Pioneers

The first caravans lumbered across two thousand miles of dangerous, inhospitable wilderness in 1843, the year of the Great Migration. To a surprising degree it’s still possible to follow something very like their route.

A couple of miles south of Marysville, Kansas, not far from the east bank of the Big Blue River, lies one of the most moving places on the Oregon Trail. Read more >>

A novelist joins his ancestor on a trip West and discovers in her daily travails an intimate view of a tremendous national migration

For the past several days I have been traveling from Dover, New Jersey, toward Fort Washington, Ohio, with my great-great-great-grandmother. Read more >>

For many children who accompanied their parents west across the continent in the 1840s and '50s, the journey was a supreme adventure

The historian Francis Parkman, strolling around Independence, Missouri, in 1846, remarked upon the “multitude of healthy children’s faces … peeping out from under the covers of the wagons.” Two decades later a traveler there wrote of husbands packing up “sunb Read more >>

The Story of Some Forgotten Four-Footed Pioneers

Until recently the history of the American West has been dominated by the elite, the spectacular, and the gaudy, not by the ordinary folk—the “little people with dirty faces,” who are only now beginning to get their due. Read more >>

The last homesteading community, a Depression-era experiment—and a selection of the rare color photographs that recorded it

For a long time the Pueblo Plateau of west-central New Mexico has promised more than it has given. Read more >>
The Plains Acrossi The Overland Emigrants and the Trans-Mississippi West, 1840-60 by John D. Unruh, Jr. University of Illinois Press Illustrations, tables, maps 565 pages, $20.00 Read more >>

“Surveyor, mountain man, soldier, businessman, wanderer, captain of emigrants, farmer…he was himself the westward-moving frontier.”

In medias res: Fort Laramie on the Oregon-California Trail, June 27,1846, a day of reckoning. Read more >>
People who have been turned out of their homes make keen historians. Forced from the land of their ancestors and onto the open road without a destination, they have a way of remembering—often to the minute of the day—the trauma of departure. Read more >>

From Poverty and Persecution to Prosperity and Power

In the month of February, 1846, when conditions for travel were as unpropitious as possible, the Mormons began moving out of their newly built city of Nauvoo, Illinois, in order to cross the ice-strewn Mississippi, on the first leg of a long and uncertain journey. Read more >>

A Last Link with the Living Frontier

IT WAS LIKE THIS FOR OUR GREAT-GRANDMOTHERS

The tragic journey of the Donner Party

To the brothers George and Jacob Donner the way to California seemed clear and simple. Read more >>

Pioneer farmers had neither wood nor brick to build with, but there sure was plenty of good earth

“My father was one of the early homesteaders in Red Willow County, Nebraska. His homestead was located a few miles north of the Kansas line on high, flat divide land. … If he looked toward Kansas, what did he see? He saw nothing but sod. Read more >>

Between the ages of fifteen and twenty, young Peter Rindisbacher captured on canvas the lives of Indians and white pioneers on the Manitoba—Minnesota frontier

On August 12, 1834, a twenty-eight-year-old Swiss-born youth named Peter Rindisbacher, who was just beginning to attract international attention with his colorful and realistic drawings of Indian life along the mid-western United States and central Canadian frontiers, died in S Read more >>

Legend says the frontier was “hell on women,” but the ladies claim they had the time of their lives

Today furniture is often made from just one kind of wood. In the old days, when people knew wood better, a simple rocking chair might contain as many as seven kinds of wood. Read more >>