as well because of its chiefcommodity

9. By 1840’s rural communities in Old NW supporting towns & cities – By 1850’s Midwest

almost as urbanized as NE andnearly half the labor force no longer worked on farms

10. Old SW remained predominantly agricultural – once land was settled the next generation

continued moving west – By1850’s KY, TN, AL & MS losing more migrants

  1. The Frontier of the Plains Indians
  • Pike & Long had promoted the idea of a Great American Desert
  • Horse mounted Indian tribes (Sioux) – before 1840’s fur traders worked with these tribes – Oregon trail is going to lead white settlers into this area and change it forever
  1. Tribal Lands
  1. 350,000 NA plains & mountains of Trans-Miss. West – agricultural tribes (Kansas, Osages, Omaha, Arikara, MandanHidatsa) and nomadic hunting tribes (Sioux, Crow, Cheyenne & Arapaho)
  2. Platte River to Red River for the tribes of the Indian Removal Act of 1830 – boundaries violated by nomadic NA tribes and

White settlers

3. Black Hawk’s War of 1832 (Sauks & Foxes) – 1838 Territory of Iowa both pushed NA out

4. Pawnees were the hardest hit by invading tribes and whites taking their lands

5. Pawnees signed a Treaty to leave Platte River Valley in exchange for subsidies and military

protection – neither of whichhappened and where eventually dispersed by both NA & whites

  1. Sioux were able to hold their own against white settlers – guns from the French they

dominated prairies west of MO

  1. Sioux learned how to use horses (other plains tribes) – buffalo hunting – transportation of

materials – mobile warfare meltedinto an Indian Warrior-Hunter culture

  1. They fought other tribes not to kill but to dominate land (counting coup) – did not feel peace

with others worth a life or two

  1. LA Terr. Was where the Sioux hunted buffalo in summer & trapped beaver in the winter –

held great trading fairs toexchange goods

  1. Sioux have to go farther to keep up with demand for buffalo hides and diminished beavers

– pushed aside weaker tribes

  1. Epidemics helps Sioux, because of their nomadic ways – were vaccinated by BIA – and

their population grew duringsmallpox outbreak of 1837

  1. By 1850 – western Sioux 25,000 – pirates of the Missouri – TJ stressed to have good


  1. US could not force them into dependence during the 1st half of 19th century

Territories occupied by Plains Indians in the mid 19th century

B. The Fur Traders

1.Golden Age 1820’s-30’s – trappers blazed trials whites would eventually follow

2. Rendezvous system (annual fair to bring traders together) – broke the Hudson Bay Co.

dominance & exchanged guns,traps, tobacco, whiskey and other goods

3.Trappers married NA (40%) – poor living conditions – 80% mortality rate

4. Many fleeing the confinements & comforts of white civilization – loved the beauty of


5. Smallpox and diminished furbearing animals lead to decline of this lifestyle & WHISKEY!

6. Main corridor – Lower Missouri to North Platte to South Pass – this became the main path

followed by settlers

C. The Oregon Trail

1. 15,000 made this 2000 mile trek during the 1840’s-50 – walking alongside wagons up to 15

miles a day

  1. Oregon Country still jointly administered – Missionaries 1st permanent settlements in 1830’s

in Willamette Valley south ofColumbia River

  1. Missionaries continually failed – tried to change culture. N/A held on to traditional ways,

numbers already thinned by disease

  1. 1st large party left Independence MO 1842 (Willamette Valley) – competition began to outfit

(supply) migrants in different towns

5. Most were young families looking to farm to avoid debt

6. Men made decision – women help tremendously – study of diaries showed 1/3 were in favor

7. 1840’s 5,000 out of 90,000 died – Cholera was main killer, then accidents THEN N/A

8. Families cooperating led to success – wagon trains with contracts – could not leave too

early or too late

9. “Oregon Fever” – changed ecology & economy of the Great Plains – Plains Indians stood in

way of progress

10. BIA led Ft. Laramie Treaty of 1851 – limited movements for $50,000 annual compensation

for 50 years – restricted Sioux to hunting north of Platte River

11. Standoff between the Sioux & US Govt

  1. The Mexican Borderlands
  1. Politics, Expansion and War