American West - Early Settlers

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American West - Early Settlers

There were four main groups of early settlers on the plains, these included mountain men, otherwise known as fur trappers, the next were miners, who travelled to the west in order to find riches in the newly discovered gold mines, next were the early pioneers who travelled to settle in California and Oregon, and lastly there were the Mormons, who settled in salt lake city.

Mountain Men

Mountain men went onto the plains in order to hunt animals to collect their fur, which they later sold back in the east. The mountain men established many routes through the rocky mountains, for example the South Pass discovered by Jed Smith in 1823. In order to adapt to life on the plains, they adopted many of the ways of the Plains Indians, for example Buckskin Shirts, Long Hair, Leather Trousers... Many also married Indian wives, so they would have a home for winter. However, if anything their impact on the Indians was more detrimental, they introduced fire-arms, and alcohol, which made the Indians less self sufficient.

In many ways, the mountain men also influenced other Easterners to move west, they told stories about rich fertile land, which encouraged people who thought there might be opportunities to farm. However, they did not themselves properly settle in the west, they only travelled to and fro.


In 1948 gold was discovered in California, and this led to a huge number of 'prospectors' travelling across the plains. They were nicknamed the '49ers' and by the end of 1949, there were over 40,000 miners settled in California. Although these miners found limited success, as the gold mines soon dried up, the rush founded large number of mining communities, which later developed into large towns and cities. With regards to law and order in these towns, there existed such a thing as 'the Mining Code' and they established the 'Court of Mines'. In 1850 California official became a state in the USA, with it's own governor. This sped along the settlement of the West.

Early Pioneers

Early Pioneers crossed the Plains in order to settle in California and Oregon. However, the journey West was very treacherous and they encountered many problems along the way, for example extreme weather, accidents, illness, shortage and food (although it was possible to restock supplies at places like Fort Laramie), they also needed to set off at the right time, in order to avoid large amounts of snow in the South Pass. They also encountered problems with the Indians, especially as some of the Indians believed they were bringing disease.

To make the journey, they needed several things, for example a 'Prarie Schooner' or a wagon as you might know it, they also needed food, money, and seed to plant upon their arrival in the West. Many also took some cattle to live on their farms in the West.

As with all migrations there were different 'Push and Pull' factors which influenced their move West. Some 'Pull…


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