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Time Line of the Old West

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Westward Movement, 1868

Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way, by

Fanny Palmer, Courier and Ives, 1868.

This image available for photographic prints and downloads HERE!



50,000-5000 B.C.
  • Paleo-Siberians migrate to North America from Asia via the Bering Strait land bridge.
1500 B.C.-1000 A.D.
  • Christopher Columbus lands at San Salvador.


  • Portuguese navigator Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo lands at San Diego, California.


  • Captain James Cook, seeking the Northwest Passage, charts part of the Oregon coastline.


  • Francis Drake claims California for Britain



  • Juan de Onate establishes San Gabriel in New Mexico.

  • John Smith published his account of the New World, urging more colonists to follow.


  • Don Pedro de Peralta founds Santa Fe, New Mexico.

  • On March 22, the first colonial treaty with Native Americans was signed between Massasoit, Chief of the Wampanoag, and English pilgrims on behalf of King James I at Strawberry Hill, Massachusetts.
  • On June 18, the first duel in America reportedly took place in the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts.
  • On December 1, Massachusetts became the first colony to legalize slavery
  • Northern New Mexico Pueblo Indians, outraged by atrocities committed by Spanish explorers and colonists, resist in the Pueblo Revolt. Many settlers are killed and the rest are driven south.


  • The Spanish establish the first permanent settlement in Texas at Ysleta, near present day El Paso.


  • A short-lived French colony is founded at Matagorda Bay, Texas


  • Diego de Vargas re-conquers New Mexico.


  • Juan de Ulibarri claims Colorado for Spain.


  • Louis-Joseph and Francois Verendrye explore South Dakota, seeking a water route to the Pacific Ocean.

  • The French and Indian War ends with the Treaty of Paris; Louisiana is given to France.


  • The Spanish build Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala, the first California mission.

  • Daniel Boone discovers the Cumberland Gap.





  • Britain recognizes American independence.


  • Captain George Vancouver explores the coast of Washington.

  • On November 10, Tennessee became the first state to legislate against dueling.


  • The Louisiana Purchase adds to the United States territory from the Gulf of Mexico to the Northwest. The price for the purchase was $15,000,000. The agreement was signed on May 2.

  • The Lewis and Clark expedition begins its exploration of the West.


  • Lewis and Clark explore Oregon and Washington.



  • Fur trapper John Colter explores the Yellowstone area in Wyoming.

  • On March 2, Congress passed an act to "prohibit the importation of slaves into any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States to take effect on January 1, 1808. There were over four million slaves in the South at that time. the ban, however, did not significantly affect the U.S. supply of slaves as they continued to be imported through Florida and Texas.



  • Mexico revolts against Spanish rule.

  • The North West Company establishes Spokane House, the first fur-trading post in Washington.


  • John Jacob Astor establishes a trading post at Astoria, Oregon

  • Harrison defeats Tecumseh's brother, Tenskwatawa, at Tippecanoe


  • The Russians build Fort Ross, fifty miles north of San Francisco, California.

  • A Scottish party makes the first permanent settlement in North Dakota.

  • On June 4, Missouri Territory was organized.


  • Fort Pierre is established in what would later become South Dakota.


  • The United States obtains the northeast part of North Dakota in a treaty with Britain.

  • On March 2, Arkansas Territory was organized.
  • Missouri's Literacy Law forbade assembling or teaching slaves to read or write.
  • Daniel Boone protects his familyDaniel Boone dies at a relative’s home on the Missouri frontier at the age of eighty-five.

  • On March 3, the Missouri Compromise was passed which primarily regulated slavery in the western territories. It prohibited slavery for all new states north of Arkansas with the exception of Missouri.

  • On March 9, the Land Act of 1820 was enacted to eliminate the purchase of public land in the United States on credit, as well as reducing the minimum size of the tract from 160 to 80 acres. The act also required a down payment of $100 and reduced the price from $1.65 to $1.25 per acre for land. The act encompassed the land of the "West" located in what was then the Northwest and Missouri Territories. The act paved the way for westward expansion.

  • On May 15, Congress declared the transportation of African slaves to the U.S. to be a form of piracy. Conviction carried an automatic penalty -- death by hanging. The only person known to have suffered the penalty was Captain Nathaniel Gordon, hanged in New York on February 21, 1862.

  • The first American traders arrive in Santa Fe, New Mexico via the Santa Fe Trail.

  • By this time, more than 20,000 Native Americans were living in virtual slavery at the California missions.

  • On October 20, Spain sold a part of Florida to the U.S. for $5 million.


  • Led by Stephen Austin, the first Americans settle in Texas.

  • The Hudson Bay Company establishes Fort Vancouver in what will become Washington state.

  • The U.S. government began moving what it called the "Five Civilized Tribes" of southeast America (Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, Choctaw, and Chickasaw) to lands west of the Mississippi River.

  • On February 22, Spain sold eastern Florida to the U.S. for $5 million.


  • Mountain man James Bridger makes the first expedition into the Rockies.

  • Missouri Lieutenant Governor William Ashley places an ad for fur traders for the new Rocky Mountain Trading Company.


  • Mexico becomes a republic.

  • The first permanent settlement in Nebraska is established at Bellevue.

  • On June 2, Arikara people attacked William Ashley and his band of fur traders at the present-day border between North and South Dakota. This event would be the most important of the early 19th century battles between natives and mountain men.

  • August, 1823 -  A force of 500 Sioux and 200 American soldiers led by Colonel Henry Leavenworth retaliated by attacking the Arikara.


  • The first mountain man's rendezvous takes place on Henry's Fork of the Green River in what is now Wyoming.
  • On January 24, the Creek people agreed to cede their land in Georgia and move west. It was the first of a series of removal treaties.
  • On December 16, Benjamin Edwards rode into Mexican-controlled Nacogdoches, Texas, and proclaimed himself the ruler of the Republic of Fredonia. Edwards negotiated an agreement with the Cherokee people offering to share Texas in exchange for their help in defense against the Mexican soldiers. Six weeks later, Edwards' ill-planned revolution disintegrated and he fled to the United States for sanctuary.


  • Fort Leavenworth is established in Kansas to protect travelers on the Santa Fe and Oregon trails.

  • Dr. John McLoughlin builds the first sawmill in the Pacific Northwest, in what would later become Oregon.


Continued Next Page

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American Progress by John Gast in 1872

American Progress by John Gast in 1872.

This image available for photographic prints HERE!


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