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Flashcards in Gold miners in the American West Deck (7)
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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.


How were the mountain men vital to the process of settling the west?

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.


When was gold discovered in California?

In 1848 gold was discovered in California, and soon thousands of prospectors (the '49ers') rushed there, hoping to make their fortune. By spring 1849 there were 40,000 miners in California.


How long did the Gold Rush last?

This was the start of the gold rush, which lasted from 1849 to 1856.


Describe how the gold mining communities grew?

At first almost all the miners were men, and they lived in makeshift tent-settlements, hoping to make a quick fortune. They were soon followed by shopkeepers and traders. Eventually women arrived, at first as cooks and prostitutes, but later as wives and girlfriends.


How did Gold mining, influence the growth of California?

- Few miners made their fortune from gold. But they spent the savings they had used to go mining with, and this kick-started the California economy.
- When the men finally gave up their hopes for gold, they moved onto the land and settled there as farmers.
- In 1850 California set itself up as a state of the USA, with a governor.
- In time, mining camps such as Virginia City became large towns.


What happened to the Donner Party as they journey westward?

The journey westward was highly dangerous for the early pioneers - conditions were harsh, and the distance was great. The story of the Donner Party highlights the plight and severeness of such a journey.
About 80 people, led by George Donner, set out from Missouri in May 1846, following the famous 'trailblazer' Lansford W Hastings.
The party left Fort Bridger, at the foot of the Rockies, on 31 July, which was late in the season.
They made the tragic decision to take the Hastings Cut-off - a shortcut which they were told would save them 400 miles.
The route was too hard. They had to abandon all their cattle while crossing the Salt Lake Desert. They were attacked by Paiute warriors. Fights broke out - in one, a man was killed.
On 30 October the party reached the last mountain pass before California, where they were stopped by snow - after a journey of 2,500 miles.
They were just 150 miles from Sutter's Fort, now Sacramento, in California.
For four months the party ate first their cattle, then bark and twigs, and finally each other. Many died of starvation.
Rescue groups from Fort Sutter managed to rescue the others - the last one only in April 1847. Of 87 who set out, 46 survived, and 41 died.