Dividing Western Lands

As the population of the New World grew, the demand for land and exploration expanded into the west. The original settlers stayed close to the Eastern coast due to the resistance by Native Indians and the French that controlled much of the west. The British tried to keep expanding into the west with the Proclamation of 1763, but the settlers that were eager to find new lands to farm ignored it, and vast numbers of people headed to areas including the lands that promised good farming.

Even though there were decades of settlers trying to move out into the west, there were many hurdles that they had to overcome. Travel was difficult and long, and with little in the way of communication and larger communities, expansion was slow.

When the War of 1812 ended, it removed some of the last barriers that Great Britain held over governance of the west. It was at that time that more people began to head west and southwest. The towns and cities started to grow to such a degree that there were now enough people for them to submit a request for statehood. These included the states of Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, Alabama, and Mississippi, and they were adopted as new states.

Pioneers continued to head west from the 1830s to 1840s. Some people took the Oregon Trail to head to the Pacific coast and the Pacific Northeast. However, a majority of the people were settling in Arkansas, Michigan, Iowa, and Wisconsin.

The gold rush changed the pattern of travel, and in 1849 thousands of people headed to California to seek their riches in mining gold. Another event that altered the population had to do with the Mormons seeking a religious center and finding it in Utah. The Gold Rush turned the far west from bare and wildland into thriving communities almost overnight. Many began as tents and small huts and quickly grew to become cities.

Americans continued to push west as well as south and the events that prompted higher populations included both the Civil War and the Gold Rush. The Mississippi River valley promised fertile farmland, and more were moving into the southwest territories, including Texas. Other areas that became official states were Nebraska and Kansas. The desire to mine both silver and gold attracted prospectors to Colorado, Montana, Oregon, and Nevada.

Part of the country that didn’t get settled as quickly was the area known as the Great Plains. These were wide open areas that were home to ranges used by the cattle to graze. These are the areas of the country that were part of the era of the cowboys. The Great Plain was home to the paths that the cowboys took when they were moving cattle from the Texas ranches to the areas where they would be sold at the market.

The settlers began to change this picture in the late 1880s as they created farming communities. The pioneers that lived there represent the last group of pioneers that still had conflicts with Native Indians for land.

As international trade began to expand for the United States, so did the slowing of the expansion Westward. By the 1890s, a majority of the country had been explored, measured, and states were created.


What stopped people in the original colonies from expanding west?
The British and the Native Indians

What was a major incentive for people to head to California?
Discovery of gold

What is the name of the area of the United States that was one of the last to settle?
Great Plains

What group of settlers headed to Utah to look for a religious center/home?
The Mormons

What law did the British enact to keep settlers from moving west?
Proclamation of 1763

Around what years did the pioneers begin to settle the Great Plains?
The 1880s