American Westward Expansion

The 43-star American flag of 1890, as shown on Wikipedia. Five stars were added at this time for Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Washington states.

America went through a major transformation during the thirty year period between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of the 20th century. The Industrial Revolution was just starting and was having a negative affect on a large portion of the poorer citizens in the original states. Many of the more independent-thinking individuals seeking better opportunities than could be found in the East decided to move to the open, less regulated American West.

My Eagle Rock Trilogy is a story about the early life in the West, but it is not a typical “Cowboys and Indians” story with the gunfights and ambushes so often portrayed in Old West novels and movies. It is about the early adventurers and entrepreneurs who were willing to take a risk and move to an unsettled part of America to start a new life. I picked this time period and Eagle Rock, Idaho as the settlement I would use to build my historical fiction novel with the following historical facts in mind.

  • By 1879, the U.S. government had relocated many Native Americans to reservations where the land was of little or no interest to the pioneers. Although the Native Americans were not pleased with this solution, they were no longer as much of a threat to the new settlers taking over their land.
  • With the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, getting to the West was no longer a nine month ordeal.
  • Many locations west of the Mississippi had abundant fertile land at low prices or even free through the government’s Homestead Acts. One could still trap and hunt somewhat effectively and the West had many areas rich with much needed raw materials but lacking a sufficient labor force to take advantage of these materials.
  • It is not surprising that large numbers of families and individuals willing to take a risk on on a new life in an undeveloped territory decided to travel West in the late 1800s to see if they could make a living, and many stopped at locations like Eagle Rock.

The Eagle Rock Trilogy is my effort to portray the new life these groups chose, albeit a risk, in leaving the familiarity of the East and eastern Midwest — common people not well memorialized but so important for the settlement of such a vast portion of the United States and bringing about important political and economic changes long before they became realities in the eastern United States.

Due to the more informal nature of western settlement, many commonly held concepts about the American form of democracy were eventually questioned and challenged to bring about major changes in the economy, women’s rights, the acceptance of government backed large-scale public works, the enforcement of anti-polygamy laws as well as regulations regarding monopolies and the government’s role in protecting common citizens over the next several decades.

Changes of this magnitude did not occur again in America until World War II and the FDR presidency.

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