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Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark, Fur Trade, and Westward Expansion

Important Historical Events that Affected Western Colorado

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Louisiana Purchase, Lewis & Clark, Fur Trade, and More, 1803-1847

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Louisiana Purchase
Louisiana Purchase 1803

>Lewis and Clark Expedition
Lewis and Clark Expedition 1804-1806

Westward Expansion
Westward Expansion

Fur Trade & Mountain Men Fur Trade & Mountain Men

Louisiana Purchase, 1803
Louisiana Purchase

In 1803, the United States purchased a large area of land in North America from France. Without another war, the U.S. President Thomas Jefferson greatly expanded the territory of the United States. The French leader Napoleon Bonaparte had dreams of conquering and controlling much of Europe. In order to do this, he sold to the United States of America a large area of land in North America between the Mississippi River and the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains. Napoleon could buy more guns and build more war ships. One of France's major enemies was Great Britain. France thought a stronger United States would be a good ally against Great Britain. In addition there were few French people living in that area of land in North America, and there were no easy ways to for the French to defend the area. President Thomas Jefferson bought the 800,000 square miles of land to the west of the Mississippi River for around 15 million dollars.

If you were to look a the Louisiana Purchase and Westward Expansion from the point of view of a Native American, then you may see it in a much different way. The whole idea that France owned a land that had very few French people living there with no army to control or guard it is a silly idea. The Native Americans lived on the land and were the people the United States should have been talking with. In addition, it was not 'unsettled land' many different Native Americans had been living on this same land for countless generations. These wrongs show what early settlers and the early United States government thought of the Native Americans. The United States citizens at the time viewed Native Americans as savage uncivilized people who did not use their land to their possible full potential.

President Thomas Jefferson
 Napoleon Bonaparte
Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1804-1806
Lewis and Clark

In May of 1804, Thomas Jefferson sent Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and a small group of men to explore this new land and to try to find a quicker way to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Lewis was a scientists and took notes on the many new animals, plants, and rock formations they found on the journey. Clark was a military man and was an excellent leader and map maker. A French fur trader and translator named Charbonneau joined the journey and brought his Native American wife Sacagawea with them.

Little did the whole group know, but Sacagawea became one of the most important people on the expedition. Sacagawea was an important translator, geography guide, and cultural guide. By having a women in the party, it showed the Native American tribes that the group was not a war party. They traveled northwest up the Missouri River through the Great Plains and across the Northern Rocky Mountains. Just when the group was facing their hardest times on the expedition, Sacagawea accidentally met up with her tribe again. The tribe helped get the expedition back on track.

The group crossed the Cascade Mountains and in November of 1805 reached the Pacific Ocean. They stayed the winter there, turned back home, and by September 1806 returned to Thomas Jefferson. They shared their journals and maps about the land, animals, and Native American tribes. The group traveled thousands of miles in a little over two years. That was quite impressive considering it was all new territory to them, and there were no roads or cars like we have nowadays. Also, all the people except one that started the journey were able to finish the journey. The expedition traveled over such long distances in an unknown land and met with so many Native Americans, that it still is one of the most remarkable journeys in history.

Westward Expansion
Wagon Train The United States was founded on the dream of creating our own destinies. This included owning our own land, growing our own food, and governing ourselves through democracy. So when much of the eastern coast had been starting to get more crowded, some United States citizens and new immigrants from European and other countries started moving west past the original 13 states. They explored and settled the Appalachian Mountains, Ohio River Valley, Ozark Mountains and more. The new settlers also started living on the newly purchased land from France, the lands past the Mississippi River Basin and into the Great Plains.

The United States citizens at the time viewed Native Americans as savage uncivilized people who did not use their land to their possible full potential. Where ever the new settlers wanted to live, they forced the Native Americans to move west and some times in horrible conditions, like the Cherokee Trail of Tears. In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act sending Native American Tribes from the east of the Mississippi River to lands by current day Oklahoma west of the Mississippi River.

Trail of Tears
Fur Trade & Mountain Men
fur trappers and mountain men Ever since the first European immigrants came to North America, the fur trade had become an important business between Europe and the American settlements. Over time, the fur trappers and mountain men would trap most of the animals in an area and move farther west. By the 1820's and 1830's they had over trapped much of the eastern and central parts of the United States and started heading into the Rocky Mountains.

In addition, beaver skin hats became very popular in the Eastern United States in the 1820's and 1830's, and some men hoping for adventure and fortunes went into the Rocky Mountains and farther west looking for beaver fur and other animal furs. It was a fairly rough and lawless land. Many mountain men died from extreme mountain weather, diseases, injuries, and fights with the Native Americans, the Mexican Army, or other mountain men. The average time spent as a mountain man was less than three years. Most mountain men either died or moved back to civilization.

By the time mountain men traded their furs for all their needed living supplies, they did not make very much money. First, it was expensive and risky getting food and supplies to the forts. Second, it was expensive and risky getting the furs back east. In addition, there were no other close forts for mountain men to see if they could get a better deal. Most mountain men went back as poor or poorer as when they started their adventure. Though, a few became famous guides to new settlers and cowboys, like Jim Bridger.

Beaver Skin
Beaver Skin Hat