The early settlers

The first Europeans who moved from the east to the western coast of America are extremely important to the history of that country.

Why - and how - did the first settlers move westwards?

  • The first white Americans to move west were the mountain men, who went to the Rockies to hunt beaver, bear and elk in the 1820s and 1830s.
  • Then, in 1841, a wagon train pioneered the 3,200km-long Oregon Trail to the woodland areas of the north-west coast of America.
  • In 1844, 1,500 settlers made the dangerous journey westwards.
  • That same year, a few farmers managed to cross the Rockies to California.

The mountain men were not settlers, and all these trailblazers were moving across the Great Plains, rather than onto them. However, they were vital in the process of settling the West, because they discovered the different trails west across the Plains, which were later followed by genuine settlers.