From sea to shining sea American Pioneers pushed forward to each new frontier; over mountains, through wilderness, across prairies, around desert canyons, beyond giant Sequoia forests, and to where the Pacific sea constantly pummels rock into sunny sandy beaches.
American pioneers were tenacious and brave. Each one had his or her own reasons to take a chance and venture into a world that was wildly dangerous and unfamiliar to them. Every conceivable threat and obstacle met them head-on, yet amidst the storms of defeat and despair, they forged ahead forever moving westward until they reached a destination that suited them or until they died. Many died.
Who were these courageous souls? Why did they risk everything including their lives for an adventure that was likely to give them extreme hardships and excessive worry?
American pioneers were ordinary people who were willing to do extraordinary things. They were hunters and trappers. They were fur traders, miners, and soldiers. They were surveyors and farmers. They were missionaries. The pioneers, our fore-fathers and mothers carved out the map of America one territory at a time with nothing more than a few rudimentary tools and their bare hands. These men and women are true heroes without whom we would not have borne the great nation it is today.
The first of the pioneers began long before the great westward expansion of the early 1800's in a little village called Plymouth, Massachusetts. Even though the American continent was discovered and explored to some degree by 1620, it wasn't until then that the Mayflower sailed 102 passengers from England who had made a pact to stay and permanently make America their home. They were the first pioneers who left their European homes and in many cases their extended families behind to stake a claim on a continent that was rough and wild with not much to offer except the certain hardship. Why?
These men, women, and children were determined to gain a new start, no matter what the costs. They were tired of the religious persecution and high taxes they had endured for so long in their homeland. Some had heard of a place where they could be free. Free to do as they please, worship as they liked, and there were no taxes. Some had heard of America.
The original pilgrims lost about half of their people within the first year due to Indian attacks and disease. That alone could have sent everyone back to the homeland with nobody blaming them for returning. But they refused to let the toils of everyday life defeat them. They trudged on and eventually things got better. They settled some disputes with the Indians, started to communicate with them, and learned how to live in America with Native American help. It was after that when the pioneer pilgrims could finally settle down and make the first village they called Plymouth after their own city in England.
It wasn't long until more Europeans came to America to settle permanently. Plymouth, Massachusetts grew rapidly and from there, travel into the wild began as explorers, adventurers, and hunters sought out new grounds and new opportunities. It must have been both exciting and terrifying at the same time to venture away from the protections of the village into lands that were so untamed. Yet, they went. Brave men looking for a dream or just looking to find out what exactly was out there.
Native Americans helped these first pioneers. They took them on trails and into good hunting lands. They taught them how to survive the wilderness and attacks by unfriendly tribes. They showed them crops that would grow well in the soils so different from Europe's. Americans owe the Native Americans of that time a debt of gratitude. They are one of the most important reasons why the pioneer pilgrims had survived the first several decades in the New World.
Movement westward had begun from the beginning. It was human nature to explore the continent further. Most were willing to suffer in order to seek a new opportunity or land of their own once the first villages became overcrowded. Farmers of New England wanted to leave behind the hard, rocky soil in hopes to find more pliable, more fertile land. The Western Horizon was out there speaking to them and they listened.
Part 2 examines how the pioneers turned the wilderness into homesteads and bustling towns.