The lands of the West were unknown to most people in the early
1800’s. Many established Indian cultures flourished throughout
this huge area that stretched from the Mississippi River to the
Pacific Ocean. In 1804, President Thomas Jefferson persuaded Congress
to appropriate funds for an expedition to explore the Western
lands. To command the expedition, Jefferson chose Merriwether
Lewis and Lieutenant William Clark.
the spring of 1804, the Lewis and Clark expedition, known as the
Corps of Discovery, left St. Louis and made their way up the Missouri
River. By 1805, they had set out toward the Rocky Mountains, guided
by Sacajawea, a Shoshone Indian. Sacajawea knew the land west
of the Rocky Mountains well as her people lived there. On September
23, 1806, the expedition returned to St Louis. Trappers and traders
also ventured west to tap the abundant natural wealth of the region.
These trappers became known as “Mountain Men.” Their
jobs were often dangerous and adventurous. Many tales were told
of trappers’ escapades with hostile Indians, menacing grizzly
bears and the harsh wilderness environment where trappers were
never sure of their next meal. Most historians believe that the
“Mountain Men” played a major role in opening the
Far West to American settlement.
Lewis and Clark expedition and the Mountain Men both blazed trails
West. Their exploits also spread the word about the natural wealth
that lay there. This helped to settle the West.
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