If you're like me, you know bits and pieces of how things went down in the Old West and may even have a rudimentary timeline in your mind of major events that shaped the United States as a whole. However, when I stumbled upon this terrific timeline that author and historian Kathy Weiser-Alexander compiled, I wasn't aware of half the events that were so important in establishing the nation's structure and bolstering the settlers' courage. That courage, along with their grit and fortitude, is what helps me deal with difficulties in my own life. I know that I can face whatever mountain I have to face because of the mountains my progenitors faced.
Here are just a few facts that stood out to me as I read through the timeline:
1) My home state, Arizona, was established as a territory long before other states that were admitted into the Union. However, it was one of the last few to finally be admitted.
2) It took Samuel Colt fourteen years and the help of Texas Ranger Captain Sam Walker to invent the revolver. It then took another 23 years for the double revolver to be patented. Now that's persistence!
3) There were many more wars and skirmishes between whites and Native Americans than I knew of. We hear of the major battles between the Comanche and Texans, Crazy Horse and Custer, and Geronimo and Crook. Geronimo eventually surrendered to Gen. Nelson Miles, but there were countless other battles between whites and Native Americans in U.S. history, or in some cases, the same people fighting each other more than once, over the same issue. Difficult times for everyone involved! I think they just wanted to be able to live their lives the way they had always done and the only way they knew how. Unfortunately, history shows us that change is both inevitable and daunting.
4) I didn't realize how many cities are in existence today because of gold and silver discoveries. Many of the boom towns that sprung up after a major discovery fizzled out just as quickly, but there were several which persevered. Some towns like Deadwood, South Dakota, and Seattle, Washington even burned to the ground and were rebuilt, not unlike Chicago. (How often do we hear of the "Great Seattle Fire"?) And of course, San Francisco suffered a major disaster in the 1906 earthquake and has risen up to take its place on the world stage once again. Resilience has long been the fervor of our American forebears!
This timeline, while helpful in putting the bigger picture together, isn't complete, and may never be. Personally, I would add the quest and mystery of the Lost Dutchman's gold mine in the Superstitions Mountains of central Arizona, the first rodeo occurring in Colorado Territory in 1869, and the start-up of dude ranches, or "guest ranches," as they were called. And while the article mentions the day when Pinkerton detectives stormed the James household in pursuit of Jesse James in 1875, it doesn't mention the formation of the famous detective agency in 1850.
Which important events that shaped the United States would you add? Is there a bit of local history in your area that contributes to the settling of the West?
Note: The article I referenced above also mentions Bleeding Kansas and the difficult years with the Border Ruffians. If you would like to read more about that, my book, Hope Springs Eternal, might be a good choice for you. Also, several of the Pinkerton Matchmaker books, including my first one, An Agent for Elizabeth, show Denver in its infancy after it sprung up from a mining camp. Finally, A Lumberjack for Christmas shows Arizona Territory when it was growing as well. You can find all of these stories on Amazon.