Overland Explorations of the Trans-Mississippi West

Expeditions and Writers of the American Frontier

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About the Book

In 1528, the Spanish explorer Álvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca and his three companions were shipwrecked and, looking for help, began an eight-year trek through the deserts of the American West. Over three centuries later, the four “Great Surveys” in the United States were consolidated into the U.S. Geological Survey.
The frontiers were the lands near or beyond the recognized international, national, regional, or tribal borders. Over the centuries, they hosted a complicated series of international explorations of lands inhabited by American Indians, Spanish, French-Canadians, British, and Americans. These explorations were undertaken for wide-ranging reasons including geographical, scientific, artistic-literary, and for the growth of the railroad. This history covers over 350 years of exploration of the West.

About the Author(s)

Hunt Janin is an American writer living in southwestern France. He has written numerous nonfiction and scholarly books on a range of subjects, including medieval history and cross-cultural studies.
Ursula Carlson is a professor emerita at Western Nevada College, Carson City, Nevada.

Bibliographic Details

Hunt Janin and Ursula Carlson
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 193
Bibliographic Info: chronology, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2020
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7867-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4015-0
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface 1
1. Overview of the North American Frontiers 3
2. Goals of the International Rivals 17
3. Maritime Explorations 22
4. Beginnings of Overland Exploration of the Frontiers 28
5. Pathfinding and ­Exploration-Settlement Expeditions 34
6. Life on the Trails 41
7. “Runners of the woods” and Other Travelers 48
8. To Wait Patiently by Hudson Bay 54
9. Taking Great Pains to Get Along with the Indians 61
10. Descended from Five Generations of “waryers” [warriors] 68
11. A Famous Explorer Follows a “grease trail” to the Pacific Ocean 74
12. The Great Lewis and Clark Expedition 80
13. “An atlas of the West” 86
14. Creating a “fur desert” 94
15. How to Hunt Buffalo 100
16. Wanting to Become President of the United States 107
17. Mountain Man Slang 114
18. “Chastise them well” 120
19. A Nevada Outlaw Named Slade 126
20. The Great Surveys 131
21. A Famous Book: The Big Bonanza 137
22. Conclusions: Why the Explorations of the North American Frontiers Are So Important 141
Annotated Chronology, 1492–1879 145
Appendix 1: The Fur Trade in New France 155
Appendix 2: Exploration by Canoe: The Coureurs de Bois and the Voyageurs 157
Appendix 3: The Railroad Surveys 160
Appendix 4: Early Explorations of the Yellowstone Region, 1797–1871 163
Chapter Notes 167
Bibliography 177
Index 183