Pioneers - Pathfinders into the continent

Some settlers were not content to stay within the North American Atlantic coast colonies but pushed into the interior of the continent. Historical pictures of fur traders show some early inland explorers trapping beaver and trading with Native Americans for furs. French voyageurs were among these adventurers, who mainly traveled the lakes and rivers via canoe, a craft adopted from Native Americans. Historical pictures of trading posts show they served the frontier as general stores as well as fur depots.

Different motives drove Christian missionaries to venture into the frontier. French missionaries converted Canadian Aboriginals and other Native Americans to Christianity and explored the Great Lakes, as shown in pictures of the Marquette and Joliet expeditions. Historical pictures show that Spanish missions, begun as isolated outposts around a Roman Catholic church, grew into farming and ranching settlements in many Spanish colonial territories in Mexico and western North America. Protestant missionaries also brought their religion to Native American villages.

Historical images of frontiersmen such as Daniel Boone portray pathfinders pushing into the wilderness over the Appalachian Mountains. Historical pictures show Wilderness Road pioneers crossing through Cumberland Gap into Kentucky and Tennessee. The Ohio River offered settlers a water route into the Old Northwest Territory which extended to the upper Mississippi River and included the present states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, where historical pictures show log cabins and farms sprang up in the early to mid-1800s. In addition to the waterways, a land route was needed, and by the early 19th century the National Road carried stagecoaches, wagons, horseback riders, and other traffic west from Maryland to Illinois, as seen in historical illustrations.

With the acquisition of Louisiana Territory in 1803, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were sent by President Thomas Jefferson to follow the Missouri River as a route to the Pacific coast. Their Corps of Discovery traveled by boat, ascending the river on its way to the northern Great Plains and onward to the headwaters of the Missouri River in Montana, as seen in photos and historical illustrations. These pathfinders then crossed the Continental Divide via Lolo Pass into the Columbia River valley, giving names to topographical features along the Lewis and Clark trail, and recording their observations of native plants and animals as they traveled, replicated in historical images and modern photographs. This opened the unexplored American West to mountain men and other explorers of the Rocky Mountains, for instance, Zebulon Pike or John C. Fremont.

Historical pictures of the early Spanish southwest, first explored by conquistadors like Coronado and Onate, show Hispanic settlements in New Mexico and California, which were acquired by the US as a result of the Mexican-American War. Early historical pictures of Texas show Spanish-speaking communities such as San Antonio and old El Paso. After the battle of the Alamo, Americans who moved into Texas turned to raising cotton and cattle. As seen in vintage images, cowboys became icons of cattle ranching throughout the old west.

Of Alaska little was known except the coast at the time it was purchased from Russia in 1869, and few pioneers arrived until gold was discovered. In 1898, historical pictures show the Alaska-Klondyke Gold Rush brought prospectors and settlers to Alaska and the adjoining Yukon Territory of Canada.


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