Archive | westward migration

Everything Changes: the Arrival of the Steamboats

“It is  now refreshing, and imparts a feeling of energy and power to the beholder,  to see the large and beautiful steamboats scudding up the eddies, as though on the wing; and when they have run out the eddy, strike the current.  The foam bursts in a sheet quite over the deck.  She quivers for […]

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Everything Changes: The Arrival of the Americans

The amiable and polished citizens of the French towns were appalled.  The English-speaking Americans, who were crossing the Mississippi River by the thousands in the years after the Battle of New Orleans, were rude, violent, thieving, litigious, and unconcerned with harmony in social relationships.  They ignored all rules and restrictions, settling on Federal land without […]

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The Indian Nations, Moving Endlessly West

When the French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet first arrived on the Great Plains in 1673, they encountered a tribe who may themselves have arrived only shortly before.  The Osage had moved west from the Ohio valley over the previous century, because of a long series of conflicts with the Iroquois.  They were a […]

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An Interactive Map: The Spread of the Plantation Economy

Several posts in this series have discussed the gradual loss of rights and dignity by free people of color, as each new frontier became “civilized.”  This fascinating link, shared by Rebecca Krause-Hardie, allows us to see something of what was driving that process.  If you hover over the link for each decade in succession, and […]

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Upriver by Keelboat was the Hard Part

Going down a river on a flatboat was the easy part.  When you reached your destination, or the place on the river nearest your destination, you simply took the boat apart, sold it for firewood, or used the logs to build yourself a new cabin.  Going upriver was something else entirely. Keelboats, described by the […]

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With the Current: Journeys by Flatboat

When the first permanent European settlers arrived in the Nashville area in 1780, they came by flatboat down the Ohio River.  When Newit Drew and his family left, some 36 years later, they left in the same way.  Until the coming of the steamboats, flatboats were a primary means of transportation for emigrants traveling west […]

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Seeds of Community, Seeds of Democracy

The frontier Baptist churches of the 18th and 19th centuries were self-governing democratic communities.  As each new church was founded, its founding members met to draw up a constitution, setting out the articles of belief to which they all subscribed; a covenant, setting out the ways they would treat each other; and a set of […]

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From Fort to Fashionable in Seven Years

The frontier period in Middle Tennessee did not last long. In 1780, only a handful of years after the long hunters had hunted  out the last of the game on the Cumberland Plateau, Kasper Mansker returned with James Robertson and a large party of settlers to the site of present-day Nashville.  That same year saw […]

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The Short History of the Long Hunters

They were the legendary hunters and explorers of  Kentucky and Tennessee, men like Daniel Boone (pictured at left,) Kasper Mansker, Joseph Drake, Isaac Bledsoe, and Uriah Stone, who set out from the mountainous edges of Virginia and North Carolina in the 1760s and early 70s.  They were known as long hunters, because they were sometimes […]

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Moving West: On the Border Between the Races

As the doors closed around them in the early 18th century, many of Virginia’s free people of color moved west and south.  In the border areas of Virginia, the colony’s restrictive racial laws were only casually enforced, and south of the North Carolina border they did not exist at all.  The extensive research of Paul […]

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