By Shannon Combs-Bennett, Student
Through the next two modules in the course US: Migration Patterns we continue to travel west across the US. In Module 2 we were in Colonial America, Module 3 we expanded to the Mississippi River, and in Module 4 we saw the explosion of westward migration to the Pacific Ocean. I remember reading about that last stage in American history during school. For those Americans in the crowd, do you remember your US History classes?
Let’s admit it, Manifest Destiny and Westward Expansion may not have been the most interesting thing in our lives while we were in high school. However, as genealogists, plotting our family’s trail across the US we should realize that those ideas were a driving force for many people to move from one coast to the other. Of course, it is also sort of awesome to read about trails that you have actually traveled yourself.
For those of you who do not know what Manifest Destiny was, let me try to explain it briefly. Trust me, there are volumes written about this way of thought, but I think it is crucial to understand why droves of people left their homes in the Eastern US and headed west. In a nut shell those who believed in this concept felt that the United States should (and eventually would) possess all of the land from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. Many believed it was their God-given right to control and civilize the whole continent. You can read more about the philosophy of Manifest Destiny and the resulting Mexican American War on the National Park Service website from the Chamizal National Memorial.
I found it particularly interesting to learn about emigrant aid companies for the first time. To be honest, I knew these groups of people existed since I had run into them before, but I had not stopped to really analyze what they were. These organizations recruited from groups of people who could travel together and paid for them to move across the country. These organizations could be companies looking for workers, government agencies, or religious intuitions. The Harvey Girls were mentioned which made me go find the old movie to watch!
On to the next section. I am excited to learn more about 20th century migration. See you online!