Loading...

The Old West, also called the Wild West or American West, region, which is mostly west of the Great Plains, is linked in popular imagination with the last frontier of American settlement.

How a Rivalry Between Two Cherokee Chiefs Led to the Trail of Tears and the Collapse of Their Nation


A century-long blood feud between two Cherokee chiefs shaped the history of the Cherokee tribe far more than anyone, even the reviled President Andrew Jackson. They were John Ross and the Ridge. Today I’m talking with John Sedgwick about the fall of the Cherokee Nation due to the clash of these two figures.

Loading...
Loading...

The Ridge (1771–1839)—or He Who Walks on Mountains—was a Cherokee chief and warrior who spoke no English but whose exploits on the battlefield were legendary. John Ross (1790–1866) was the Cherokees’ primary chief for nearly forty years yet spoke not a word of Cherokee and proudly displayed the Scottish side of his mixed-blood heritage. To protect their sacred landholdings from American encroachment, these two men negotiated with almost every American president from George Washington through Abraham Lincoln. At first friends and allies, they worked together to establish the modern Cherokee Nation in 1827. However, the two founders eventually broke on the subject of removal; the Ridge believed resisting President Jackson and his army would be hopeless, while Ross wanted to stay and fight for the lands the Cherokee had occupied since long before the white settlers’ arrival in the Old West.

The failure of these two respected leaders to compromise bred a hatred that led to a bloody civil war within the Cherokee Nation, the tragedy of the Trail of Tears, and finally, the two factions battling each other on opposite sides of the Civil War. Sedgwick writes, “It is the work of politics to resolve such conflicts peacefully, but Cherokee politics were not up to the job. For a society that had always operated by consensus, there was little tradition of compromise.” Although the Cherokee were one of the most culturally and socially advanced Native American tribes in history, with their own government, language, newspapers, and religion, Sedgwick notes, “The warrior culture offered few gradations between war and peace, all or nothing.”

Quackery: A Brief History of Quack Medicines & Peddlers in the Old West

Quackery refers to unproven or fraudulent medical practices, often through the sale or application of “quack medicines”. The word “quack” derives from the archaic Dutch word “quacksalver,” meaning “boaster who applies a salve.” A closely associated German word, “Quacksalber,” means “questionable salesperson .” In the Middle Ages the word quack meant “shouting”. The quacksalvers sold their wares on the market shouting in a loud voice.

Quack medicines were especially prevalent in the British Empire for centuries, including in the American colonies. Following the American Revolution and the War of 1812, American products began to dominate the domestic market. The American term for quack medicine was “snake oil”, a reference to sales pitches in which the sometimes outrageous claims of medicinal successes were attributed to the exotic ingredients of their product. Those who sold them were called “snake oil peddlers” or “snake oil salesmen”. These opportunists often used enthusiastic and deceptive sales techniques, including “fire and brimstone” sermons, theatrical productions, and confidence tricks. These salesmen often skipped town before the scam was fully discovered. In American literature, Huck Finn encounters two such grifters during his rafting expedition into the South in Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In the end, they are tarred and feathered and run out of town. Others manufacturers found success through of the noble savage stereotype of the American Indian in product names and advertising.

Bottle of "Microbe Killer", c.1880s. "Germ, Bacteria, or Fungus Destroyer, Wm. Radam's Microbe Killer Registered Trade Mark Dec. 13 1887 Cures All Diseases"
Bottle of “Microbe Killer” c. 1880s (2 views)

The Quack medicine trade eventually became a victim of the Progressive movement’s efforts to regulate business. Muckraking Journalist Samuel Hopkins Adam excoriated the industry in a series of articles titled “The Great American Fraud”, published in Colliers Weekly starting in late 1905. On February 21, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Pure Food and Drug Act. Some quacks were enormously successful. German immigrant William Radam started selling “Microbe Killer” throughout the United States in the 1880s. His project claimed to “Cure All Diseases,” and even embossed the promise on the glass bottles in which the medicine was packaged. In fact, Radam’s medicine was a therapeutically useless (and in large quantities actively poisonous) dilute solution of sulfuric acid, colored with red wine. Quack medicines often had no effective ingredients, while others contained morphine or laudanum, which numbed rather than cured. Some did have medicinal effects; for example mercury, silver and arsenic compounds may have helped some infections, willow bark contained salicylic acid (substance very similar to aspirin), and quinine from bark was an effective treatment for malaria. Knowledge of appropriate use and dosage was poor. New regulations required the removal of the more outrageously dangerous contents from patent and proprietary medicines, and forced quack medicine proprietors to stop making some of their more blatantly dishonest claims.

In 1911, the reformers suffered a setback when the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Johnson that the prohibition of falsifications referred only to the ingredients of the medicine. Companies were again free to make false claims about their products. Adams returned to the attack with another series of articles in Collier’s Weekly, and a collection of his essays were published by the American Medical Association in 1912. That same year, congress responded by so U.S. v. Johnson with the Sherley Amendment to the Pure Food and Drug Act, which prohibited labeling medicines with false therapeutic claims intended to defraud the purchaser (a standard difficult to prove). Two years later, congress passed the Harrison Narcotic Act, imposing limits on the amount of opium, opium-derived products, and cocaine allowed in products available to the public. The law also required prescriptions for products exceeding the allowable limit of narcotics, and mandated increased record-keeping for physicians and pharmacists that dispense narcotics. Congress would again take up the issue during the New Deal legislative sessions of the 1930s.

With the advent of electricity in the United States in the first decades of the 20th Century, Quack electrical devices also were widely manufactured. Most devices used mild electrical current or ultraviolet light and, like their liquid and pill counterparts, promised a multitude of cures.

Loading...
Loading...

Colliers
Collier’s Weekly featuring “The Great American Fraud” article by Samuel Hopkins Adams

Advertisements & Products

Absorbine, Jr.
Absorbine, Jr., Scribner’s Magazine, May 1917
Allen's Lung Balsam
Allen’s Lung Balsam ad, 1884
Bailey's Teething Ring (and other hygiene items listed)
Bailey’s Teething Ring (and other hygiene items listed), Century Illustrated Monthly, December 1889
Balsam of Boneset
Balsam of Boneset (cures all cough and lung diseases)
Barry's Tricopherous
Barry’s Tricopherous, Century Illustrated Monthly, May 1893
Beecham's Pills
Beecham’s Pills, Harper’s Monthly, January 1890
Beecham's Pills
Beecham’s Pills, Scribner’s Magazine, May 1891
Bell-Cap-Sic Plasters
Bell-Cap-Sic Plasters, Scribner’s Magazine, January 1894
Blair's PillsBlair’s Pills, Harper’s Monthly, September 1900 Bloxam's Electric Hair Restorer
Bloxam’s Electric Hair Restorer, c.1890
Brown's Bronchial Troches
Brown’s Bronchial Troches, Century Illustrated Monthly, April 1885
Burnham's Tonic
Burnham’s Tonic, Country Gentleman Magazine, February 1894
Case's SyrupCase’s Syrup, c.1890 Crosby Brain Food
Crosby Brain Food, Scribner’s Magazine, June 1882
Cuticura
Cuticura, Century Illustrated Monthly, January 1890
Dr. Ayer's Pectoral Plaster
Dr. Ayer’s Pectoral Plaster, Harper’s Monthly, January 1898
Dr. Bridgeman's Ring
Dr. Bridgeman’s Ring, Scribner’s Magazine, December 1892
Dr. Marshall's Catarrh Cure
Dr. Marshall’s Catarrh Cure, Scribner’s Monthly, March 1887
Dr. Scott's Electric BeltDr. Scott’s Electric Belt, Century Illustrated Monthly, April 1884 Dr. Scott's Electric Corset & Belts
Dr. Scott’s Electric Corset & Belts, Century Illustrated Monthly, September 1886
Loading...
Loading...
Dr. Scott's Electric Foot Salve
Dr. Scott’s Electric Foot Salve, Century Illustrated Monthly, May 1889
Dr. Scott's Electric Hair Brush
Dr. Scott’s Electric Hair Brush, Scribner’s Magazine, July 1898
Dr. Scott's Electric Plaster
Dr. Scott’s Electric Plaster, Century Illustrated Monthly, December 1888
German Asthma Cure
German Asthma Cure, March 1887
Groff Malaria Cure
Groff Malaria Cure, Century Illustrated Monthly, May 1885
Harter's Iron Tonic
Harter’s Iron Tonic Victorian Trade Card (2 views) 
Metcalf's Coca Wine
Metcalf’s Coca Wine, Century Illustrated Monthly, June 1888
Microbe Killer Jug Advertisment
Microbe Killer Jug Advertisement (2 views)
Mrs. Winslow's Syrup
Mrs. Winslow’s Syrup, Cosmopolitan Magazine, July 1900
Nicholl's Compound Syrup
Nicholl’s Compound Syrup of Blackberry Victorian Trade Card
Dr. H Sache's Oxydonor "Victory"
Dr. H Sache’s Oxydonor “Victory”, Scribner’s Magazine, July 1898
Roll of Dr. Hinkle's "Pill Cascara Cathartic"
Roll of Dr. Hinkle’s “Pill Cascara Cathartic”
Paine's Celery Compound
Paine’s Celery Compound, Scribner’s Magazine, April 1884
Pectoria
Pectoria, c.1890
Piso's Consumption Cure
Piso’s Consumption Cure, Harper’s Monthly, July 1891
Pond's Extract
Pond’s Extract, Century Illustrated Monthly, January 1886
Ridge's Food
Ridge’s Food, Century Illustrated Monthly, July 1886
Scott's Emulsion
Scott’s Emulsion, Century Illustrated Monthly, February 1896
Sexual System & its Derangements
Sexual System & its Derangements (2 views)
Syrup of Figs
Syrup of Figs, Harper’s Monthly, July 1891
Dr. Watson's Worm Syrup
Dr. Watson’s Worm Syrup, c.1890
Collier's Weekly with Dangerous Drugs Cover, May 13, 1912
Collier’s Weekly with Dangerous Drugs Cover, May 13, 1912

The Meaning of Dreams
The Meaning of Dreams Advertising Pamphet
“The Meaning of Dreams”
This 32 page booklet, published around 1900, is actually a thinly disguised advertisement for Dr. Williams’ “Pink Pills for Pale People” (see the image of a roll of these pills below). Some of the booklet is an alphabetical listing of things people dream about, and what those dreams mean. The introduction states, “we suggest that this little book be retained for the amusement and pleasure it may afford, even though the reader may not treat the subject with the seriousness which it receives from many.” The rest of the book is filled with testimonials of product users whose stories, published as newpaper stories, confirm the miraculous healing powers of Pink Pills For Pale People.Diseases allegedly cured by this product include: Poor and Water Blook, Anemia, Chlorosis or Green Sickness, Dizziness, Palpitation of the Heart, Nervous Headahce, Loss of Appetite, Indigestion and Dyspepsia, After-Effects of the Grip, Eruptions and Pimples, Sick Headache, Pale or Sallow Complexion, Swelling of Hands or Feet, General Debility, Depression of Spirits, Insomnia or Loss of Sleep, General

Muscular Weakness, Shortness of Breath on Slight Exertion, Spinal Troubles, Partial Paralysis, Locomotor Ataxia, Chronic or Acute Rheumatism, Sciatica, Neuralgia, Chronic Erypsipelas, Catarrh of the Stomach, Nervous Fits, St. Vitus’ Dance, Swelled Glands, Scrofula, Fever Sores, Rickets, After-Effects of Acute Diseases such as Fevers, All Female Weakness, Tardy or Irregular Periods, Leucorrhea, Suppression of the Menses, Loss of Vital Forces, Loss of Memory, Ringing in the Ears, Hysteria, etc. The product was made from iron oxide and magnesium sulfate. View the complete pamphlet, “The Meaning of Dreams”

Roll of Pink Pills For Pale People
Roll of Dr. Williams’ Pink Pills for Pale People

What is Manifest Destiny?

Manifest Destiny refers to the attitude in America during the 1800’s when pioneers settled the country and believed that the U.S. was destined to stretch across the whole continent, from the one coast to the other. The phrase was used by politicians at the time and first published in an 1845 article about the annexation of Texas in the U.S. Magazine and Democratic Review. The manifest destiny belief is said to have helped to fuel the war with Mexico and the removal of Native Americansin the Old West.

An Attitude of Nationalism and Superiority

At the time, Americans had just won Independence through the Revolution, which made them very nationalistic.  For many pioneers, it had become a mission to populate America and they moved west in droves to settle there.

Many settlers were very religious and believed that God has blessed the growth of America. Native Americans were seen as heathens and American missionaries saw it as their mission to bring Christianity to them. Other Americans saw the Native Americans as inferior, causing many racial clashes.

Five Thanksgiving Facts that your History Teacher Left Out

Most Americans are familiar with the magic of Thanksgiving. A holiday associated with family reunions, football, Black Friday sales, turkeys, pumpkin pies, pilgrims, and Indians. However, not many are aware of its somewhat grimmer origins. Typically, what we are taught in school is an idealized historical account of what actually took place in the first pilgrim harvest festivity.

Loading...
Loading...

The first Thanksgiving, along with many that followed, did not go down the way your teacher told you. Here are some little known facts that you can throw around the dinner table this year as you nibble on a plate of marshmallow yams.

The First Thanksgiving did not Take Place in Plymouth, MA

Despite popular belief, the first Pilgrim Thanksgiving celebration documented in America took place in Newfoundland in 1587. Similar celebrations were documented in Texas in 1598, Virginia in 1610, and Maine in 1607. However, to give credit to the Plymouth colonists, they were the first group of Europeans who actually held the celebration more than once. It appears the other colonies only did a one-time feast.

Even so, it was not the Pilgrims who celebrated the first Thanksgiving. In 1564, a group of French Huguenots celebrated their own Thanksgiving in Florida for safe landing. When the Spanish heard about this, they sent their own group of explorers and held yet another Thanksgiving, this time with the native Tamicuans tribe.

FDR Vs. Turkey Day

Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November because of a standard set by President Abraham Lincoln. However, in 1939, Roosevelt tried to change the date to the third week of November in an attempt to increase Christmas shopping during the Great Depression.

Americans were not too happy with the idea. Thousands of angry letters overflowed the Whitehouse mailbox. Professional Football players, calendar makers and schools were all thrown off schedule. The whole situation prompted Congress to pass a law declaring that Thanksgiving would always be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.

People Ate Turkey on the First Thanksgiving

Most experts agree that guests in the first Thanksgiving ate some type of bird, however, they do not have any clue as to what species it actually was. Most of our Thanksgiving knowledge comes from Edward Wilson’s letters about the first Thanksgiving held in Plymouth. He talked about eating venison and some kind of bird meat.

Loading...
Loading...

The idea of turkey comes from the Victorians, who celebrated the holiday by eating these birds. Given the location, the initial Plymouth Thanksgiving likely included an abundance of oysters and lobsters, since there was a lot of seafood in the area. There were also no potatoes or sweet potatoes at the feast, as these vegetables were not common in North American during the time.

Pilgrims Wore Buckles on their Shoes and Hats

While most modern pilgrim costumes include a hat with a shiny buckle, the early pilgrims did not actually follow this fashion. Buckles were not in style during the first Plymouth Thanksgiving. In fact, pilgrims used leather laces to tie their shoes and hats. Buckled fashion did not become cool until the end of the 17th century.

Similarly, most of the Pilgrim paintings that we see today include a lot of black and white clothing. However, Pilgrims wore colorful clothes in their day-to-day lives, with shades of red, blue, yellow, and gray. The reason we always see them depicted in black clothes is because formal fashion was normally black. In other words, when people wanted to look their best for a painting, they wore black suits and dresses.

The Native Americans Loved Thanksgiving Feasts

Although historians believe that over 90 Wampanoag tribe members attended the first Plymouth Thanksgiving, their presence was more of a political move rather than a fun dinner with friends. The Indians held their own Thanksgiving celebrations, which they had been practicing way before the Europeans invaded their land. In fact, the Wampanoag never attended another pilgrim thanksgiving after that.

Today, in light of the genocide, devastation, and suffering caused by early white settlers, many Native Americans view Thanksgiving as a day of mourning.

What was the Oregon Trail?

The Oregon Trail (also known as the Oregon-California trial) was a 2,200 mile route stretching from Missouri to Oregon that was travelled by the early Wild West pioneers in the 1800s. The trail was the only way for settlers to reach the West Coast via land and over 500,000 have made the trip with ox and mule wagons before the first transcontinental railroad was completed. Wagons that could travel at a speed of 15 miles a day took between four and six months to complete the trip via the Oregon Trial, while taking the sea route took a full year.

Loading...
Loading...

Origins of the Trial

Originally, what became the Oregon Trail used to be a series of unconnected Native American trails. The route was then expanded by Fur Traders who used it to transport their pelts to meeting points and trading posts. Missionaries also used the fairly faint trail in the 1830s to establish churches in the Northwest. It was only by the 1840s when the trail however started to be used on a larger scale by the first settlers after Joel Walker made the trip with a family. In 1843, wagon trains of 120 wagons, 800 people and 5,000 cattle used the trail and in 1848 gold diggers also flocked to California via the trail. Towns, trading posts, military posts and smaller roads sprang off the Oregon Trial for the next 30 years.

Decline of the Trial

With the completion of the Central Pacific and the Portland, Oregon, Union Pacific railroads between 1869 and 1884 the use of the Oregon Trail started to decline rapidly. Travelling by train simply became a shorter, safer and more comfortable option.

Reasons for Westward Expansion

What were the reasons for Westward expansion? Ever since the first pioneers settled in the United States at the East , the country has been expanding westward. When President Thomas Jefferson bought the Louisiana territory from the French government in 1803, it doubled the size of the existing United States. Jefferson believed that, for the republic to survive, westward expansion was necessary to create independent, virtuous citizens as owners of small farms. He wrote that those who “labor the earth” are God’s chosen people and greatly encouraged westward expansion. The pioneers who flocked to the Old West, all had their own set of reasons for taking on the long, treacherous journey to settle there.

Reasons for Moving West

  • There was a vast amount of land that could be obtained cheaply
  • Great reports were continually sent back East about how fruitful and wonderful the West is, sparking a lot of interest.
  • The constraints of European civilization had a lot of people stuck in factory and other low-paid jobs. For the working class it was almost impossible to work themselves up in life, something that was very doable in the New World.
  • Mining opportunities, silver, and the gold rush was a big draw for many
  • The expanding railroad provided easier access to supplies, making life in the West easier.
  • Certain wheat strains were discovered and was capable of adapting to the climate of the plains
  • Being a “cowboy” and working on farms with cattle was romanticized
  • The lure of adventure

Lost Treasures of the American Old West

The American Old West was a wild place. It was an era full of cowboys, gunslingers, outlaws, and wars. The European settlers driving the expansion into the west faced many hardships. They had to force their way to the Pacific Ocean by driving the Native Americans away from their lands. Ultimately, this chaotic environment created a culture susceptible to violence and the breakdown of law and order.

After the expansion, in 1848, the fresh settlers discovered something that would add even more flames to the chaos – gold, lots of it. Around 175,000 people crossed from east to west in search of treasure. Some people found their riches, and others lost everything in the effort. And there were those who found fortune, in one way or another, only to lose it. The tales of these lost treasures has haunted the Old West for centuries.

Holden Dick’s Stolen Gold

In 1881, on a beautiful fall afternoon, a freight wagon carrying a large load of gold was moving through the sparkling California hills. Three gun-slinging cowboys guarded the wagon, which was carrying the ore from Nevada to Sacramento. But as the bouncing vehicle approached the area of Modoc County, a lone and daring bandit suddenly intersected it, and stopped it right in its tracks.

He snuck up to the wagon and shot the three guards down, one by one, and then forced the driver and remaining passengers to walk as far south as their feet could take them. While they walked on, Mr. Dick got on the wagon, tied his own horse to the back of it and drove north. It is believed that he buried his loot somewhere around the western slopes of the Warner Mountains.

Loading...
Loading...

The crime went unsolved for years, until an Indian by the name of Holden Dick began to trade small amounts of gold. He would spend all his money in taverns and saloons, and then run off into the wild when he ran out. After a few weeks he would come back to the villages with a fresh supply of gold. Around that time, Holden was arrested for killing a man in a bar fight. The authorities investigated the case, and were able to figure out that this was also the man who had robbed the freight wagon a few years ago. It is said he kept the gold in a cave in the Warner Mountains, but Holden died in prison without telling a soul about its precise location.

The Lost Dutch Oven Mine

Tom Scofield, a wondering railroad worker, was taking a long ride through the Clipper Mountains of northwest California. On his way up the mountain, he ran into what appeared to be an Old Spanish camp. There were dusty pots and pans lying around, as well as several rusty mining tools and a large Dutch oven. Scofield also discovered a mineshaft with seven human skeletons inside of it.

Since he had spent most of the day exploring the camp, he decided to stay for the night. When he woke up the next morning he tumbled into the Old Dutch oven, and a mound of sparkling gold nuggets came flushing out. Tom gathered as much gold as he could fit into his pockets, and took a train to Los Angeles. He spent all of his money partying it up in the big city. When Scofield finally found himself sober, and completely broke, he tried going back to the Clipper Mountains, but was never able to relocate the Spanish camp. Since then, no one else has been able to locate the infamous Dutch Oven Mine.

The Gold Coins of Bloody Spring

In the American Old West, tensions between European settlers and the Indians ran dangerously high. The Native Americans were fed up with the white man invading their precious lands. This friction made it quite dangerous for travelers exiting and entering California.

On one occasion, the Indians slaughtered a train full of settlers in an area called Bloody Springs. Only one passenger survived to tell the tale. He told authorities that the train was carrying $60,000 in gold coins, but before he escaped, he witnessed the Native Americans throwing the gold into the bottom of the Pit River Gorge. Still to this day, a gold coin or two is occasionally found around the area of Bloody Springs.

American Old West Timeline

This American Old West Timeline lists the critical years of the Western American territory’s discovery, colonization, and settlement.

Loading...
Loading...
Date Summary Event
6th April
1830
Mormons founded Joseph Smith founded the Mormon religion. Smith claimed that, after seeing a vision of an angel called Moroni, he discovered some hidden gold plates bearing inscriptions. The translation of the inscriptions was published in 1830 in the ‘Book of Mormon’. The official name of the religion is The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints but they are more commonly known as Mormons.
26th May 1830 Indian Removal Act The US Government decreed that the Indian tribes could freely inhabit the Great Plains. A Permanent Indian Frontier was established on the eastern edge of the Great Plains.
Loading...
Loading...
Spring 1837 Economic Depression An economic depression caused the collapse of many banks in the East. People lost their savings, wages fell and unemployment rose.
1839 Nauvoo founded The Mormons built their ‘holy city’ in Illinois. They called their city Nauvoo
Spring 1843 Fort Bridger established Jim Bridger, a former mountain man, built Fort Bridger on the Oregon Trail. Fort Bridger contained a store where travellers could purchase supplies as well as a workshop and forge where wagons could be repaired.
1843 Great Migration About a thousand people made the journey West to Oregon. This was the highest number of migrants to make the journey west in one year so far and became known as the Great Migration.
27th June 1844 Joseph Smith Killed Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon religion, and his brother Hyrum were shot and killed while imprisoned for destroying a printing press.
July 1845 Manifest Destiny John O’Sullivan, editor of the New York newspaper ‘The Morning Post’, first used this phrase to express the long held belief that white Americans had a God-given right to occupy the entire North American continent.
1846 – 1847 Mormons move to Salt Lake Following the death of the Mormon leader, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young decided to take the Mormons away from the persecution they faced in the East and to build a new life for them at the Great Salt Lake.
24th January 1848 Gold discovered in California James Marshall, a carpenter employed by John Sutter to build a mill at Sutter’s Fort, discovered gold. Initially news of the discovery was kept secret but once it became known people from the East flocked to California hoping to find gold and make their fortune. Those who arrived in 1849 became known as the ‘Forty-niners’.
Loading...
Loading...
1850 Stagecoach Wells Fargo established the stagecoach which allowed travellers to pay to be transported by stagecoach.
17th September 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty This treaty between the US Government and the Indian tribes redefined the Indian homelands. The treaty stated that these lands would belong to the Indians and that they would not be entered by white settlers. The Indians were to be given provisions for a period of ten years as compensation for the loss of land.
1854 Homesteaders The first homesteaders began to move onto the Great Plains.
3rd April 1860 Pony Express founded The Waddell and Russell freight company established the Pony Express. Relay stations were set up across north America and riders carried mail from one station to the next.
1861 Fort Wise Treaty This treaty established the Sand Creek Reservation for the Cheyenne tribe.
22nd October 1861 Telegraph The first telegraph message was sent across America
1862 Pacific Railways Act This Act established two companies whose purpose was to construct a railway across America. The Union Pacific Railway was established in the East to build the railway to Missouri and then continue west. The Central Pacific Railway would build the railway from Sacramento and then continue east.
20th May 1862 The Homestead Act This Act offered anyone prepared to settle in the Old West 160 acres of land for free provided they built a home and farmed the land for five years.
Loading...
Loading...
August 1862 Little Crow’s War This was a revolt by the Santee Sioux led by chief Little Crow in protest against the reservations. The Santee Sioux had moved onto a reservation that had poor land and their crops failed. Compensation payments that had been promised by the government had not been delivered and the tribe faced starvation. In August 1862 the Santee Sioux warriors attacked the government Agency. They continued to attack white settlers and the army for three months before being defeated by the army.
1863 Cheyenne Uprising The Cheyenne had agreed by the terms of the Fort Wise Treaty 1861 to move onto the Sand Creek Reservation. However, the land was very poor and survival for the Indians was virtually impossible. In 1863 faced with starvation, they began to attack wagon trains and steal food.
29th November 1864 Sand Creek Massacre An armed force, led by Colonel Chivington, attacked Black Kettle’s Cheyenne camp at Sand Creek. The motive for the attack was punishment for the raids on wagon trains. 163 Indians, including women and children, were killed and mutilated.
1866 The Long Drive Texas cattlemen used cowboys to drive cattle to the northern states.
Summer 1867 Red Cloud’s War The Sioux chief, Red Cloud, was furious when white settlers began using the Bozeman Trail which passed through the Sioux hunting grounds and began attacking travellers. Red Cloud was further angered when a line of forts was constructed to protect the travellers and increased the attacks. By spring of 1868 the government were forced to withdraw the army and abandon the forts.
Autumn 1867 Abilene founded Joseph McCoy, a Chicago cattle dealer, founded the ‘cow town’ of Abilene.
1868 The Winter Campaign Realising that the Indians never fought during the Winter months, the army decided to mount a Winter Campaign to try to catch them by surprise and force them into submission.
17th March 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty This treaty defined the territory of the Sioux Indians. It gave them the Black Hills of Dakota and the Bighorn mountains.
Loading...
Loading...
10th May 1869 Completion of the Railway  The transcontinental railway was completed. A ceremony, known as the ‘golden spike ceremony’ because a golden spike was used to join the East and West railways, was held at Promontory Point in Utah.
April 1871 Wild Bill Hickok Wild Bill Hickok (Buffalo Bill) was employed as Marshall of Abilene.
March 1873 Timber Culture Act This Act was an extension to the Homestead Act offering 160 acres of land for free provided that at least 40 acres was planted with trees.
June 1874 Gold in the Black Hills Gold was discovered in the Black Hills of Dakota.
1874 Barbed wire invented F Glidden invented barbed wire. This invention meant that large areas of land could be fenced relatively cheaply.
25th June 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn The army decided to attack the Indians camped in the valley of the Little Bighorn. The attack was to be made from three sides. General George Armstrong Custer who led one of the attacking forces decided to attack without waiting for the other two forces to arrive. Custer split his force into three and advanced on the Indians. At some point Custer’s group were attacked. Custer and all his men were killed.
3rd March 1877 Desert Land Act This Act allowed farmers to buy 640 acres of land at a cheap price in areas where there was little rainfall and irrigation schemes were needed to farm the land
1881 Billy the Kid Shot Notorious outlaw, Billy the Kid, was shot by lawman Pat Garratt
Loading...
Loading...
February 1887 General Allotments Act (Dawes Act) This Act split up most of the remaining Indian land into 160 acre plots. Some of the plots were given to Indians but much of the land was allocated to white settlers.
29th December 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre A group of soldiers opened fire on a group of Sioux at the Pine Ridge reservation in Wounded Knee Creek killing 153 Indian men, women and children.
1892 Johnson County War The Johnson County war was a range war fought by rival ranchers over cattle and land. Cattle ranching had been firmly established in Johnson County since the 1870s and many ranch owners had become wealthy and influential. During the 1880s they wanted more land and tried to buy-out small time ranchers and farmers. Those small-time ranchers and farmers who resisted were accused of cattle-rustling and some were hanged. In 1892 the cattle barons had hired a vigilante group to get rid of the ‘rustlers’. The small time ranchers and farmers formed their own army to counter the vigilante group. The army of small time ranchers and farmers managed to force the vigilante group back to their base and hold them under siege. The situation had to be resolved by the intervention of the US cavalry to free the vigilantes.

American Old West – The Cattle Industry

The cattle industry in the United States in the nineteenth century due to the young nation’s abundant land, wide-open spaces, and rapid development of railroad lines to transport the beef from western ranches to population centers in the Midwest and the East Coast.

Beginnings of the Cattle Industry

The Europeans who first settled in America at the end of the 15th century had brought longhorn cattle with them. By the early 19th century cattle ranches were common in Mexico. At that time Mexico included what was to become Texas. The longhorn cattle were kept on an open range, looked after by cowboys called vaqueros.

In 1836, Texas became independent, the Mexicans left, leaving their cattle behind. Texan farmers claimed the cattle and set up their own ranches. Beef was not popular so the animals were used for their skins and tallow. In the 1850s, beef began to be more popular and its price rose making some ranchers quite wealthy.

In 1861, Civil War broke out between the Northern and Southern states. Texan ranchers left their farms to fight for the Confederate army. The Confederates lost the war. The defeat destroyed the economy in the South. However, the cattle, left to their own devices, had multiplied. There were approximately 5 million longhorn cattle in Texas in 1865 but there was no market for them in the South. There was, however, a market in the north. If the ranchers could get their cattle to the North they would fetch ten times what they were worth in the South.

Why was Joseph McCoy important for the cattle industry?

Joseph McCoy was a livestock trader in Chicago. He wanted to bring the longhorn cattle from Texas to Chicago and from there distribute them to the East. Making himself a lot of money in the process.

Homesteaders who had established themselves in Kansas objected to the cattle crossing their land because they carried a tick that killed other animals. Cattlemen driving cattle through Kansas met fierce opposition and were reluctant to make the journey.

Loading...
Loading...

McCoy knew that the railroad companies were keen to carry more freight. The Kansas/Pacific railway ran past a frontier village. McCoy built a hotel, stockyard, office and bank in the village which became known as Abilene – one of the first cow towns. Cattle were to be driven from Texas to Abilene and were then taken East by train.

Abilene was near the end of a trail that had been established during the Civil War by Jesse Chisholm to take supplies to the Confederate army. The trail lay to the west of the Kansas farms which meant the cattlemen could use it without hostility from the Kansas homesteaders.

In 1867, McCoy spent $5,000 on advertising and riders. He promised a good price for cattle sold in Abilene and was a man of his word. One cattleman bought 600 cows for $5,400 and sold them in Abilene for $16,800. It was the beginning of the ‘beef bonanza’. Between 1867 and 1881 McCoy sent more than 2 million cattle from Abilene to Chicago. His reputation for reliability gave rise to the expression ‘the real McCoy’.

This 20th Century drawing shows cattle being driven into Abilene

Rise and Fall of the Cattle Industry

The cattle industry was at its peak from 1867 until the early 1880s. The following factors contributed to this:

  • Increased number of railway lines – able to transport cattle to new markets
  • Development of refrigerated rail carriages – cattle could be slaughtered before transportation
  • Removal of Indians from the Plains to reservations – more land available for ranching

In the last twenty years of the nineteenth century the beef trade virtually collapsed. The following factors contributed to this:

  • Farmers began to experiment with different breeds of cattle that could not live on the open range.
  • There was less grass available for grazing due to the number of people settling on the Plains.
  • In 1883 there was a drought that ruined what grass there was.
  • The demand for beef fell which meant that ranching was less profitable
  • The winter of 1886/7 was very severe – cattle and cowboys died in the freezing temperatures

A New Approach

The days of the open range were over. From the late nineteenth century cattle were kept on enclosed ranches and farmed in much smaller quantities. Two inventions were particularly important in making this an option:

Loading...
Loading...

Barbed Wire

Barbed wire was invented by J F Glidden in 1874. This invention meant that large areas could be fenced cheaply. Cattle were now enclosed on ranches and no longer roamed the Plains. As a result fewer cowboys were needed and the long drive was a thing of the past.

Wind Pump

 

The strong winds that blew across the Plains were an ideal source of energy. Windmills were used to drive pumps that could pump water from underground. This meant that cattle ranches did not need to be sited near a river or stream.

The age of the wild and free cowboy was gone, they now spent much of their time mending fences and tending the cattle. The cattle industry was irrevocably changed. However, the image of the wild and free cowboy was dramatised in Wild West shows performed for eastern audiences and it is that image that became, and has remained, a feature of the legend of the wild, wild west.

Mountain Men in the American Old West

mountain men

The lives of mountain men in the American West were ones of scarcity, poverty, and bare sustenance. Living in the wild, he was in constant danger from starvation, dehydration, freezing cold, burning heat, wild animals and Indians.

The fashion for wearing fur hats in the early nineteenth century meant that there was a great demand for animal fur. Men such as Jim Bridger were employed by Fur Trading companies to trap beavers and other animals for their fur.

Loading...
Loading...

The only contact they had with the outside world was at a number of rendezvous and trading posts.

Some mountain men were accepted by the Indians and lived with them,a few married Indian women.

By 1840, fur hats were no longer fashionable and many mountain men became guides for those making the journey across the Plains to the west.

Explorers and Guides

The mountain men were pioneers in charting the unknown territory west of the frontier. They found passes across the mountains and were familiar with the perils that could be found along the trails. After the decline in the fur trade, many mountain men became guides for those making the journey across the Plains to California or joined the army as scouts and guides. By the mid 1840s most of the routes to the west were well travelled and the guides’ main role was to help travellers to survive the harsh conditions and handle encounters with the Indians.

Jim Bridger (left) is probably the most famous mountain man of the period. He worked as a mountain man – trapping beaver, trading fur and dealing with Indians. He found passes through the mountains and knew the land well. He is credited with discovering the Great Salt Lake in 1824.

He spoke many languages including English, Spanish, French and a number of Indian languages.

Loading...
Loading...

When the trade in fur fell into decline, Jim Bridger built Fort Bridger on the Oregon trail. The fort contained a shop and a blacksmiths forge and was a useful facility for travellers to restock and repair their wagons.

Fort Bridger

American West – The California Gold Rush

In the early 1840s, California was a distant outpost that few Americans had seen. John Sutter (left) was a Swiss emigrant who had come to California in 1839 with the idea of building a vast empire. At the end of 1847, Sutter sent a group of men, including James Marshall, to build a new sawmill near the river. The sawmill was nearly complete when, on January 24th 1848, Marshall spotted something shining in the river.

The metal was tested and confirmed as gold. However, Sutter wanted the area to be his empire and did not want to attract others to the area so it was decided to keep the discovery secret. But it was not long before news of the discovery leaked out. The gold rush that followed was to make California the richest state in America.

Travelling to California

There were three choices of route from the western states to California. Two by sea and one overland.

By boat via South America By boat via Panama Overland  The California Trail
Six months of sea- sickness, rotten food, rancid water and boredom. The quickest option but travellers risked malaria and cholera. A 2000 mile walk in sweltering heat with little food or water.

Get Rich Quick

Sam Brannan was a San Francisco merchant who spread news of the discovery throughout San Francisco. He got rich quick, but not through mining. As he spread the word about the discovery of gold he bought every pickaxe, shovel and pan in the region. A metal pan that he bought for 20 cents was sold for 15 dollars. In nine weeks Brannan made 36,000 dollars.

Loading...
Loading...

The Road to Poverty

Many overland travellers were not prepared for the harshness of the journey. Supplies ran out very quickly and replacements were expensive. Sugar rose to $1.50 per pint, coffee $1.00 per pint, alcohol $4.00. Many were forced to pay $1, $5 or even $100 for a glass of water. Those without money died.

The Road to Sickness and Death

The overland routes west became crowded with wagons. Dust was kicked up by those in front, making it difficult for those behind to see and breathe. Wagons camped together overnight for safety. They dug toilet pits, often close to rivers resulting in polluted water supplies, diarrhoea, illness and death.

The Reality of the Dream

1849 saw huge numbers of people flooding into California all with dreams of discovering gold and becoming rich. They were known as the forty-niners. But by the middle of 1849 the easy gold had gone. A typical miner spent 10 hours a day in freezing water sifting through the mud with no end result but frustration and depression. Men drowned their sorrows in the saloons and bars. Crime was on the increase and the jails were overcrowded. Some gave up and went back to the east. Others stayed on hoping that tomorrow would be the day. For most of them tomorrow never came?

American West – White Man’s Opinion of the Plains Indians

As the population of America grew, so people began to move away from the cities and towns onto the Plains.

At first the Indians welcomed the settlers; it was their belief that the land should be shared. However, problems soon began.

The whites killed buffalo so there was not enough for the Indians, then they began to take over land that had always been used by the Indians. The whites also brought disease with them. A simple cold could make and Indian very ill and some even died.

Loading...
Loading...

Settlers, looking for new places to live and gold seekers travelled across the Plains in wagons. They tried to force the Indians off the land. The Indians had no choice but to fight back.

Missionaries tried to convert the Indians to Christianity, they believed that this was the right thing to do because the Indians were superstitious savages.

The whites believed that their way of life was the only true way to live. Indian culture was different and so in the whites eyes was inferior. They thought that because the Indians couldn’t build proper houses they were less intelligent. They believed that by teaching the Indians to speak English they were doing the natives a great favour.

American treaties with the Indians, such as the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868,  which were made to settle differences, were always broken by the whites.

War was inevitable.

American West – Manifest Destiny

“(It is) ..our manifest destiny to over spread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty”

Loading...
Loading...

In 1845 these words were written by John O’Sullivan, a democrat leader and editor of the New York newspaper ‘The Morning Post’.

What is Manifest Destiny?

O’Sullivan was expressing the long held belief that white Americans had a God-given right to occupy the entire North American continent. It was not a new idea, nor was it historically confined to America. Manifest Destiny as a concept was exercised in 1492 by Christopher Columbus and the Spanish monarchs who initially sanctioned the colonisation of South America. It was also exercised by the Pilgrim Fathers when they landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620, by the British when they colonised Australia and India. Indeed, any act of colonisation and settlement at the expense of another race can be said to be an expression of Manifest Destiny.

Manifest Destiny in 1840s America

Once the concept had been given the name ‘Manifest Destiny’ it became widely used, appearing in newspapers, debates, paintings and advertisements. It became the leading light for westward expansion.

Throughout the 1840s westward expansion gained pace. People living in the crowded east were lured west with promises of inexpensive land and open spaces.

The discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in 1848 prompted thousands to leave their homes in the east and make the journey west to California.

The Homestead Act

In 1841 the government of America passed an act that allowed people to purchase 160 acres of Plains land for a very small price. A further act passed in 1862 divided 2.5 million acres of Plains land into sections or homesteads of 160 acres. People could now claim 160 acres of land. The only requirement on their part was that they paid a small administration charge and built a house and lived on the land for at least 5 years.

Advertising and Paintings

In a bid to encourage people onto the Plains advertisements told success stories of those who had claimed land under the terms of the Homestead Act and had become successful.

Pictures were painted to encourage people to fulfil their Manifest Destiny. The picture below (Library of Congress LC-USZC4-668) shows ‘America’ floating over the Plains. She brings light to the dark and desolate landscape and shows the way for farmers, travellers, the stage-coach, the telegraph and the railway. Ahead of her wild animals, buffalo and Indians (the darkness) turn and run leaving the way clear for settlement.

Loading...
Loading...

American West – The Great American Desert

The Great American Desert was the name given, in the first half of the nineteenth century, to the area west of the Mississippi river.

At the time, the area was only inhabited by tribes of native American Indians. White Americans considered it to be unfit for habitation.

As people moved onto the Great Plains, the area referred to as the Great American Desert became smaller and smaller until only the Utah and Nevada plains bore the name.

This map (click to enlarge) shows the geographical divisions of North America. These divisions still exist today.

Characteristics of the Geographical Areas of North America

Eastern Lowlands

The first emigrants to America from Europe settled on the Eastern side of America. Few ventured further west than the Appalachian mountains. As more and more people settled in America and more living space was needed, people began to venture further west. However, prior to 1840 few went beyond the Mississippi river.

Flood Plain

Loading...
Loading...

The Mississippi river is the fourth largest river in the World. It covers more than 2,500 miles from North Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. It has 250 tributaries and its flood plain covers 1.25 million square miles. Consequently, in times of heavy rainfall, this land is prone to flooding.

The Great Plains

The Great Plains stretch from the Mississippi river in the East to the Rocky mountains in the West. In geographical terms a Plain is defined as a large area of treeless land. Because of the lack of trees it tends to be windy all year round. In winter the weather is very cold with the wind blowing snow into blizzards. The summers are very hot and windy which dries and cracks the land.

Some woodland can be found near to the Mississippi river but beyond that the land is miles and miles of grassland – tall prairie grass on the Low Plains, shorter grass on the High Plains.

Rocky Mountains

The Rocky Mountains extend from Alaska in the North to New Mexico in the South. Mountainous regions surround high plateaux. The highest mountain is Mount Elbert 14,431 feet. In the South, the Rocky Mountains are characterised by thick wood and used to be inhabited by grizzly bears, mountain lions and beavers. The Grand Canyon can be found in the Rocky Mountains. The plateaux tend to be areas of semi-desert.

Pacific Coast

The states of California and Oregon can be found along the Pacific Coast. The climate is mild and the soil is fertile and easily farmed.

American West – Timeline

Date Summary Event
6th April
1830
Mormons founded Joseph Smith founded the Mormon religion. Smith claimed that, after seeing a vision of an angel called Moroni, he discovered some hidden gold plates bearing inscriptions. The translation of the inscriptions was published in 1830 in the ‘Book of Mormon’. The official name of the religion is The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints but they are more commonly known as Mormons.
Loading...
Loading...
26th May 1830 Indian Removal Act The US Government decreed that the Indian tribes could freely inhabit the Great Plains. A Permanent Indian Frontier was established on the eastern edge of the Great Plains.
Spring 1837 Economic Depression An economic depression caused the collapse of many banks in the East. People lost their savings, wages fell and unemployment rose.
1839 Nauvoo founded The Mormons built their ‘holy city’ in Illinois. They called their city Nauvoo
Spring 1843 Fort Bridger established Jim Bridger, a former mountain man, built Fort Bridger on the Oregon Trail. Fort Bridger contained a store where travellers could purchase supplies as well as a workshop and forge where wagons could be repaired.
1843 Great Migration About a thousand people made the journey West to Oregon. This was the highest number of migrants to make the journey west in one year so far and became known as the Great Migration.
27th June 1844 Joseph Smith Killed Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon religion, and his brother Hyrum were shot and killed while imprisoned for destroying a printing press.
July 1845 Manifest Destiny John O’Sullivan, editor of the New York newspaper ‘The Morning Post’, first used this phrase to express the long held belief that white Americans had a God-given right to occupy the entire North American continent.
1846 – 1847 Mormons move to Salt Lake Following the death of the Mormon leader, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young decided to take the Mormons away from the persecution they faced in the East and to build a new life for them at the Great Salt Lake.
Loading...
Loading...
24th January 1848 Gold discovered in California James Marshall, a carpenter employed by John Sutter to build a mill at Sutter’s Fort, discovered gold. Initially news of the discovery was kept secret but once it became known people from the East flocked to California hoping to find gold and make their fortune. Those who arrived in 1849 became known as the ‘Forty-niners’.
1850 Stagecoach Wells Fargo established the stagecoach which allowed travellers to pay to be transported by stagecoach.
17th September 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty This treaty between the US Government and the Indian tribes redefined the Indian homelands. The treaty stated that these lands would belong to the Indians and that they would not be entered by white settlers. The Indians were to be given provisions for a period of ten years as compensation for the loss of land.
1854 Homesteaders The first homesteaders began to move onto the Great Plains.
3rd April 1860 Pony Express founded The Waddell and Russell freight company established the Pony Express. Relay stations were set up across north America and riders carried mail from one station to the next.
1861 Fort Wise Treaty This treaty established the Sand Creek Reservation for the Cheyenne tribe.
22nd October 1861 Telegraph The first telegraph message was sent across America
1862 Pacific Railways Act This Act established two companies whose purpose was to construct a railway across America. The Union Pacific Railway was established in the East to build the railway to Missouri and then continue west. The Central Pacific Railway would build the railway from Sacramento and then continue east.
Loading...
Loading...
20th May 1862 The Homestead Act This Act offered anyone prepared to settle in the West 160 acres of land for free provided they built a home and farmed the land for five years.
August 1862 Little Crow’s War This was a revolt by the Santee Sioux led by chief Little Crow in protest against the reservations. The Santee Sioux had moved onto a reservation that had poor land and their crops failed. Compensation payments that had been promised by the government had not been delivered and the tribe faced starvation. In August 1862 the Santee Sioux warriors attacked the government Agency. They continued to attack white settlers and the army for three months before being defeated by the army.
1863 Cheyenne Uprising The Cheyenne had agreed by the terms of the Fort Wise Treaty 1861 to move onto the Sand Creek Reservation. However, the land was very poor and survival for the Indians was virtually impossible. In 1863 faced with starvation, they began to attack wagon trains and steal food.
29th November 1864 Sand Creek Massacre An armed force, led by Colonel Chivington, attacked Black Kettle’s Cheyenne camp at Sand Creek. The motive for the attack was punishment for the raids on wagon trains. 163 Indians, including women and children, were killed and mutilated.
1866 The Long Drive Texas cattlemen used cowboys to drive cattle to the northern states.
Summer 1867 Red Cloud’s War The Sioux chief, Red Cloud, was furious when white settlers began using the Bozeman Trail which passed through the Sioux hunting grounds and began attacking travellers. Red Cloud was further angered when a line of forts was constructed to protect the travellers and increased the attacks. By spring of 1868 the government were forced to withdraw the army and abandon the forts.
Autumn 1867 Abilene founded Joseph McCoy, a Chicago cattle dealer, founded the ‘cow town’ of Abilene.
1868 The Winter Campaign Realising that the Indians never fought during the Winter months, the army decided to mount a Winter Campaign to try to catch them by surprise and force them into submission.
Loading...
Loading...
17th March 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty This treaty defined the territory of the Sioux Indians. It gave them the Black Hills of Dakota and the Bighorn mountains.
10th May 1869 Completion of the Railway  The transcontinental railway was completed. A ceremony, known as the ‘golden spike ceremony’ because a golden spike was used to join the East and West railways, was held at Promontory Point in Utah.
April 1871 Wild Bill Hickok Wild Bill Hickok (Buffalo Bill) was employed as Marshall of Abilene.
March 1873 Timber Culture Act This Act was an extension to the Homestead Act offering 160 acres of land for free provided that at least 40 acres was planted with trees.
June 1874 Gold in the Black Hills Gold was discovered in the Black Hills of Dakota.
1874 Barbed wire invented F Glidden invented barbed wire. This invention meant that large areas of land could be fenced relatively cheaply.
24th June 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn The army decided to attack the Indians camped in the valley of the Little Bighorn. The attack was to be made from three sides. General George Armstrong Custer who led one of the attacking forces decided to attack without waiting for the other two forces to arrive. Custer split his force into three and advanced on the Indians. At some point Custer’s group were attacked. Custer and all his men were killed.
3rd March 1877 Desert Land Act This Act allowed farmers to buy 640 acres of land at a cheap price in areas where there was little rainfall and irrigation schemes were needed to farm the land
Loading...
Loading...
1881 Billy the Kid Shot Notorious outlaw, Billy the Kid, was shot by lawman Pat Garratt
February 1887 General Allotments Act (Dawes Act) This Act split up most of the remaining Indian land into 160 acre plots. Some of the plots were given to Indians but much of the land was allocated to white settlers.
29th December 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre A group of soldiers opened fire on a group of Sioux at the Pine Ridge reservation in Wounded Knee Creek killing 153 Indian men, women and children.
1892 Johnson County War The Johnson County war was a range war fought by rival ranchers over cattle and land. Cattle ranching had been firmly established in Johnson County since the 1870s and many ranch owners had become wealthy and influential. During the 1880s they wanted more land and tried to buy-out small time ranchers and farmers. Those small-time ranchers and farmers who resisted were accused of cattle-rustling and some were hanged. In 1892 the cattle barons had hired a vigilante group to get rid of the ‘rustlers’. The small time ranchers and farmers formed their own army to counter the vigilante group. The army of small time ranchers and farmers managed to force the vigilante group back to their base and hold them under siege. The situation had to be resolved by the intervention of the US cavalry to free the vigilantes.

Native American Tribes and Nations of the Old West

For more information on Native American tribes and other counter-intuitive facts of ancient and medieval history, see Anthony Esolen’s The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization.  

Loading...
Loading...

There were many different Native American tribes and those with similar characteristics formed a main tribe or nation. Each had its own language, religion and customs.

For the most part the Native American tribes lived peaceably believing that nature was sacred and was to be shared. However, the coming of the Europeans and the removal of their land led to conflict both between the different tribes and between the Indians and whites.

By the end of the nineteenth  century the Native American tribes had lost their fight to preserve their traditional way of life and those that had survived the conflicts were confined to reservations.

The table below gives a summary of each of the main Native American tribes of the Plains.

Name Nomadic/ Static Famous Leaders Brief Facts
Apache
  • Nomadic
  • Hunter-gatherer
Geronimo, Cochise
  • Made up of several different groups
  • Lived in extended family units
  • Usual shelter was a dome-shaped lodge called a wickiup
  • Polygamy was allowed but rarely practised
  • Reliant on the buffalo
  • Frequent disputes with the Comanches led to their weakening in the 1700s
  • Traded with the Pueblas in Mexico or raided Spanish villages for goods and horses
  • 1861 conflict between Apaches led by Cochise and Americans in protest at being forced onto reservations
  • 1874 a group of Apaches led by Geronimo escaped capture and fled to Mexico
  • 1886 Geronimo forced to surrender and taken to Fort Marion in Florida
Arapaho
  • Nomadic
  • Hunters
  • Usual shelter was a tipi
  • Women were in charge of the home and owned the tipi
  • Men were in charge of hunting for food and protecting the camp
  • Reliant on the buffalo
  • Perform Sun Dance in the summer
  • Frequent conflicts with Shoshone and Pawnee tribes
  • 1864 Arapaho were among those slaughtered in the Sand Creek Massacre
  • 1867 placed on Oklahoma reservation
  • 1876 Northern Arapaho placed on Wind River reservation in Wyoming
  • 1889 Active in bringing about the Ghost Dance movement
Blackfoot
  • Nomadic
  • Hunter-gatherer
Crowfoot
  • Made up of several different groups
  • Usual shelter was a tipi
  • Women were in charge of the home and owned the tipi
  • Men were in charge of hunting for food and protecting the camp
  • Polygamy was usual
  • Reliant on the buffalo
  • Performed Sun Dance in the summer
  • Mid 1800s many killed by smallpox
  • 1870 200 killed in the Marias Massacre
Loading...
Loading...
Cherokee
  • Static
  • Hunter-farmer
Sequoyah
  • Made up of seven different clans
  • Usual shelter was cane and mud plaster huts
  • Women were in charge of the home and land
  • Men were in charge of hunting for food and protecting the camp
  • Grew corn, beans, squash, and sunflowers
  • Used canoes
  • 1821 Sequoyah invented the Cherokee alphabet
  • 1838-9 moved west to Oklahoma (Trail of Tears – 4000+ died on the 800 mile journey)
Cheyenne
  • Nomadic
  • Hunter-gatherer
Black Kettle
  • Made up of ten different bands
  • Allied with Arapaho and Sioux
  • Usual shelter was a tipi
  • Women were in charge of the home and owned the tipi
  • Men were in charge of hunting for food and protecting the camp
  • Reliant on the buffalo
  • 1864 Cheyenne were among those slaughtered in the Sand Creek Massacre
  • 1876 Northern Cheyenne took part in the Battle of the Little Bighorn
  • 1877 Many forced to Oklahoma those that resisted were shot
Comanche
  • Nomadic
  • Hunter-gatherer
 
  • Established around 1700 after breaking away from Shoshone
  • Led by Peace Chief and War Chief
  • Usual shelter was a tipi
  • Women were in charge of the home and owned the tipi
  • Men were in charge of hunting for food and protecting the camp
  • Reliant on the buffalo
  • Frequent conflicts with Apache and Spanish
  • 50% killed by smallpox and cholera in the mid 1800s
  • 1874-5 Took part in the Buffalo War (Red River War) in protest at the numbers of buffalo being slaughtered
  • By 1879 most were on Fort Sill reservation
Crow
  • Nomadic
  • Hunter-gatherer
Medicine Crow
  • Established around 1700 after breaking away from the Sioux
  • Two groups – Mountain Crow and River Crow
  • Usual shelter was a tipi
  • Women were in charge of the home and owned the tipi
  • Men were in charge of hunting for food and protecting the camp
  • Reliant on the buffalo
  • Frequent conflict with Sioux, Shoshone and Blackfoot
  • 1851 Given 35 million acres of land
  • 1868 Land reduced to 8 million acres
  • 1870 Placed on reservation in Oklahoma
Navajo
  • Semi-Nomadic
  • Hunter-farmer
 
  • Moved to south-west around 1500
  • Usual shelter was a hogan (round stick house covered with mud or hides)
  • Women were in charge of the home and owned the hogan
  • Men were in charge of hunting for food and protecting the camp
  • Kept sheep and women spun and wove wool into cloth
  • Traded with the Spanish
  • Frequent conflict with Spanish
  • Conflict with Americans following Mexican War 1849
  • 1863 American force under Kit Carson killed Navajo sheep
  • 1863-4 Forced to move 300 miles to Fort Sumner (The Long Walk) many died on the way
  • 1869 Placed on reservation and given 30,000 sheep by US governement
Nez Perce
  • Semi-Nomadic
  • Hunter gatherer
Chief Joseph
  • Made up of two groups – Upper and Lower Nez Perce
  • Name given by the French on account of the tribe piercing their noses
  • Usual shelter originally a longhouse but later used tipis
  • Women were in charge of the home
  • Men were in charge of hunting for food and protecting the camp
  • Made canoes and fished for salmon
  • Frequent conflict with Crow and Shoshone
  • 1863 Allocated land reduced by 7 million acres
  • 1877 Under Chief Joseph actively resisted being moved to reservation (Nez Perce War)
  • Defeated at the Battle of Bear Paw Mountains
Pawnee
  • Semi-Nomadic
  • Hunter-farmer
  • Made up of four different bands
  • Usual shelter was an earth lodge but used tipis when hunting
  • Women were in charge of the home
  • Men were in charge of hunting for food and protecting the camp
  • Many killed by smallpox and cholera in the mid 1800s
  • 1825 recognised supremacy of US government
  • 1830-1860 – gave up increasing amounts of land to US government
  • Many Pawnee became scouts for the US government
  • 1876 Moved to Oklahoma reservation
Shawnee
  • Nomadic
  • Hunter-farmer
Tecumseh, Black Hoof
  • Made up of five different groups
  • Allied with Cherokee
  • Usual shelter was a wikkum or wigwam (small round dwelling)
  • Women were in charge of the home and farming corn
  • Men were in charge of hunting for food and protecting the camp
  • Used canoes
  • 1740-1760 Caught up in the conflict between the French and British over Ohio
  • Some fought for the British in the War of Independence while others remained neutral
  • Tecumseh led resistance against American expansion but was killed in 1813
  • Black Hoof led resistance against Indian removal until his death in 1831
  • 1832 Shawnee tribe were living on reservations
Loading...
Loading...
Shoshone
  • Nomadic
  • Hunter-gatherer
Pocatello, Bear Hunter
  • Made up of seven different groups
  • Usual shelter was a tipi but some lived in brushwood shelters
  • Women were in charge of the home and owned the tipi
  • Men were in charge of hunting for food and protecting the camp
  • Reliant on the buffalo
  • Driven from their land by Mormon settlement of Utah
  • 1862 Bear Hunter led a series of raids on Mormon livestock
  • 1863 Bear Hunter and 250 Shoshone killed in Bear River Massacre
  • After 1863 remaining Shoshone moved to Fort Hall reservation
Sioux
  • Nomadic
  • Hunter
Red Cloud, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse
  • Made up of seven different groups
  • Largest Indian tribe
  • Usual shelter was a tipi
  • Women were in charge of the home and owned the tipi
  • Men were in charge of hunting for food and protecting the camp
  • Reliant on the buffalo
  • Performed the Sun Dance in the summer
  • 1862 Group led by Little Crow massacred 800 settlers in Minnesota
  • 1866-68 Red Cloud led resistance to white settlement along the Bozeman Trail (Red Cloud’s War)
  • 1876 Took part in the Battle of the Little Bighorn
  • 1890 Finally defeated at Battle of Wounded Knee

Native Americans – Origins

Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492 – Wrong!

Christopher Columbus was the first European to set foot in the country that was to be called America – Right!

There is a huge difference between the two statements above. The North American continent had been inhabited for thousands of years before Europeans ‘discovered’ it and settled there.

It is believed that the first people to inhabit North America were Asian in origin. It is believed that they made the journey from Asia to Alaska by crossing the Bering Strait during the Ice Age (at least 10,000 years ago)

The picture (above) shows the location of the Bering Strait and an artist’s impression of travelers crossing during the Ice Age

Loading...
Loading...

Over a period of time these people migrated further and further south. They adapted themselves to their environment – those living in the cold north became skilled hunters and fishermen, those living in the wooded areas built wooden houses and canoes while those in the hotter south grew corn and made houses from sun-dried bricks. There were hundreds of different tribal groups each adapting their lifestyle to the geographical and climatical region they inhabited. Those natives who were to become known as the Plains Indians initially inhabited the eastern river valley areas.

The Arrival of Europeans


When the first Europeans arrived in North America they believed they were in India and named the natives Indians, the name was to stick for nearly 500 years. The arrival of Europeans posed problems for the native Americans. Some groups chose to co-exist with the Europeans and adapted themselves to a more European style of living. Others however, wanted to preserve their traditional way of life and moved to areas unwanted by the Europeans.

The arrival of Europeans also initiated the decline of the Native Indians. Entire villages were wiped out by diseases such as measles, smallpox, cholera and pneumonia to which the Indians had no inbuilt immunity. Others, forced to leave their traditional hunting and farming lands found it difficult to re-establish themselves elsewhere and suffered malnutrition and death.

The Plains Indians


As the numbers of white Americans grew and they began to move away from the coastal areas, the Indians that lived in the eastern river valleys were forced to move west onto the Great Plains.

Horses were not native to North America, they were brought from Europe by the settlers. By the eighteenth century many Indian nations had horses. This meant that they were able move onto the Plains and hunt the buffalo that lived there more easily.

Many tribes gave up farming and became solely reliant on the buffalo for all their needs. They lived a nomadic life following the buffalo herds as they moved across the Plains.

More than thirty different tribes lived on the Plains. Each had their own area of the Plains and although there was sometimes war between the different tribes, in the main they lived peacefully in their own areas. The map right shows the approximate location of the most famous tribes that inhabited the Great Plains.

Loading...
Loading...
Cite This Article
"The Old West: Manifest Destiny, Oregon Trail, Native Americans, Gold Rush" History on the Net
© 2000-2019, Salem Media.
June 25, 2019 <https://www.historyonthenet.com/american-old-west-in-depth>
More Citation Information.
Loading...
×