Saloons, Shootouts, and Spurs: The Wild West In the 1800's (Daily Life in America in the 1800s)
Life on the American frontier of the 1800s is the stuff of American myth and legend. It was here in the wide-open spaces of the West that the rugged individualism of the American character was refined: in the strong but silent cowboy, the saloon girl with a heart of gold, and the sod-busting pioneer.
Faced with the incredible challenges of taming a wilderness, wresting the territory from the Native peoples, and dealing with the hardships of pioneer life, Americans were offered one of the richest opportunities in the history of human kind—the agricultural and mineral resources of a new land. The settling of this land is the story of America, a story of violence, wasted resources, and genocide, as well as heroism, freedom, and incredible opportunity.
The Wild West of the 1800s remains for Americans a land of hopes and dreams.
that the people living out West—Indians, fur trappers, and Spaniards— must be “wild” or uncivilized. (Ignorance often breeds prejudice!) When Anglo-Americans moved west, they actually encountered many well-developed societies that had been there for thousands of years. The Blackfoot (who called themselves the Niitsitapi) were another Native tribe that lived in the American west, in what is now the state of Montana. A Hogan, the traditional Navajo home. More than 100,000 natives lived in
and followed a complicated calendar of ceremonial dances and rituals. Further east on the Great Plains lived the buffalo hunters. These included the Oceti Sakowin (Sioux), Cheyenne, Numunuh (Comanche), and Apsaalooke (Crow). Superb horse riders, they hunted the vast herds of buffalo, and used every part of those beasts for food, clothing, and utensils. They lived in portable tepees, and frequently moved entire villages. The Pueblo people lived in large communities made from adobe. In the
them courage and strength to survive. SNAPSHOT FROM THE PAST A Vision of Troubles Ahead (Southeastern New Mexico, 1823) Red Antelope, a leader of his people, felt inwardly troubled, even though his tribe seemed at ease. For the past six months, the Numunuh (Comanche) had lived well, after making a treaty with the government in Mexico City. The treaty promised there would be no fighting or trespassing on Comanche lands. Since then, the young men had turned their thoughts from warfare to
fast-traveling ocean vessels, these wooden vehicles traveled at the speed of only two miles per hour. Some pioneers were too poor to purchase a wagon, so they bought a “walking ticket” that allowed them to follow along with a wagon train—by foot, all the way. On average, pioneers took six months to cross the 2,000-mile Oregon Trail; and the journey was dangerous. Thirst, starvation, stampedes, and accidents were common threats. Once they arrived, pioneers would “stake a claim” to land. In 1841,
husband—“fetch gunpowder and open that last bottle of whiskey.” When the three ingredients were gathered, Mother asked Sarah to grind equal parts in a small mortar-and-pestle. The resulting medicine paste smelled awful, but under the circumstances, Uncle Hiram did not complain as Mother rubbed it on his skin. A week later, his skin looked smooth as a baby’s. “Thank the Lord, it wasn’t cancer after all,” beamed Uncle Hiram. “Just goes to show,” Sarah replied, “doctors don’t know everything.”