The Hardships of the Settlers During the Westward Expansion

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How would you feel if you went all the way across the country without knowing what's out there? Would you take the risk? Well over 215 years ago settlers moved out West to expand land. This was called The Westward Expansion. The Westward Expansion was when settlers moved out West to expand land. One reason people went West was because of Manifest Destiny. According to, “Manifest Destiny was a belief that the United States was destined by God to expand land.” They were not only destined to expand land but they were destined to spread a government system and an economic system across the whole United States.Another reason people began moving West was because of economical opportunities. Back in the 1800’s, many people relied on trading with one another. Many thought moving West could cause a trading port system that could allow many people to trade and form large cities. An expedition called Lewis and Clark was the first expedition to set out on their way to explore the Louisiana Territory.

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On the way to the Louisiana Territory, they ran into an Indian tribe called Hidatsa, where they chose an Indian women named Sacagawea to help them on their mission. At the time, Sacagawea was expecting her first child but they still choose her because she knew the Shoshone language. Knowing the Shoshone language could help Lewis and Clark by talking to other Indian tribes for locations. Sacagawea also helped Lewis and Clark through the woods and land of the West. Sacagawea overall, was very helpful to Lewis and Clark to not make large challenges for themselves exploring the West. Aside from the Lewis and Clark expedition, many other settlers moved out West. Many of those groups included the forty-niners.

The forty-niners were people who went out west to what is now called California to mine for gold. Gold in California all started when a man named James Marshall found yellowish flakes in a river. When rumors started to get out of gold, many settlers from the West and California rushed over to Sutter’s Mill and other mill’s to search for gold. A lot of people were unlucky to find gold. When the gold was found many of the settlers would spend it all and they would be broke again. With that, they wouldn’t be able to buy food and other supplies. When settlers would move West, life was very hard. The settlers had to feed themselves and their livestock too. Occasionally, the livestock would sometimes die and they wouldn’t have any oxen to drive their wagons. Also, the trip over was a lot of money. They needed to buy transportation, tools, oxen, and food. When the settlers would come across a river or lake, they had no way to get around except for a bridge. When they would cross bridges, they would have to pay a toll to go across. They had to pay for not one not two but a bunch of tolls for all their wagons to cross. When there would not be any tolls, many times the settlers would have to caulk the wagon and float across.

Another hardship they faced was diseases. Many diseases were spreading around including tuberculosis, smallpox, measles, chickenpox, and many more. Another issue they faced was starvation and dehydration which killed a lot of people. Over 200,000 people died on their journey to the West of either diseases, old age, or illness. Another large problem many settlers faced moving West was running into Indian tribes. Just like you and me, many people don’t like trespassers, well neither did the Indians. A lot of times when people would cross their land, they would be killed. Especially when you would cross on one of their hunting fields for buffalo. If you would be on their hunting grounds, they Indians would most likely sneak up and burn your wagon filled with people. The United States army would try to keep peace with the Native Americans but occasionally there would be battle breakouts. When they Indians and the United States would have battles, The United States would win because of their powerful weapons. According to the Journal Entry of Abigail Jane Scott in 1852, one of her family’s horses ran away causing a train to charge. Knowing a train could do anything at anytime would be scary. This would be a challenge because people could die from crossing the train tracks without knowing a train was approaching. July 17: We came twenty two miles, traveling all day in the Bear River valley. The valley and mountains are covered with grass and the summits of the latter are adorned with splendid groves of fir making the scenery beautiful. We passed a (small) stream every few miles.

The water runs very swiftly and is perfectly clear and very cold with a pleasant taste. A horse ran away today causing a train ahead of us to stampede.” Another entry from Margaret A. Frink in 1850, states the only way to get to their destination was to climb up and up. Margaret states it was hard for the wagons to come up and the men had to help pull the wagons with ropes. This would have to been very dangerous and hard because the steep mountain. Saturday, July 6: “We started at six o'clock, forded Thomas Fork, and, turning to the west, came to a high steep spur that extends to the river. Over this high spur we were compelled to climb… Part of the way I rode on horseback, the rest I walked. The descent was very long and steep. All the wheels of the wagon were tied fast, and it slid along the ground. At one place the men held it back with ropes, and let it down slowly. After coming to the valley. we drove to the river and rested some time for dinner. In the afternoon we went seven miles further, down the valley, and encamped at sundown by a beautiful stream… From exploring and searching of how the Westward Expansion started, I've realized the journey was was tough and challenging. I would say the people who took the journey out West, were brave and powerful. Although they had many challenges and including death, starvation, and dehydration they still made it. So like I said earlier would you of taken the risk like the early settlers did?

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