Five Interesting Facts You Didn't Know About The Wild West
by Jay Franks
The term "Wild West" might conjure up stereotypical images of cowboys. Still, as with many historical periods, the reality is usually more complicated.
As more people started moving from the East Coast and taking the Oregon Trail or following the Gold Rush, it wasn't an easy life – for them or the people who already lived on those lands.
Here are some interesting and challenging facts about the Wild West that you probably didn't know.
The "Wild West" was full of fascinating historical individuals. In some cases, these individuals defied expectations and our view of the day, but some are more in line with how we view this rather dangerous time.
One of these people was Cherokee Bill, a noted outlaw. While awaiting a Supreme Court decision on appeal, Cherokee Bill tried to escape from jail. In the process, he killed one of the guards. This murder lead to his eventual execution.
Looking at the history of westward expansion makes it impossible to ignore the reality of violence against Indigenous Americans. While some of the more well-known instances, like the Trail of Tears, are common knowledge, other sad facts are less-known. One example of the many atrocities was that, at one time, European settlers were paid money for every Penobscot individual they murdered.
While this period might have been challenging for many people of color, there are some exciting and hopeful stories. "Stagecoach Mary" had a fascinating life story. She was the second woman in the country to work as a mail carrier. She was also the first African American woman to do this difficult job. While she faced a lot of prejudice for being a Black woman, she was a trailblazer and carried a gun with her to protect the mail from robbers.
It's common to see iconography from this time showing cowboys as white men. Still, the actual history is more complex than that. Many African American people came to states like Texas as enslaved people. Then, after the Civil War, many of these men became cowboys themselves.
While the lifestyle of a cowboy wasn't always easy, it was one of the few jobs available to Black men at the time. Many of these men were cattle ranchers, which is a part of history that more people should know about.
Defining the Wild West can be difficult. Some experts include it as part of a period of about 150 years. During these years, the American West was significantly changed by the expansion of colonial groups into Indigenous lands. This tumultuous time was filled with slavery, wars, violence, and more. But, some experts further define what we think of as the "Wild West" to a 30-year time block from 1865 to 1895.
These few facts reveal a few things about the American frontier. It was a time full of unique individuals. It was also a tumultuous time filled with many upsetting stories that are hard to discuss. Some historical facts from these years are fun and exciting, while others are harder to digest.