In 1865, newspaperman, Horace Greeley, shaped public opinion by promoting western expansion. “Washington is not a place to live in. The rents are high, the food is bad, the dust is disgusting and the morals are deplorable…” he editorialized from his desk at the New York Tribune in an address to disgruntled civil servants. “Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country.”
The land was fertile and the county was young. Going west meant escaping the poverty of urban living and starting anew. It also meant starting at the ground floor. With the Homestead Act in place he urged all, “…To turn their faces Westward and colonize the public lands…”
These news arrived after a cascade of events stacked up to great optimism. Followed by the Revolution, our independence from the British, and general mentality of the Andrew Jackson presidency. A nation in the process of being born and a great time to be alive.
Trains left Washington in droves. Americans were imbued with a fresh and exceptional nationalism and the dream of a pioneering spirit.
Would-be hopefuls set out East to West to settle upon land of their choice. To cultivate new colonies, which would later form the townships of lore.
It is only natural to feel a certain kin with the men and women whose names are etched upon plaques in front of city halls. Because those men and women started at exactly the same place as would you and I. All it took is energy and good sense. The rest is history.
Just think. California became the 31st state on Monday, September 9th, 1850. This may sound like ages ago. But not so much when you bring it home. I set my sites westward on Tuesday, September 1st, 2009. Exactly 159 years and eight days before the Golden State was added to The Union. In that short span of time 31 territories grew to the 51 United States of America we know today. A lot more settlers, a lot more townships.
The word got out. Columbia and its expansion westward, otherwise known as Manifest Destiny was an irresistible destiny.
Buoyant I looked over my map as I, too, inched my way closer westward. I wondered what it must have been like to have been counted among those afoot newfound land during the Gold Rush. As all must, I wallowed in the romantic notion of pioneering my own frontier. Even though the odds of doing so stacked up against me. And news about where I was heading were not so favorable this time around.
In 2009, California is the process of spoiling in its own excesses as a mass exodus of the middle class returns to its Dust Bowl roots. In fact, some maps of the American West are down right troubling for private ownership. [map updated on February 3, 2015] It seems the former Expansion seems to be undergoing a Western Reduction.
What transpired in the last 150 years for such a tremendous reversal? With the majority of the land usurped by the government and its agencies you’ve got ask what in the name of Hades does Washington DC plan to do with it. Public land for public use?
As I forged forward on a narrow highway my mind raced for answers. These rocks are definitely worth looking under.