On July 12, 1893 in Chicago during the World Columbian Exposition at the age of 32 Frederick Jackson Turner presented a thesis to a group of historians. Despite of the fact that his thesis was overlooked initially it became an important American document known as the Significance of the Frontier in American History. In this primary source Turner compares the significance of the American Frontier to be a vast area of free land having a demarcation line that only expanded further west through the generations to that of the European Frontier being expanded through already conquered land. Turner describes the need for Western expansion in terms of centers of attraction and that was salt which helped preserve food, mines and soil providing wealth. An army increasingly became necessary because it was only natural that people would claim land and benefit from moving west.
He discusses three stages or waves of settlement the first being the pioneers who were the foundation. They were families that owned a few animals that simply found a chunk of land even though they didn’t necessarily own the land they settled. They relied on one another from farming to hunting and that leads to Turner’s second wave referring to them as the emigrants who played the role of “putting log houses with glass windows and brick or stone chimneys, build mills, school houses, court houses, and exhibit the picture and forms of plain, frugal, civilized life” (Turner 214). The final wave were the men of capital and enterprise who were the icing on the cake. They turned small villages into spacious cities Turner states “that these towns have brick, extensive fields, orchards, gardens, colleges, churches broad-cloths, silks, leghorns, crapes, and all the refinements, luxuries, elegancies, frivolities, and fashions are in vogue” (Turner 214). The Great Westward expansion led America to new opportunities and endless possibilities.
In Elliott Wests secondary source, “Land” from The Way of the West he is a distinguished western historian, turning his attention to land, animals, families, and stories. In each of the four essays he attempts to connect the historical changes in the central plains telling a complex story of the relationship between people and the environment. The essays consist of human action, ecology and people’s views of the surrounding world. West illustrates “concerns in the interaction among people, their ambitions, and the environmental settings in which they pursued those goals. Specifically, it looks at some of the consequences of new peoples moving onto the central plains in the previous century” (West 12). He argues that history does not only consist of human society, it unfolds among the shifting complexity of nature.
The first essay, which is the one I will be focusing on is on land West points out two large migrations into the central plains. The first being the Indian people who he refers to as the Cheyenne he emphasized how they heavily relied on the use of horses the many different microenvironments of the land were what kept them in motion. The second being the Euro Americans who traveled with their mules, horses, and sheep through the used the ecosystem fueled their progress. West states “Explorers, trappers, traders, army officers, sportsmen, businessmen, and scores of thousands of overland emigrants moved up and down the trails” (West 27). West gives an insight of the natural science and the grassland ecology between human use of the plains and the dynamic relationship between ecology, economics and perception.
In “The Significance of the Frontier in American History” by Frederick Jackson Turner and “Land” from The Way of the West by Elliott West, the authors outline the need for Western expansion in terms of centers of attractions. Three stages or waves of settlement the first being the pioneers who were the foundation, then the emigrants who built the courts and school houses and the final wave being the men of capital and enterprise they turned small villages into spacious cities. To large migrations into the central plains by the Cheyenne who relied on horses and the Euro Americans who traveled with their mules and sheep through the used the ecosystem fueling their progress. Turning the attention to land, animals, families, and stories each attempting to connect the historical changes in the central plains telling a complex story of the relationship between people and the environment. All consisting of human action, ecology and people’s views of the surrounding world.