Daniel Boone escorting settlers through the Cumberland Gap In the colonial era, before , the west was of high priority for settlers and politicians.
The American frontier began when Jamestown , Virginia was settled by the English in In the earliest days of European settlement of the Atlantic coast, down to about , the frontier was essentially any part of the interior of the continent beyond the fringe of existing settlements along the Atlantic coast.
Only a few thousand French migrated to Canada; these habitants settled in villages along the St. Lawrence River , building communities that remained stable for long stretches; they did not simply jump west the way the British did. Although French fur traders ranged widely through the Great Lakes and mid-west region they seldom settled down.
French settlement was limited to a few very small villages such as Kaskaskia, Illinois  as well as a larger settlement around New Orleans. Likewise, the Dutch set up fur trading posts in the Hudson River valley, followed by large grants of land to rich landowning patroons who brought in tenant farmers who created compact, permanent villages. They created a dense rural settlement in upstate New York, but they did not push westward. These areas remained primarily in subsistence agriculture, and as a result by the s these societies were highly egalitarian, as explained by historian Jackson Turner Main: The typical frontier society therefore was one in which class distinctions were minimized.
The wealthy speculator, if one was involved, usually remained at home, so that ordinarily no one of wealth was a resident. The class of landless poor was small. The great majority were landowners, most of whom were also poor because they were starting with little property and had not yet cleared much land nor had they acquired the farm tools and animals which would one day make them prosperous.
Few artisans settled on the frontier except for those who practiced a trade to supplement their primary occupation of farming. There might be a storekeeper, a minister, and perhaps a doctor; and there were a number of landless laborers.
All the rest were farmers. North Carolina was representative. However frontier areas of that had good river connections were increasingly transformed into plantation agriculture. Rich men came in, bought up the good land, and worked it with slaves.
The area was no longer "frontier". It had a stratified society comprising a powerful upper-class white landowning gentry, a small middle-class, a fairly large group of landless or tenant white farmers, and a growing slave population at the bottom of the social pyramid. Unlike the North, where small towns and even cities were common, the South was overwhelmingly rural.
Land ownership brought a degree of independence as well as a vote for local and provincial offices. The typical New England settlements were quite compact and small—under a square mile.
Conflict with the Native Americans arose out of political issues, namely who would rule. The series of large wars spilling over from European wars ended in a complete victory for the British in the worldwide Seven Years' War. In the peace treaty of , France lost practically everything, as the lands west of the Mississippi river, in addition to Florida and New Orleans, went to Spain. Otherwise lands east of the Mississippi River and what is now Canada went to Britain.
Steady migration to frontier lands[ edit ] Regardless of wars Americans were moving across the Appalachians into western Pennsylvania, what is now West Virginia, and areas of the Ohio Country , Kentucky and Tennessee. In the southern settlements via the Cumberland Gap , their most famous leader was Daniel Boone ,  Young George Washington promoted settlements in West Virginia on lands awarded to him and his soldiers by the Royal government in payment for their wartime service in Virginia's militia.
West of the mountains, settlements were curtailed briefly by a decree by the Royal Proclamation of However the Treaty of Fort Stanwix re-opened most of the western lands for frontiersmen to settle. Pioneers housed themselves in a rough lean-to or at most a one-room log cabin.
The main food supply at first came from hunting deer, turkeys, and other abundant game. Clad in typical frontier garb, leather breeches, moccasins, fur cap, and hunting shirt, and girded by a belt from which hung a hunting knife and a shot pouch — all homemade — the pioneer presented a unique appearance. In a short time he opened in the woods a patch, or clearing, on which he grew corn, wheat, flax, tobacco and other products, even fruit.
Homespun clothing replaced the animal skins. Land policy[ edit ] The land policy of the new nation was conservative, paying special attention to the needs of the settled East. By the s, however, the West was filling up with squatters who had no legal deed, although they may have paid money to previous settlers.
The Jacksonian Democrats favored the squatters by promising rapid access to cheap land. By contrast, Henry Clay was alarmed at the "lawless rabble" heading West who were undermining the utopian concept of a law-abiding, stable middle-class republican community. Rich southerners, meanwhile, looked for opportunities to buy high-quality land to set up slave plantations. The Free Soil movement of the s called for low-cost land for free white farmers, a position enacted into law by the new Republican Party in , offering free acre 65 ha homesteads to all adults, male and female, black and white, native-born or immigrant.
Map of the Wilderness Road by After winning the Revolutionary War , American settlers in large numbers poured into the west. In , American pioneers to the Northwest Territory established Marietta, Ohio as the first permanent American settlement in the Northwest Territory. It was later lengthened to reach the Falls of the Ohio at Louisville. The Wilderness Road was steep and rough, and it could only be traversed on foot or horseback, but it was the best route for thousands of settlers moving into Kentucky.
In alone, Indians killed over travelers on the Wilderness Road. No Indians lived permanently in Kentucky  but they sent raiding parties to stop the newcomers.
One of those intercepted was Abraham Lincoln 's grandfather, who was scalped in near Louisville. Johnson , who later became Vice president The War of marked the final confrontation between major Indian forces trying to stop the advance, with British aid.
The British war goal included the creation of an independent Indian state under British auspices in the Midwest. The death in battle of the Indian leader Tecumseh dissolved the coalition of hostile Indian tribes. In general the frontiersmen battled the Indians with little help from the U. Army or the federal government. They rejected the British plan to set up an Indian state in U.
They explained the American policy toward acquisition of Indian lands: The United States, while intending never to acquire lands from the Indians otherwise than peaceably, and with their free consent, are fully determined, in that manner, progressively, and in proportion as their growing population may require, to reclaim from the state of nature, and to bring into cultivation every portion of the territory contained within their acknowledged boundaries.
In thus providing for the support of millions of civilized beings, they will not violate any dictate of justice or of humanity; for they will not only give to the few thousand savages scattered over that territory an ample equivalent for any right they may surrender, but will always leave them the possession of lands more than they can cultivate, and more than adequate to their subsistence, comfort, and enjoyment, by cultivation.
If this be a spirit of aggrandizement, the undersigned are prepared to admit, in that sense, its existence; but they must deny that it affords the slightest proof of an intention not to respect the boundaries between them and European nations, or of a desire to encroach upon the territories of Great Britain.
Then when population reached , the territory applied for statehood. Louis, Missouri was the largest town on the frontier, the gateway for travel westward, and a principal trading center for Mississippi River traffic and inland commerce but remained under Spanish control until The Louisiana Purchase of [ edit ] Thomas Jefferson thought of himself as a man of the frontier and was keenly interested in expanding and exploring the West.
Between and the s, the federal government purchased the actual land from the Indian tribes then in possession of it. Additional sums were paid to the Indians living east of the Mississippi for their lands, as well as payments to Indians living in parts of the west outside the Louisiana Purchase.
He charged Lewis and Clark to "explore the Missouri River, and such principal stream of it, as, by its course and communication with the waters of the Pacific Ocean; whether the Columbia, Oregon, Colorado or any other river may offer the most direct and practicable communication across the continent for the purposes of commerce".
Astor's " Fort Astoria " later Fort George , at the mouth of the Columbia River, became the first permanent white settlement in that area, although it was not profitable for Astor. He set up the American Fur Company in an attempt to break the hold that the Hudson's Bay Company monopoly had over the region. By , Astor had taken over independent traders to create a profitable monopoly; he left the business as a multi-millionaire in