Historical Background

Midwest Frontier Stories

Have you ever wished you could talk to those who are gone?  Ask them what life was like or how they lived?

While researching family genealogy, we discovered many crumbling newspaper clippings and articles at several libraries that contained amazing information, but are not available anywhere else.  Most libraries have tried to scan and convert them to text, but technology could not do a descent job of it. So they just set on the library shelves.

We are trying to make those important articles available to everyone who would like to learn more about the amazing Midwest Frontier and the pioneers that lived here.

Many stayed, some went back east and many moved on west to settle and found towns in Utah, California, Texas, Kansas and other states.

The stories that we have selected, explain how they lived on the Frontier in the early 1800’s, their relationship with the local Native Americans as well as Indian Stories, and describe personal and physical characteristics of the first settlers in the area, and tell some funny stories and twists of fate.   They may or may not be 100% accurate, but definitely give insight into the time.

The forgotten Midwest History

The Old Midwest seems to be forgotten by history, perhaps because it was such a short period of time, or it was such a hard period to explain, but this is where most of the western expansion that we call the west started.   It is where most wagon trains started west, where the Mormons’ lived and traveled, where many Native American Indians lived, where fur traders lived, where famous outlaws lived, where many westerns were actually about, where Daniel Boone lived and died, where cattle drives started and where cattle drives ended.

Life on the 1800’s frontier was totally different than in the East where society was flourishing, and goods were readily available.  On the Frontier virtually nothing of today existed, no Walmart or Target, no roads or bridges, travel was mainly by canoe, later by oxen and cart, for protection, only the Fist, Knife and Flintlock muzzle loader existed (which was useless in wet weather).  Most settlements were along rivers and streams.  The main currency of the time was gold, silver and barter of goods.  Community was required to survive, Law was community based, and the pioneer had to find a way to survive with his limited resources and be happy!

If Indian trouble arose and a lone settler was attacked by Indians, he was almost certainly dead.  He had one shot per minute, while the Indians had repeating bows and could move swiftly on pony’s.  Luckily, for the most part, the Native Indians were good neighbors on this frontier.

And yet, as one frontiersman put it:  “We were as happy and contented as a half-starved colt on the sunny side of a hay stack on a warm day in April.”

Short summary of the settlement and opening of the Midwest:

The Revolutionary War ran from 1775 to 1783.  As part of the Revolution, in 1779, George Rogers Clark is credited with opening up the new “Northwest Territory” (west of Pennsylvania & East of the Mississippi River) by capturing the Forts along the Ohio River, including Kaskaskia and Vincennes from the British and creating Illinois County, VA.   Virginia then ceded this land to the USA in 1784, which declared it the Northwest Territory (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin and NE Minnesota.)  This marked the beginning of the Frontier Movement.  The Ohio and Mississippi Rivers provided the main transportation west for the Frontiersmen into the new territories, and dictated where early settlement was, since there were no roads.

In 1803, the Louisiana Purchase added Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana as Louisiana Territory.   Shortly after the Louis and Clark Expedition in 1803-1806, William Clark was assigned the Indian Agent for the Louisiana Territory, stationed in what is now St. Louis, MO., The Gateway City.  After the Blackhawk War treaty (1812), settlers were allowed to move north along the Mississippi river into Wisconsin Territory, which later became the State of Iowa.

A few Midwest Pioneers of note:

  • Albert Gallatin Edwards was the founder of A. G. Edwards investments and Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury 
  • Nathan Boone is a son of Daniel Boone
  • James Huston Jordan close friend of Chief Black Hawk (Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak)
  • John C Breckenridge – Member of both House and Senate, Vice President under James Buchanan, lost election for President to Abraham Lincoln, also Confederate Sec of War under Jefferson Davis.
  • Henry Clay Caldwell -US Senator, Judge of US Federal Court of Appeals
  • Henry Dodge – US Senate & House, Wisconsin Territory Governor 
  • Augustus C Dodge – Territorial Delegate, Iowa Senator, Minister of Spain
  • Albert Miller Lea – Engineer, surveyor, Iowa Militia, Secretary of War, Confederate Major
  • Robert E. Lee – Engineer of Mississippi River, Superintendent of US Military Academy, Mexican-American War, Confederate General, President of Washington and Lee University.
  • Captain Abraham Van Buren, eldest son of President Van Buren
  • Capt. James White – Riverboat Captain, Settler of Nauvoo, 1st in Montrose, IA
  • General Lawrence Sullivan Ross – Captain  Texas Rangers (Recovered Cynthia Ann Parker), Confederate Brigadier General, Texas Senator, Governor of Texas, President of Texas A&M

Movements of some of the first pioneers:

  • Most Mormons moved to Utah in 1846
  • Giles Sullivan, Shapley P Ross, J.J. Turnham, Daniel Monroe and others moved to Texas in 1839
  • Mr Nowell moved North of Red River in TX
  • AB Willliams – 1831 Pittsburg,IA; 1843 became Mormon; 1846 Green Bay, WI; 1850 to California; 1851 returned via New Orleans; 1851 back to WI; 1853 drove cattle to California
  • James Blankenship moved to Nachez, Mississippi
  • Winnena Sullivan was born in IL, 1839-TX, then to Missouri; Green River, KY; MO; KY; MO; TX; MO; TX; MO; CA; KY; BC; 1861 back to Missouri (one of the most traveled)
  • Isaac Bird’s relatives moved to California
  • Mr. Patchett moved to Sacramento, CA 1851
  • Abel Galland moved to Gallands Grove(Council Bluffs), IA around 1846 ; then to Beaver Is, MI

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We are working on another book, but be patient: It takes months and thousands of hours for us to find, select, organize, type, layout, set, proof-read and print a new book, so that we can share this information with you.