Kickin' Down Route 66 :: June - October, 1997

Subject: A little (more) history, if you will. Part II
Date: Mon, 08 Sep 1997 23:29:37 -0700

6:50 Gasconade Hills RV Park; Hazelgreen, Missouri :: 07 SEP 97

Text of the History Wall Timeline
Jefferson National Expansion Memorial
St. Louis, Missouri

1800-1819 . 1820-1839 . 1840-1859 . 1860-1879 . 1880-1900

[abridged...and expanded]

[Navigational Note: Finding historical documents with the '§' character.]


map (118K): Territorial Growth 1840.

The ten hour day is established by executive order for all federal employees engaged in public works.

Joel Walker travels overland to Oregon with his family and three other missionary couples.

The first Catholic mission in Oregon is established by Father Pierre Jean DeSmet.

The US census reports that approximately 40,000 Indians from the "Five Civilized Nations" of the East have been resettled in the Trans-Mississippi West.

Sixth census§: US population - 17,069,453


William Henry Harrison is inaugurated§ as the ninth President of the United States; Harrison dies one month later.

John Tyler is inaugurated as the tenth President of the United States. Tyler is the first Vice President to succeed to the office by the death of the President.

The Pre-emption Act of 1841 gives "squatters" the right to purchase federal land upon which they have settled and specifies that the land should be acquired at a minimum price.

Overland migration to California begins when John Bidwell, a New York schoolteacher, and John Bartleson, a land speculator and wagon master, lead a party through South Pass in the Rocky Mountains and across Nevada to settle near Stockton, California.

George Catlin, an American ethnologist and artist, publishes Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs and Condition of the North American Indians.


Lieutenant John C. Fremont of the US Corps of Topographical Engineers explores the route to Oregon from the Mississippi River to South Pass in Wyoming.

The US and Great Britain establish the Canadian boundary from Maine to Lake-of-the-Woods, Minnesota in the Webster-Ashburton Treaty.

The migration of white settlers to the Oregon Country, primarily from the Ohio Valley region and Missouri begins. The main route is the Oregon Trail, which begins at Independence, Missouri, and terminates at Oregon City and the Willamette Valley.


Lieutenant John C. Fremont of the US Corps of Topographical Engineers surveys the emigrant route to Oregon, explores the geography of California, and discovers the geographical nature of the Great Basin.

Oregon settlers, at a meeting at Chompoeg, adopt a Constitution for a provisional government to serve until the US extends its jurisdiction over Oregon. In May, over one thousand settlers bound for Oregon leave Independence, Missouri.

Mountainman Jim Bridger builds a fort at Black's Fork of the Green River to serve emigrants on the Oregon Trail.

Joseph Smith, leader of the Mormon Church, announces that a divine revelation has sanctioned the practice of polygamy.

John James Audobon travels up the Missouri River to Fort Union to sketch wild animals.


The Oregon boundary question results in serious Anglo-American friction. James K. Polk, campaigning for the Presidency, advocates that America should press its territorial claims to the 54° 40' parallel.

A Texas Annexation Treaty§ providing for the admission of Texas as a territory is signed by the US and Texas. The US Senate votes against the annexation treaty.

Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon Church, and his brother, Hyrum Smith, are murdered by a mob in Carthage, Illinois.

The first long-distance telegraph message, "What hath God wrought?"§ is sent from the US Supreme Court room in Washington DC to Baltimore, Maryland by Samuel F.B. Morse.


James K. Polk is inaugurated§ as the eleventh President of the United States.

The Republic of Texas is annexed by joint resolution of Congress§. The area thus acquired is arguably foreign territory, since Mexico has refused to recognize Texan independence.

Mexico breaks off diplomatic relations with the US and begins military preparations to prevent the annexation of Texas.

Gen. Zachary Taylor, US military commander of the Southwest, is ordered to place himself "on or near the Rio Grande" with an "army of observation" of 3,500 men, or about half of the US Army.

President Polk, in his first Annual Message, outlines the "Polk Doctrine," claiming the exclusive right of the people "on this continent" to "decide their own destiny."

The phrase "manifest destiny" is used for the first time by the widely-read editor John L. O'Sullivan in the Democratic Review§.

Florida is admitted as the twenty-seventh state in the Union.

Texas is admitted as the twenty-eigth state in the Union.

Col. Stephen Watts Kearny and five companies of dragoons make their great circular patrol through Fort Laramie, South Pass, Bent's Fort and back along the Santa Fe Trail to St. Louis. The trip tests the capacity of the cavalry for sustained operations far from forts and bases of supply.


American soldiers are attacked by the Mexican Army in disputed Texas Territory, and the US declares war on Mexico§.

The US and Great Britain sign the Oregon Treaty§, which establishes the boundary between the US and the British Northwest Territory at the forty-ninth parallel. The future states of Idaho, Oregon, Washington and parts of Montana and Wyoming comprise the US acquisition.

The Bear Flag Revolt begins in California with a proclamation by a group of American settlers of the Republic of California. Commodore Stockton issues a proclamation declaring annexation of California by the US and establishes himself as Governor.

Brigham Young, successor of the murdered Mormon founder and leader Joseph Smith, organizes the westward migration of the Mormons. The exodus is precipitated by anti-Mormon terror in Nauvoo, Illinois.

A severe potato famine in Ireland precipitates large-scale emigration to the US.

Iowa is admitted as the twenty-ninth state in the Union.


After a campaign of several months, General Winfield Scott enters Mexico City, and the Mexican-American War is brought to an end. A battalion of US Marines begins guarding the "Halls of Montezuma."

Brigham Young, with an advanced party of 148, reaches the Valley of the Great Salt Lake.

The Oregon Bill provides for territorial government of Oregon.

Impassable terrain along a new trail to California, "the Hastings Cut-Off," catches the Donner party in an early snowfall in the Sierras. Beyond the reach of assistance throughout the winter, the group resort to cannibalism to survive. Nearly half the 87 members of the party perish.

Cyrus McCormick begins manufacture of his reaper in Chicago, a farm implement which will revolutionize US and European agriculture in the years to follow.

Peace negotiations with Mexico begin through the auspices of British Minister Charles Bankhead.


Gold is discovered at Sutter's Mill near Sacramento, California.

The US and Mexico sign the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo§ which ends the war. An area encompassing the future states of California, Nevada, Utah, western Colorado, New Mexico, and most of Arizona, together with Texas, is relinquished to the US by Mexico for the sum of $15 million. The southwest Texas border is fixed at the Rio Grande. Opposition to the treaty comes from expansionists who want the annexation of all of Mexico.

A women's rights convention is held at Seneca Falls, New York and inaugurates the feminist movement, with a resolution on women's rights§ prepared under the leadership of Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton§.

The main body of Mormon emigrants reach the Great Salt Lake and begin building Salt Lake City. The Mormons proclaim the "State of Deseret."

The failure of a revolution in Europe results in the emigration of political refugees to America, particularly from the German states.

Thomas Hart Benton convinces three St. Louis businessmen to finance the exploration of a central, 38th parallel railroad route west from St. Louis to San Francisco. John C. Fremont leads the party, which is caught high in the Colorado mountains in December. Ten men die on the unsuccessful expedition.

Wisconsin is admitted as the thirtieth state in the Union.


Zachary Taylor is inaugurated§ as the twelfth President of the United States.

The discovery of gold by James Marshall at Sutter's Mill in California in 1848 is confirmed by President Polk's Annual Message in January.

The Department of the Interior is created as the sixth Cabinet position; the Bureau of Indian Affairs is transferred to Interior from the War Department.

The Pacific Railroad Company is charted and constructs the first railroad west of the Mississippi River, from St. Louis to Kansas City.

The Minnesota Territory is formed.

The Oregon Trail, by Francis Parkman, is published.

Civil Disobedience, by Henry David Thoreau, is published.

Col. John Abert, of the Topographical Engineers, urges a 32nd parallel, southern transcontinental railroad route, along the Gila River. Abert dispatches Capt. Randolph Marcy to explore this route.


map (888K): Exploration and settlement 1850-1890.
map (126K): Territorial Growth 1850.

President Zachary Taylor dies suddenly of an acute intestinal infection.

Millard Fillmore is inaugurated as the thirteenth President of the United States.

The Compromise of 1850, calling for a declaration that Congress has no right to interfere with slave trading among slave states, is enacted by Congress§§. Included in the legislation are a new Fugitive Slave Act§, which sets up strict procedures under federal control for the capture and return of escaped slaves; the abolition of the slave trade in the District of Columbia; and the admission of California as a "free" state.

Fifty-five thousand emigrants move west along the Oregon Trail, most bound for the gold fields of California.

Col. Joseph E. Johnston leads a special task force across Texas to locate and map military and emigrant roads as well as future railroad routes.

John E. Heath invents the first agricultural binder in the US.

Levi Strauss creates the first pair of "bibless" Overalls in California.

California is admitted as the thirty-first state in the Union.

Seventh census§: US population - 23,191,867


Increased northern abolitionist sentiment resulting from attempts to enforce the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 is reflected in the rescue by a Boston mob of an escaped slave named Shadrach from the authorities.

The Illinois Central Railroad, which will link Chicago, Galena, and Cairo, Illinois is chartered. This railroad receives a grant of more than 2.5 million acres from the US government.

Dakota (Sioux) Indian people turn over all their land in Iowa and most of their territory in Minnesota to the US.

The treaty of Fort Laramie§ is signed between the US Government and the tribes of the northern plains, providing tribal borders and annual allotments of food and gifts to compensate for white incursions on Indian hunting grounds.

A fire in San Francisco causes twelve million dollars in estimated property damage; 2,500 buildings are destroyed.

Isaac M. Singer develops a practical domestic sewing machine, building on the invention of Elias Howe.

The notorious adventuress, Lola Montez, a self-styled Spanish dancer (she is Irish) opens a two year American tour with a performance of "Betty the Tyrolean" in New York.


The Caroline Fry Marriage Association advertises: "Cheap wives for poor and deserving young men...particular attention paid to the proper matching of temperaments.

Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe, is published, which condemns the slave system in the US.


Franklin Pierce is inaugurated§ as the fourteenth President of the United States.]

Congress authorizes the War-Department to conduct a transcontinental railroad survey to determine the most practical railroad route across the country. These explorations constitute the first attempt at a comprehensive and systematic geographical examination of the West by the Federal Government.

The US and Mexico negotiate the Gadsden Purchase for $10 million, through which the US acquires Southern Arizona and New Mexico Territories, land needed for a practical southern route for a transcontinental railroad. The Gadsden Purchase completes the permanent continental boundaries of the United States.

US-Japanese trade relations result from Commodore Matthew C. Perry's armed entry into Edo (Tokyo/Yokohama) Bay in Japan.

Concern with steadily growing immigration precipitates the formation of the Know-Nothing Party. The party urges the repeal of naturalization laws and the exclusion of all foreign-born persons from federal, state, or municipal offices.

Concern with steadily growing immigration precipitates the formation of the Know Nothing Party§. The party urges the repeal of naturalization laws and the exclusion of all foreign-born persons from federal, state or municipal offices.

Chicago is connected for the first time by track to the East with the completion of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

Washington Territory is formed.


Congress passes the Kansas-Nebraska Act§, establishing a doctrine of congressional non-interference in the territories and repealing the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which had excluded slavery from the 36 degree 30' latitude and which had been implicitly accepted by the Compromise of 1850. The new territories of Kansas and Nebraska liquidate the northern portion of Indian Territory.

The term "Beecher's Bible" is used to characterize the Sharps rifles being shipped to settlers in Kansas after the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Rev. Henry Ward Beecher designated the weapons, being rushed to settlers determined to keep Kansas Territory "free," as moral agencies greater than the Bible.

Eli Thayer founds the Massachusetts Immigration Aid Society to encourage anti-slavery emigration to Kansas.

The assassination of James King, Editor of the San Francisco Bulletin, marks the height of desperado activity in California. A vigilance committee utilizing a quasi-legal process is established to restore order.

In Wyoming, the Grattan affair marks the beginning of hostilities between the Indian tribes of the northern plains and the US government. Lt. Grattan and his small force of US regulars deliberately provoke a confrontation over a stolen emigrant cow with a band of Brule Sioux; Grattan and his entire command are killed.


Five thousand armed "border ruffians" cross into Kansas Territory from Missouri, securing the election of a pro-slavery legislature. Meanwhile, a Free-State Party organized by anti-slavery forces drafts a Free-State constitution which is adopted by popular vote. Kansas Territory now has a dual government.

Andrew Reeder, the first territorial Governor of Kansas, allows the pro-slavery legislature's election to stand.

The New York State Immigration Commission leases Castle Garden at the top of Manhattan Island as a reception center for immigrants. The number of immigrants exceeds the 400,000 who landed in 1854.

President Pierce signs an act creating the first US Court of Claims. Previously, citizens could remedy claims against the federal government only through petitions to Congress.

The Yakima War in Washington and the Rogue River War in Oregon represent Indian resistance to ever-increasing white migration and settlement.

Walt Whitman publishes the first version of Leaves of Grass.


John C. Fremont of California is nominated for the Presidency of the United States by the first national convention of the Republican Party, meeting in Philadelphia.

"Border ruffians" and pro-slavery Kansas men sack Lawrence, Kansas. In retaliation, the abolitionist John Brown, with four sons and three companions, massacres five pro-slavery men along Pottawatomie Creek.

The US House of Representatives refuses to seat either the pro-slavery or the free state territorial delegates from Kansas. Raids continue between the two factions, and an estimated two hundred people are killed in "Bleeding Kansas."

Henry Bessemer perfects a technique for converting pig iron into steel by directing air blasts upon molten metal.

The first Mormon "handcart company," composed of emigrants anxious to reach Utah but unable to afford wagons and teams for the journey, leaves Iowa on foot.

Lt. Gouverneur Kemble Warren and Ferdinand V. Hayden explore the great plains of Nebraska Warren's map is the first sophisticated depiction of the Trans-Mississippi west.


James Buchanan is inaugurated§ as the fifteenth President of the United States. Buchanan's inaugural address§ condemns slavery agitation, supports a policy of non-interference with slavery in the states, and "popular sovereignty" in the territories.

In the case of Dred Scott v. Sandford§, the US Supreme court rules that an African-American is not a citizen of the US and therefore cannot sue in the courts. Further, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney states that restrictions cannot be placed upon where a master takes his or her "slave property."

One hundred and twenty California-bound immigrants are massacred at Mountain Meadows, Utah, by American Indians incited by a Mormon fanatic, John D. Lee. Lee claims that he is retaliating for President Buchanan's order removing Brigham Young as Governor of Utah.

US troops are sent to Utah Territory; virtually bloodless, the "Mormon War," precipitated by a conflict of authority, ends in compromise.

Joseph C. Ives of the US Topographical Engineers tries to ascend the Colorado River from the Gulf of Mexico. An overland expedition is able to explore the floor of the Grand Canyon in its lower reaches.


President Buchanan supports Kansas' Lecompton (pro-slavery) Constitution and recommends that Kansas be admitted as a slave state.

Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas engage in a series of debates as part of their campaign for a US Senate seat from Illinois.

Gold is discovered at Pike's Peak in Colorado.

The Butterfield Overland Mail, the first to serve both the Pacific Coast and the East, reaches St. Louis, where mail is transferred to a train for the remainder of the journey to the East Coast.

The first telegraph message is sent across the Atlantic Ocean via the Atlantic Cable.

Minnesota is admitted as the thirty-second state in the Union.


John Brown seizes the arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Virginia, in an attempt to start a nationwide slave insurrection. Two days later he surrenders to federal troops under Col. Robert E. Lee. John Brown is tried, and executed on December 2.

The first major silver strike in the US, the Comstock Lode, is discovered in Nevada.

Iowa and Missouri are the first Trans-Mississippi states to be ranked in the top seven producers of corn in the US.

Edwin L. Drake drills the world's first oil well in Titusville, Pennsylvania.

Charles Darwin publishes The Origin of the Species.

John M. Macomb finds ancient Indian ruins in the Mesa Verde area of Colorado. Macomb's expeditions fill in a major blank area on maps of the period.

Oregon is admitted as the thirty-third state in the Union.


1800-1819 . 1820-1839 . 1840-1859 . 1860-1879 . 1880-1900

~~~ Responses Sought ~~~

What a different flavour one gets out of travelling
if the purpose is the road itself rather than getting somewhere.

  graphical element A reflection on this journey,
offered by a dear friend.