Pioneers - Westward movement

Historical pictures of covered wagons crossing the Great Plains are the essential icons of the western pioneers. The Oregon Trail led settlers to the Pacific Northwest, while Santa Fe Trail travelers went to New Mexico, and Mormon Trail pioneers journeyed on to Utah. California pioneeers used different overland routes, some crossing the Sierra Nevada Mountains via Donner Pass, others taking the southern California Trail across New Mexico and the Arizona desert. As seen in historical pictures, prospectors hurrying to the California Gold Rush sometimes chose the sea route, rounding Cape Horn on fast clipper ships, or crossing through the jungles of the Isthmus of Panama to shorten the sea voyage.

To more quickly carry mail and passengers west, stagecoaches and the Pony Express joined the wagon traffic on the overland trails. Historical pictures show that poles for the telegraph began to line the wagon trails by the 1860s. Forts were built as the US Army defended western settlers against hostile Native Americans driven from their homelands. Among the troops were so-called buffalo soldiers, African-Americans who went to the west during the Indian Wars.

Historical images show homesteader families built sod homes on the prairies or built log cabins where there were trees to be cleared. Prairie farms grew corn and other crops. Ranches spread across the grasslands, where cowboys and beef cattle replaced buffalo, pronghorn antelope, and other native wild animals. Prospectors and miners populated mountain areas, creating boom towns which often became permanent settlements, as shown in vintage pictures. In the southwest, Spanish-speaking villages like Santa Fe grew into multilingual transportation hubs. New towns like Dallas and Houston became shown in historical pictures as market centers where goods could be shipped and settlers could buy supplies. The population of San Francisco exploded during the Gold Rush, and California in general came alive with new residents, including Asian immigrants. This activity extended up the Pacific coast to Oregon and Washington territories, where salmon canneries and the timber industry enhanced the economies of US and Canadian seaports in the Pacific Northwest, as evidenced in historical pictures.

Frontier towns were far apart and often isolated from regular law enforcement, and historical images show lawlessness became such a problem the region became known as the Wild West. Some of the population gaps were filled in when the transcontinental railroad linked the Pacific coast to the eastern rail network. Railroad construction jobs brought immigrant laborers to the territories. Quick and safe rail transport of goods, mail, and less adventurous passengers finally tamed the Wild West.

The western Canadian frontier was first explored by fur traders and trappers whose chief contact with other people was the occasional wilderness trading post. Historical pictures show activity at the Hudson Bay Company outposts, where Aboriginals and mountain men gathered to trade furs for tobacco, guns, blankets, and other supplies. Construction of the transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railway linked the two coasts of Canada in 1885. Historical pictures document the subsequent growth of British Columbia at the end of the 19th century. Northern and inland regions of Canada experienced a sudden growth boom during the Klondike Gold Rush, when prospectors poured into the Yukon Territory, as well as Alaska, in 1898.


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