Time Line of the Old West

The Old West

The Old West

Although the “Wild West” is a time period generally defined from 1865 to 1895, there are many events that shaped the American West as a region from ancient times up to 1916.

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. – Ancient Puebloan culture thrives in the Southwest.

Francisco Vazquez de Coronado

Francisco Vazquez de Coronado

1540 – Francisco Vasquez de Coronado leaves Mexico to hunt for gold in the Southwest.

The Hernando de Soto expedition goes as far as Oklahoma

1541 – Francisco Vasquez de Coronado is the first white man to visit the pueblos in New Mexico

Coronado’s party crosses the Arkansas River and goes as far as the present-day Kansas/Nebraska Border.

1542 – Portuguese navigator Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo lands at San Diego, California.

1548 – Captain James Cook, seeking the Northwest Passage, charts part of the Oregon coastline.

English Naval officer, Sir Francis Drake

English Naval officer, Sir Francis Drake

1549 – Naval Officer, Sir Francis Drake claims California for Britain.

1598 – Juan de Onate establishes San Gabriel in New Mexico.

1610 – Don Pedro de Peralta founds Santa Fe, New Mexico.

1680 – 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.

1682 The Spanish establish the first permanent settlement in Texas at Ysleta, near present-day El Paso.

1685  – A short-lived French colony is founded at Matagorda Bay, Texas.

1692-94 – Diego de Vargas re-conquers New Mexico.

1706 – Juan de Ulibarri claims Colorado for Spain.

1743 – Louis-Joseph and Francois Verendrye explore South Dakota, seeking a water route to the Pacific Ocean.

1769 – The Spanish build Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala, the first California mission.

1776 – Fort Tucson is established in Arizona.

Franciscan friars Escalante and Dominguez explore Utah.

The Presidio of San Francisco by Carol Highsmith

The Presidio of San Francisco by Carol Highsmith

The Presidio is established in San Francisco, California.

1781 – Los Angeles, California is founded.

1792-1804 – Captain George Vancouver explores the coast of Washington.

1803 The Louisiana Purchase adds to the United States territory from the Gulf of Mexico to the Northwest. The price of the purchase was $15,000,000. The agreement was signed on May 2.

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

1805 – Lewis and Clark explore Oregon and Washington.

Zebulon Pike expedition explores the American Southwest.

On October 10, Lewis and Clark met the Nez Perce.

1807 – Fur trapper John Colter explores the Yellowstone area in Wyoming.

Trading with the American Fur Company

Trading with the American Fur Company

1808 – John Jacob Astor organizes the American Fur Company

1810 – Mexico revolts against Spanish rule.

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

1811 – John Jacob Astor establishes a trading post at Astoria, Oregon.

1812 – The Russians build Fort Ross, 50 miles north of San Francisco, California.

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

Missouri Territory was organized on June 4, 1812.

1817 – Fort Pierre is established in what would later become South Dakota.

1818 – The United States obtains the northeast part of North Dakota in a treaty with Britain.

1819 – On March 2, Arkansas Territory was organized.

Santa Fe Trail Map

Santa Fe Trail Map

1820 – Daniel Boone dies at a relative’s home on the Missouri frontier at the age of 85.

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 reduced the price per acre paved the way for westward expansion.

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.

1821 – Led by Stephen Austin, the first Americans settle in Texas.

Fort Vancouver, Washington by Gustave Sohon, 1850

Fort Vancouver, Washington by Gustave Sohon, 1850

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.

1822 – Mountain man James Bridger makes the first expedition into the Rocky Mountains.

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

1823 – 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.

1824 – James Bridger discovers the Great Salt Lake.

Congress creates the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Rocky Mountain Rendezvous by William Henry Jackson

Rocky Mountain Rendezvous by William Henry Jackson

1825 – The first mountain man’s rendezvous takes place on Henry’s Fork of the Green River in what is now Wyoming.

1826 – 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.

1827 – 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.

1830 – On May 26 the Indian Removal Act is passed

George Catlin becomes the first important artist to paint the American Indians

James Bowie

James Bowie

1831 – On February 24, the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, the first removal treaty in accordance with the Indian Removal Act, was proclaimed. The Choctaw in Mississippi ceded land east of the river in exchange for payment and land in the West.

On May 27, trapper-explorer Jedediah Smith was killed by Comanche Indians on the Santa Fe Trail.

The First Missouri steamboat reaches Pierre, South Dakota.

James Bowie invents the Bowie knife.

1832 – April 6, 1832 – The Black Hawk War began when the Sac and Fox people tried to plant their cornfields and were repulsed by whites. The Indians were forced to leave Illinois.

August 2, 1832 –  Texas settlers refused an order to surrender their arms to José de las Piedras, commander of the Mexican battalion at Nacogdoches. The ensuing Battle of Nacogdoches is sometimes called the opening gun of the Texas Revolution.

October 20, 1832 – In the Treaty of Pontotoc Creek, the Chickasaw Nation ceded northern Mississippi and moved west of the Mississippi River.

1833 – On January 12, a law was passed making it unlawful for any native person to remain within the boundaries of the state of Florida.

Bent's Fort, Colorado by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Bent’s Fort, Colorado by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Brothers Charles and William Bent and veteran trapper-trader Ceran St. Vrain open Bent’s Fort on the Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail.

Samuel Colt invents and begins producing the revolver.

After Joseph Smith founded the Church of Latter-Day Saints community of Zion in what is now Kansas City, Missouri, area residents vehemently resisted and demanded that they leave.

On September 26, the Treaty of Chicago was signed by the Potawatomi of Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois, assuring their relocation to reservations west of the Mississippi River in Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas.

1834 – On June 30, the Indian Intercourse Act creates Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma. The territory also included parts of Kansas and Nebraska, but these lands were taken back when the Kansas and Nebraska territories were created in 1854.

Old Fort Laramie, Wyoming

Old Fort Laramie, Wyoming

Fort Laramie becomes the first trading post in Wyoming.

1835 – On October 2, the first battle of the Texas Revolution took place as U.S. settlers defeated a Mexican cavalry near the Guadalupe River.

On November 13, Texans officially proclaimed independence from Mexico, calling itself the Lone Star Republic.

1836 – On February 24, the Alamo is attacked by Mexican forces and all of its more than 180 defenders are slain, including William Travis, Jim Bowie, and Davy Crockett.

Texans under Sam Houston defeat the Mexican army and capture General Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto.

Texas becomes a Republic.

Trail of Tears painting by Robert Lindneux

Trail of Tears painting by Robert Lindneux

1838 – On June 17, the Cherokee begin the Trail of Tears, a 1,200 mile forced march from the East to present-day Oklahoma.

A smallpox epidemic north of San Francisco killed over 60,000 natives.

1839 – Missourians near Far West, Missouri are no more happy about the Mormons than those near Zion, some five years earlier. As Far West has grown to some 5,000 people, the anti-Mormon hysteria increases and the Mormons form their own army. After a number of skirmishes between the two factions, Missouri orders the Mormons from the state.

Comanche war party by Richard Luce, courtesy First People

Comanche war party by Richard Luce, courtesy First People

1840 – On March 19, the Republic of Texas soldiers killed some 30 Penateka Comanche leaders and warriors and five women and children in the Council House Fight in San Antonio.

On May 10, Mormon leader Joseph Smith moved his band of followers to Illinois to escape the hostilities they experienced in Missouri

August 11, 1840 – After the Council House Fight in San Antonio, Texas, the Comanche retaliated by raiding villages throughout the Guadalupe Valley. When the Texas army and Rangers went after them, the Battle of Plum Creek was fought on August 11 resulting in a decisive defeat of the Comanche.

1841 – The first covered wagons to travel the Oregon Trail arrive in SacramentoCalifornia.

1842 – John C. Fremont begins his exploration of the West along with guide Kit Carson.

August 14, 1842 – The Second Seminole War ended; natives were removed from Florida to Oklahoma.

California Trail Map

California Trail Map

1843 – The California Trail opens.

1844 – Miles Goodyear establishes Fort Buenaventura, the first town in Utah, on the site of present-day Ogden.

1845 – John L. O’Sullivan, a newspaper editor, claimed that it was the “manifest destiny” of the U.S. to take Texas and spread to the Pacific Ocean.

Texas is admitted to the union.

Texas banned saloons but the law was never enforced and was repealed in 1856.

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