Westward Expansion Timeline
Timeline Description: In search of commercial opportunities, exploitable natural resources, transplantation zones, and an agricultural paradise, the thirteen original colonies of the United States stretched to the west. Westward expansion, however, was not exclusively about resources. The topography of our continent with its rocks and minerals and flora and fauna required detailed scientific investigation. As people progressed west for better lives, scientific conquests, and additional resources, the thirteen colonies grew into the United States of America.

Date Event
1756 The French Indian War(1756-1763)

The French Indian war between the British and French involved many Native American people. It was fought over land disagreements.
September 3, 1783 The Treaty of Paris

The Treaty of Paris established the thirteen original colonies as independent, sovereign states. Trade routes, immigration, and resource scarcity catalyzed the necessity for more land.
July 13, 1787 The Northwest Ordinance was passed

The Northwest Ordinance set precedent for the addition of new states instead of simply increasing the size of existing states. It also permitted expansion into territories north and west of the Ohio River.
1803 The Louisiana Purchase

The Louisiana Purchase was attained by the new American republic. Congress split the purchased land into the two territories of Orleans and Louisiana each remaining under separate executive jurisdiction for thirty years.
June 1803 The Lewis and Clark Expedition

An expedition through the Louisiana Territory to investigate resources and search for a useful waterway, this expedition was the first transcontinental voyage. It lasted two and a half years, with Merriweather Lewis and William Clark having accomplished their goals. Their journey opened America westward to survey and settlement, contributing geographical and diplomatic information.
1812 The War of 1812 was fought between the United States and Canada with no clear winner

Lasting three years, The War of 1812 did not accomplish the border changes it was fought for. The only effect of the war was the constraining of American Indian tribes, restricting them to tribal reservations or forcing them westward, opening up new land for the U.S. expansion.
1819 The Missouri Compromise

A conflict occurred between those in approval of slavery expansion and those in opposition when Missouri applied for statehood. The Missouri Compromised was passed, agreeing that states would be admitted in pairs, with one free and one slaveholding. This remained in effect until the Dred Scott case of 1857.
December 2, 1823 The Monroe Doctrine

This policy detailed that any additional western colonization by Europeans would be taken as hostility. The Monroe Doctrine inferred that the U.S. was the only country able to expand west into the uncolonized space.
May 28, 1830 The Indian Removal Act and the Trail of Tears

President Andrew Jackson signed the act into regulation, causing the autonomous nations of the Five Civilized Tribes (Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Creek, and Seminole Indians) to be pressured into signing removal treaties by legal and corporal force. The force of the removal pressed many of the tribes into Oklahoma land. The majority of the Cherokees, from May 18 to June 2, 1838, were forced to live in forts and stockades before departure for Indian Territory. More than 4,000 of the 16,000 perished in forts or on the grueling trail.
1840s Manifest Destiny

The term Manifest Destiny was coined by John O'Sullivan in 1845. This belief that the expansion of the United States was inevitable and justifiable was the driving force of the century that led explorers and settlers westward in search of new land.
1844 The Oregon Trail

major push for expansion to the west of the Mississippi began with the notion of Manifest Destiny. In search of religious freedom for Mormons, gold, silver, and richer soil, four trails brought harsh weather, Indian attacks, isolation, and the prospect of a transcontinental railroad. The Santa Fe Trail opened up the southwest, the Overland Trail went to California, the Great Salt Lake (Utah) was reached by the Mormon Trail, and the Oregon Trail took many settlers to the northwest.
1845 The Mexican-American War

Disputed Texas borders added pressure to Mexican officials and a small army was sent to the north bank of Rio Grande. Americans were successful and secured California.
January 24, 1848 The California Gold Rush

Gold was first discovered by James W. Marshall in Coloma, California in the Sierra Nevada's foothills. He tried to keep it a secret, but word got out and people began rushing to the gold fields from Oregon, Mexico, Peru, the Pacific Islands, and Chile, as well as the rest of the United States.
1862 The Homestead Act

With intentions to create land for a variety of settlers, not only those who could afford to buy it outright, the Homestead Act set up a process that made land more affordable. After an application process, the buyer had to live on the land and make improvements for five years. After that, the homesteader could file for deed of residency. Land was free except for a small fee for registration.
January 8, 1863 Transcontinental Railroad

Work began in Sacramento to build open railway lines to Asia. The completed railroad on May 10, 1869 carried the first emigration waves from Asia to America.