Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
New Perspectives on THE WEST
The Program People Places Events Resources Lesson Plans Quiz
EVENTS
To 1500
1500-1650
1650-1800
1800-1820
1820-1830
1830-1840
1840-1850
1850-1860
1860-1870
1870-1880
1880-1890
1890-1900
1900-1917

Events of the West (1800 - 1820)

   
1800 The secret Treaty of San Ildefonso transfers the Louisiana Territory from Spain back to France, on the condition that France never yield it to an English-speaking government.
1801 Meriwether LewisPresident-elect Thomas Jefferson invites Meriwether Lewis, a captain in the First United States Infantry, to become his private secretary. Lewis had volunteered for a transcontinental expedition that Jefferson tried to organize in 1792; now, as President, Jefferson sees an opportunity to launch this expedition, and sees in Lewis someone who could lead it. Over the next two years, he will guide Lewis as he gains the scientific knowledge, technical skills and special equipment he will need for the journey.
1802 Spain closes the port of New Orleans to U.S. cargo, violating the 1795 Treaty of San Lorenzo. American rights are restored within six months, but Spanish fears of the young nation's expansionist energies remain.
1803 Jefferson asks Congress for an appropriation to send an expedition up the Missouri River and on to the Pacific, in order to discover whether a Northwest Passage or water route across the continent exists and to lay the groundwork for extending American fur trade into the region. None of this territory is part of the United States when Jefferson makes his request in January, but even then he is negotiating secretly through James Monroe to purchase the whole vast region from France.
1803 By April, Napoleon has agreed to sell the Louisiana Territory to the United States for $15 million, although the transfer will violate the terms under which he had received the territory from Spain. Congress approves the deal in October. Thus, as Jefferson no doubt foresaw, his proposed expedition will also serve to secure America's hold on its newest possession and to reinforce American claims in the Pacific northwest.
1803

William ClarkTHE LEWIS AND CLARK EXPEDITION (1803-1806)
Captain Meriwether Lewis leaves Pittsburgh aboard a specially designed keelboat, the Discovery, on the first leg of his transcontinental expedition. At Louisville he is joined by Captain William Clark, an experienced frontier soldier who is the youngest brother of William Rogers Clark, the hero of the Revolutionary War in the West. Together Lewis and Clark proceed up the Mississippi to Wood River, Illinois, opposite the mouth of the Missouri, where they establish a winter camp to make final preparations and train their recruits.

1804 Mandan village sceneHeading up the Missouri River in May, Lewis and Clark stop to visit Daniel Boone at his home near St. Charles. By October, they have reached the villages of the Mandan in present-day North Dakota, where they establish winter quarters. During their months at what they call Fort Mandan, they receive invaluable information from the Indians about the course of the Missouri and the countryside surrounding it. Here they also add three more to their 30-member Corp of Discovery: a French trader named Toussaint Charbonneau, who will serve as interpreter, his wife, Sacagawea, a Shonone who had been kidnapped and raised by the Hidatsa, and their baby, whom Clark calls Pompey.
1805

In April, Lewis and Clark resume their expedition by canoe, sending the keelboat Discovery back down the Missouri laden with scientific specimens. Within a few weeks, they reach the mouth of the Yellowstone River and in May catch first sight of the Rocky Mountains. In June, they portage around the Great Falls of the Missouri, reaching the upper forks of the Missouri in July. Coming to the navigable limits of the river in mid-August, they set out on foot to cross the continental divide, and here they encounter the Shoshone, whose chief, by an astounding coincidence, Sacagawea recognizes as her brother.

With her help, the expedition purchases 30 horses from the Shoshone and begin the difficult trek through the Bitterroot Mountains, where snow and hunger lengthen the trail. Coming down out of the mountains, they are found by the Nez Perce, who permit them to fell trees for five dugout canoes and set them on course down the Clearwater River. Following the Clearwater to the Snake River and thence to the Columbia, Lewis and Clark come in sight of the Pacific on November 7, 1805. Here they establish their winter quarters, named Fort Clatsop for a nearby Indian tribe.

1806 Leaving the Pacific coast in March, Lewis and Clark retrace their path, crossing back over the Bitterroots in July. Here the Corp of Discovery divides into two parties: those led by Lewis venture cross-country to the Great Falls of the Missouri, with an excursion north up the Marias River; those led by Clark explore the Yellowstone River. The two groups are reunited near the mouth of the Yellowstone in August and reach St. Louis on September 23, where they have been presumed lost and receive a hero's welcome. They are accompanied by the Mandan chief, Big White, and his wife, Yellow Corn, who travel with Lewis to meet President Jefferson in Washington, D.C.
1806 Spanish authorities in San Francisco reverse their policy and agree to sell provisions to Russian colonists after the Russians' representative becomes engaged to the daughter of the presidio's commander.
1806 Captain Richard Sparks and the frontiersman Thomas Freeman are appointed by Jefferson to explore and map the Red River region along the United States' border with Tejas.
1806 Zebulon Pike sets out on an expedition to make peace among the Pawnee in Nebraska and explore the headwaters of the Arkansas River. His mission takes him into Colorado, where on Thanksgiving Day he and his party try unsuccessfully to climb the peak that bears his name.
1807 Crossing the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Zebulon Pike comes to the Rio Grande, which he mistakes for the Red River. Here he builds an outpost and is discovered by a Spanish patrol, which takes him first to Santa Fe, then into Mexico, and finally to the Tejas border near Natchitoches, Louisiana, where he re-enters the United States in June. After reporting on Spanish forces and settlements in the Southwest, Pike publishes an account of his expedition which makes him a national celebrity.
1807 John Colter, a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition who remained in the West as a fur trader, explores the Wyoming country and an area he calls "Colter's Hell," which is thought to be the geyser and hot springs country of present-day Yellowstone Park.
1807 Fur trader Manuel Lisa establishes Fort Raymond, the first trading post in present day Montana, at the mouth of the Bighorn River.
1808 The U.S. government moves Cherokee Indians who had attacked Tennessee settlers across the Mississippi into Arkansas.
1808 John Jacob Astor forms the American Fur Company to compete with the North West Company of Canada in the northern Plains.
1809 Meriwether Lewis, appointed governor of the Louisiana Territory on his return from the West, dies mysteriously and violently in a Natchez tavern on his way back to Washington to answer charges of mismanagement.
1809 Meriwether Lewis, appointed governor of the Louisiana Territory on his return from the West, dies mysteriously and violently in a Natchez tavern on his way back to Washington to answer charges of mismanagement.
1809 By this time there are 25 Russian American colonies strung along the northern Pacific coast as far south as California.
1810 John Jacob Astor forms the Pacific Fur Company to expand his trading empire to the Pacific coast.
1810 Kamehameha the Great unifies Hawaii, aided by former British seamen who teach his warriors how to sail heavy vessels and use cannons in island warfare.
1811 Russian settlers found Fort Ross at Bodega Bay just north of San Francisco.
1811 Astor's Pacific Fur Company establishes Fort Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River. Soon the area is thick with the outposts of rival traders.
1812 The United States and Great Britain clash in the War of 1812.
1813 John Jacob Astor's Pacific Northwest outpost, Astoria, is sold to the North West Company shortly before it is formally captured by a British warship in the War of 1812. On their overland return to the east, the former Astorians cross the continental divide south of the Wind River Range, discovering the South Pass that will become part of the Oregon Trail.
1814 The History of the Expedition of Captains Lewis and Clark, drawn from the explorers' notebooks by editors Paul Allen and Nicholas Biddle, is published with a preface by Thomas Jefferson.
1814 The United States and Great Britain conclude a treaty ending the War of 1812.
1817 Kamehameha banishes Russian fur traders from Hawaii when they attempt to erect a fort on his territory.
1818 The 49th parallel is agreed upon as the border between the United States and Canada from Lake of the Woods westward to the Rocky Mountains, with joint occupation of the Oregon Territory.
1819 The United States renounces all claims to Tejas in a treaty with Spain that brings Florida under American control.
1820 jor Stephen Long of the Corps of Engineers leads an expedition across Kansas to the Rocky Mountains, where a member of his party, Dr. Edwin James, scales Pikes Peak. On the map charting his explorations and published in 1823, Long labels the area east of the Rockies "The Great American Desert," a characterization that will steer settlers away from the region for decades to come.

The Program | People | Places | Events | Resources | Lesson Plans | Quiz
© 2001 THE WEST FILM PROJECT and WETA
Credits