Maybe you’ve never thought about this question before, but in terms of life in the “Old West,” we need to ask the question I’m asking in the title of this post: Where and when did “the West” begin?
You could say, along with many reputable historians, that “the West” was a concept in the minds of most European Americans from the time they found themselves early settlers on this continent and looked toward the setting sun. Indeed, American history has always spoken of “the West” or “Western regions,” even when that meant the Appalachian Mountains, the Great Smokies, etc., “Western” positions on the continent far east of what we think of in popular culture as “the Old West.” The whole process of western expansion across the continent really explained the Old West more than did time and place.
For our purposes — and since this is my website I can make such decisions — I’m most interested in “the West” and “Western expansion” as it began with the Louisiana Purchase (1803) and the almost immediate exploratory expedition of Lewis and Clark (1804-1806). That’s where our journey will begin, though I refuse to ignore interesting stories and important events in pre-1803 America and the various Spanish and French territories prior to that.
So that’s where our journey will begin. My goal is to enjoy this journey with you and share with you a fun mix of true stories AND “tall tales” that make up everything we’ve come to think of in America as “the Old West.”