restricted access Foreword
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Foreword For most Americans “the West” refers to the western half of the nation. From the Great Plains across the Rockies and the intermontane plateaus to the Pacific Ocean, “the American West” conjures up a flood of popular images: trappers, cowboys, miners , and homesteading families; the Marlboro man and countrywestern music. This has been the West since the California Gold Rush and the migration of ’49ers propelled the region into the national consciousness. But it was not always so. There was an earlier American West, no less vivid and no less dramatic. Here the fabled figures were not John Charles Frémont and Geronimo, but Daniel Boone and Tecumseh; not Calamity Jane and “Buffalo Bill” Cody, but Rachel Jackson and Davy Crockett. Geographically, this earlier West extended from the crest of the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River, from the border with Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. It was the West of Euro-American expansion from before the American Revolution until the middle of the nineteenth century , when the line of frontier settlement moved through the first West toward that new, farther West. Initially the story of the first American West involved two sets of characters: first, the white people of European origin, and south of the Ohio River, African-American slaves, who were spreading relentlessly westward; second, the original settlers, the Native Americans, who retreated grudgingly before the flood. The first Europeans, French and Spanish, appeared on this landscape in the 1600s and early 1700s, and their interactions with the original native peoples involved both cooperation and conflict. The English arrived a half-century later. The Europeans were almost always a minority in number, so they and the Indians sought neither conquest nor annihilation, but mutual accommodation, joint occupation of the land and joint use of its resources. The system of contact allowed both sides to survive and even to bene- fit from one another’s presence. Trade developed and intermarriage followed, and so did misunderstandings and violence. Still, a delicate balance supported by mutual interests often characterized relations among Europeans and native peoples. When Anglo-Americans began moving through the Cumberland Gap from Virginia into what hunters called the Kentucky country in the 1750s, they soon tilted the balance between the two cultures, occupying large portions of Kentucky and pressing against native groups from Ohio south to Georgia. By 1780, the Anglo-Americans had also occupied the former French settlements of Cahokia in Illinois and Vincennes in Indiana. Despite strong resistance by several native groups, the seemingly unending reinforcements of white families made the Euro-Americans’ gradual occupation of the trans-Appalachian frontier inevitable. In the 1780s the infant American government issued ordinances spelling out how the land between the Great Lakes and the Ohio River was to be acquired from the native peoples, subdivided , and sold to the citizens of the new republic. The new residents of that region could establish a form of government organization that would lead to statehood and equal membership in the union. A parallel process was soon set up for Kentucky, Tennessee, and the lands south to the Gulf. In the 1830s and the 1840s, the remaining native groups east of the Mississippi were removed to the West. The expansion of settlement into the trans-Appalachian frontier could now continue unchecked into Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, and the great cotton lands and hill country of Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida . The frontier period had been completed—as early as the 1820s in Kentucky, and within the next twenty years throughout much of the Old Northwest and Old Southwest. In brief terms, this is the story of the trans-Appalachian frontier . Over scarcely three generations, the trickle of settler families across the mountains had become a flood; four million people, both white and black, had settled in the frontier regions. Beginning with Kentucky in 1792 and running through Florida in 1845 Foreword xiv  and Wisconsin in 1848, a dozen new states had entered the American union. Each territory and state had its own story, and it is appropriate that each will have a separate volume in this series. The variations are broad. Florida’s first European arrived in 1513, and this future state was a frontier for Spain and the United States for over 350 years. Missouri had a long French and Spanish history before the arrival of American settlers, but Kentucky and Ohio did not; Americans in large numbers came quickly to the latter states through the Cumberland Gap. The opening...