Economic History of the United States

By Chester W. Wright | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVIII
THE OPENING OF THE WEST

The Westward Movement of Population. Facilitated by the more liberal land policy together with the introduction of better means of transportation and urged on by the rapid growth of population, the westward movement was resumed after the close of the War of 1812 on a scale far greater than ever. "Old America seems to be breaking up and moving westward," wrote a foreign observer in 1817.

FIG. 13 --Chief roads and trails to the West. (Base map, copyright, 1939, by the University of Chicago.)

Up to about 1830 the immediate objective of most settlers was the upper waters of the Ohio between Pittsburgh and Wheeling. The completion of the National Turnpike to the latter place in 1818 induced many to follow this route. Arriving at the Ohio such needed supplies as had not been brought along were purchased and the emigrant floated down the river on a raft till he reached the point nearest his chosen destination. Thus in the early period the most rapid growth of settlement took place along the valley of the Ohio River gradually extending back from the river and down the stream as the flow of emigrants increased. In fact, as early

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