The American West
"My dream is of a place and a time where America will once again be seen as the last best hope of earth."
- Abraham Lincoln
America has been uniquely blessed with a golden heritage unlike any other nation on earth.
With abundant resources, wide expanses of forested hills, lakes and rivers, wide open prairies, towering mountains and temperate climates, America has welcomed generations of individuals and families seeking to make a new home in a land where liberty reigns from sea to shining sea.
Fulfilling the American Dream
Wave after wave of immigrants have reached the shores of this great nation with hearts full of hope and a willingness to work hard to fulfill their dreams of a new life in America.
From New England down the eastern coast to the southern deltas, newcomers left the old world behind and searched for freedom, religious liberty, tolerance and unequaled opportunities in the 13 colonies.
Despite the British Proclamation of 1763 which prohibited settlement in lands west of the Appalachians, settlers continued to stream west into Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee. As the American Revolution drew to a close, migration into the fertile lands of the west continued unabated. By the early 1800’s, settlers were claiming lands all the way to the Mississippi River.
The Incredible Journey
of the Corps of Discovery
Following the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, President Thomas Jefferson commissioned Meriwether Lewis to explore the lands west of the mighty Mississippi and to find a waterway which could lead to expansion of the Northwest territories. Lewis selected William Clark as his lieutenant and, together, they bravely led the Corps of Discovery. The expedition charted new trails, attempted to establish trade and build relationships with Native American tribes, and collected data on the land, animals and vegetation as they traveled up the Missouri River, crossed the Continental Divide, and reached the Pacific near present-day Astoria, Oregon, in 1805.
Trails Leading Westward
Within a decade, pioneers took to the Santa Fe Trail which followed the Missouri River down to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Others would follow the Oregon Trail to the Northwest, or take the Mormon Trail leading to Utah.
Over the next few decades, an estimated 40% of the population of America was living on land west of the Appalachians. The western territories were increasingly populated by Americans and Europeans who had fled famine, high taxes, and limited opportunities for the chance to own land and find upward mobility.
Uniting a Nation from Coast to Coast
The settling of the Great Plains, the fever of the Gold Rush, the daring rides of the Pony Express, and the uniting of a continently the railroad as the Golden Spike was driven in May of 1869 – all remain hallmarks the historic Western Migration in America.