The Topic:
Old West

This Old West project has a companion People of the West page. Here you can find links to hundreds of biographical websites with lots more information about individual outlaws, lawmen, military leaders, native Americans, ranchers, cattle barons, and leaders in the early West. . . so many websites that we had to set up a separate location for all of them. Don't miss it!
Easier - Sometimes people talk about the 'West,' the 'Wild West,' or the 'Old West.' They are usually referring to the people and events of the western region of the United States during the second half of the 1800's.
Harder - The romantic view of the Old West can be seen in western movies and novels that depict the Wild West as a time of gunfights, gambling, and Indian attacks. In reality, most inhabitants of the West didn't carry a gun or participate in shootouts. A century ago the American West was a rough and wild place. Far from the control of the US government in the East, the Old West was ruled by its own set of laws.
In the early 1840s, settlers began moving toward the Pacific Northwest. After gold was found in California in the mid 1800s, people began to flood the west in search of their fortune. Next, cowboys began rounding up wild cattle and organizing herds. The pony express, the stagecoach, and ultimately the Transcontinental Railroad and the telegraph began to join the East and the West. By 1900, the range was fenced in to create ranches, the Native Americans moved to reservations, and many frontier towns became well-established cities.
African Americans and the Old West by M. Sylvester, Long Island University
In the 'old West' one out of every three cowboys were African, Indian, or Mexican. This site has some information about a few of the African American cowboys.
Related Websites:
2) African-Americans In The Wild West by A. Burton
3) Black Cowboys
4) Black Cowboys - Parts I by K.W. Porter
5) Black Cowboys by By B.J. McRae, Jr.
6) Black Cowboys By R.W. Slatta, North Carolina State University
7) Bronze Buckaroo
8) Cowboys of Color
9) Labor of Negro Cowboys
10) People of Color on America's Western Frontier: Lest We Forget by B.J. McRae, Jr.
Along the Chisholm Trail
In the late 1900s, cattlemen rounded up millions of longhorns in Texas, cropped their ears, branded their hides, and drove them across the Indian Nations into Kansas. One of the trails was the Chisholm. This great website takes you along!
Other Cattle Drive Sites:
2) Cattle and Cowley County Cattle Drives
3) Cattlemen and Cowboys
4) Cattle Trailing from The Handbook of Texas Online
5) Chuck Wagon
6) Chuck Wagon Central
7) Early Cattle Trails Blazed Way for First Settlers by T. Cannon
8) Oliver Loving and the Goodnight-Loving Trail
9) Texas Cattle History
10) Texas Longhorn Country
New Perspectives on the West
This companion website to the Ken Burns production on the history of the West, has information about the people, places, events and more.
Related Websites:
2) American West
3) Old West by J. Janke
3) Old West - Suite 101 by E. Gibson
4) WestWeb
5) Wild Wild West
Vaqueros: The First Cowboys from Texas Parks & Wildlife
Texas is famous for its cattle ranches, such as the King Ranch, the XIT, the 6666, and many others. The main characters associated with the ranch -- ranchers, cowboys, Indians, rustlers and outlaws -- are familiar and deeply seated icons who are ingrained into our history and heritage. But despite all appearances, the ranch is not an invention of the United States; it is essentially Mexican in origin.
Related Website:
2) Vaqueros: Origins of the First American Cowboys by D.G. Y Chavez
After visiting several of the Old West websites, complete one or more of the following activities:
Complete a Old West WebQuest. Follow or adapt the procedures to complete one of these webQuests:
1) Back To The Wild, Wild West (Grades 9-12) by J. Reeder
2) Characters of the Wild, Wild West ~ Good, The Bad, & The Ugly (Grade 6) by M. Krebs
3) Cowboy Corral (Grade 5) by L. Lilienthal, B. Sadler, and K. Huber
4) Join A Cattle Drive from Harcourt School Publishers
A closely-related activity is an online scvenger hunt about the Chisholm Trail:
5) Can You Follow the Trail?
Design Your Own Livestock Brands. Learn about the history of branding at Branding Horses & Cattle, Cattle Brands from The Handbook of Texas Online, and the History of Cattle Brands from Devil's Rope-Barbed Wire Museum. Brands are still used today to identify ownership and deter rustling of livestock. To find out about a more modern method, go to Freeze Branding Cattle by J.C. Whittier and J.E. Ross, University of Missouri-Columbia. Other marking methods are used such as ear notching and tattoos. Now, design your own original brand for your 'outfit.' Draw your design. Share and explain it.
Make A Quilt of Historical Brands. Create a brand quilt. This might be a group project with each person taking one brand and then designing and making a quilt block.
Organize an Old West Day. Put together a group of planners and doers and plan your own celebration of the 'Old West.' You will probably want to involve a few adults (teachers and parents) to help out. Some startup ideas that you might incorporate are horseshoes and roping competitions. Other events could include a trail ride (bikes instead of horses?) and a 'mining' scavenger hunt. You may want to incorporate some ideas found at Geocaching; do a search in your area - - there may be a nearby cache that you will want to use. Bring in an expert; perhaps a local horseperson or rancher who might bring along some of their tack for a demonstration/presentation. Top the day off with some square dancing, you can find some useful links at another eduScapes 42eXplore project: Dance.
Compare and Contrast Two People from the Old West. You can find lots of biography links on the companion page: People of the West. There pick two different persons such as an outlaw and a lawman, a cattle baron and a lawman, male and female, or a native American and a military leader. You should not necessarily pick two persons who knew or were associated with the other. Now learn as much as you can about the two people and compare and contrast them and their lives.
Write an Old West Biography. Choose your favorite character from the Old West. Write a short story about an event in their lives. An alternative would be to write a poem or song about their life. Share your creative writing project.
Draw a Scene from the Old West. Pick a setting: town, ranch, trail, cattle drive, railroad, mining, or some other representative scene. Then make a poster that captures that setting. Give it a banner headline. Display your artwork.
Uncover the Myths of the Old West. History has a way of sometimes distorting the facts. This is certainly the case for the Old West. Identify and explain as many of the commonly held misconceptions about the Old West. Put together a presentation that shows what you uncover. You may want to develop a desktop presentation in MS PowerPoint or in Hyperstudio. Maybe you will choose to present your findings by posting them in a new webpage.
Construct an Old West Diorama. Put together a tabletop diorama display of a western town or a ranch or mining scene, battlefield layout, or some other scene from the Old West. An alternative activity could be to build a model chuckwagon or stagecoach.
Websites By Kids For Kids
America's Old West (1800s) (Award-winning 1996 ThinkQuest Internet Challenge)
You are entering a gold mine left over from the California gold rush in 1849. Each screen will give you choices: which direction to go or action to take. As you progress, you will discover different things, including five artifacts.
Plains Indians at the John G. Neihardt Internet Project
This site includes a chronology and historical documents, and information about important figures, culture and society, and more.
Trail Drives
Starting off with trail drives, this is the first of a series of student articles about cowboys.
Other Articles in the Series:
2) How Cowboys Lived
3) What Cowboys Earned
4) Early Cattle in Wyoming
5) Cowboys
6) Cowboys and Guns
More Websites for the Old West
Visit our companion People of the West page. Here you can find links to hundreds of biographical websites . . . so many that we had to set up this separate page for all of them. The links are alphabetized and include lawmen, outlaws, native Americans, military leaders, and women . . . all persons who left their mark on the history of the West.
Adventures of Wells Fargo
Here you can find authentic stories taken from the historical archives of Wells Fargo that let you discover life as it was on the western frontier.
Related Websites:
2) Butterfield Overland Mail - Stitching the Country Together by J. Mazzio
3) Riding The Overland Stage, 1861
4) Stagecoach Lines at The Handbook of Texas Online
5) Wells Fargo & Company
Camels in the West by E. Gibson at the Old West
Many people thought bringing camels to use in the southwest was a good idea, but nobody acted on it until 1853. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis thought that camels had many practical applications, especially military use.
Frontier Trails of the Old West
Here you will find articles about stage routes, railroads, outlaws and lawmen, native Americans, mining and geology, and more.
Vaquero/Cowboy Lingo by D.G. Y Chavez
This list consists of mostly western words of Spanish or Mexican origin along with a few other Americanisms which were borrowed from Spanish.
Similar Websites:
2) Cowboy Dictionary from Texas Cowboy Reunion, Stamford, Texas
3) Cowboy Lingo by E. Cox from Deadwood Magazine
4) Texas Dictionary
Guns, Firearms, Peacemakers and Such...
Nothing connotes the Wild West more strongly than the distinctive firearms that were often used by trapper, native Americans, soldiers, gunfighters, and lawmen of that era.
Related Website:
2) Guide To Period Firearms and Their Use from K. Vaglienti
3) J.M. Davis Arms and Historical Museum
Gunslingers and Outlaws
This links-site connects to several sites providing biographical information about gunslingers and outlaws.
Related Websites:
2) Kansas Gunfighters
3) Western Violence by R. Bent
4) Wild West Outlaws - (Disorganized, but does contain summary of facts)
LC Ranch - Cattle Baron of the Gila by J. Hurst
It has been written that behind every great personal fortune lies a crime, and there is probably no better illustration of that adage than the cattle empires of the Old West.
Related Websites from The Handbook of Texas Online:
2) Barbed Wire
3) Cattle Rustling
4) Fence Cutting
5) Ranching
6) Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association
Lincoln County War (1878-79) - Competition Wasn't Welcome by B. Kelly from Southern New Mexico Online
Related Websites:
2) Battles of the Lincoln County War
3) Henry McCarty: The Wild West's 'Billy the Kid' by J. Geringer
4) How the Lincoln County War Started by P. Rasch
5) Lincoln County War: New Mexico
6) Turmoil in New Mexico
Making It Their Own: Women In the West by C. Lavender at WestWeb
Under Texts you will find women's diaries, literary works, critical essays or historical studies. Under Resources, you find biographies of Western women as well teaching and study materials. You will also find a collection of links. Finally, under Images, you find images of Western women's history and direct links to pictures available online.
Related Websites:
Women of the West
Multicultural American West
This site provides links to online resources for study of the multicultural west; includes sections for native peoples and American Indian, African American, Chicano/Latino and borderland, women, and much more.
Related Articles:
2) Chinese Miners in the Far West by R. Rohe
3) Edwin Bryant's View of Hispanic Californians
4) John A. Dix on Expansion and Mexican Lands, 1848
Old West Far More Complex than Depicted in Legends
This article summarizes some ways that revisionists have caused historians to change their views of western history.
Photographs of the American West 1861-1912 at National Archives and Records Administration
The transition from a 'wild' western frontier into organized segments of a federal union is documented in photographs.
Similar Websites:
2) Images in the American West at TreasureNet Historical Image Collection
3) Images of the West
4) Photography Collection at Denver Public Library
Profile of a Cowboy at DesertUSA
This website provides a good summary of the daily life of a cowboy.
Related Website:
2) Cowboy from State of Oklahoma
3) National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
Central Pacific Railroad; Photographic History Museum
Congress granted railroads alternate sections of public domain land to encourage railroad construction, and the railroad companies later sold land to increase their profits.
Related Websites:
2) Bill Doolin & Caney, KS Train Robbery
3) Did Butch Cassidy Plan the Wilcox Train Robbery? by J.O. Miller
4) Great Train Robbery Outside Verdi, Nevada, 1870
4) Trade of Train Robbery by C. Michelson
So You Think the Cavalry Won The West? by D. Johnson
This brief scholar's article corrects some ideas about the army in the West and the importance of the horse soldier.
This site is dedicated to the Clanton family and the history of Tombstone Arizona. Find more information on the Biographies webpage.
More Tombstone & O.K. Corral Websites:
2) McLaury Brothers
3) Profiles of the 'Cowboys'
4) Tombstone: The Town To Tough To Die
5) Tombstone (and the O.K. Corral)
6) Shootout at the O.K. Corral from Law Buzz
Vigilantes of Montana:1864 Revisited
On December 23, 1863, a group of citizens in Virginia City met secretly to form a Vigilance Committee. They adopted a set of bylaws and 24 individuals signed an oath of allegiance. During January and February of 1864 they executed twenty-one men by hanging, with more to come in the months and years ahead.
Related Websections:
2) "The Petrified West and the Writer" by D. Lavender
3) Some Afterthoughts on the Vigilantes by J. W. Smurr
4) Was Dimsdale a Vigilante? by R. Mather
Significance of the Frontier in American History
This is the first of a series of readings for a college course in Western History.
Another Article in the Series:
2) Shared Memories of Pioneers by C.A. Milner II
Websites For Teachers
American West Theme Ideas at Lesson Exchange (Grades K-4)
Here is a collection of activities related to the West.
Cowboy Unit
These five lessons help students to understand the roles that cowboys played in the US and Colorado history during the late 1800's. They will develop vocabulary, help students look at cultural assimilation, power, diversity, and economics in Colorado history.
Glidden's Patent Application for Barbed Wire from National Archives and Records Administration
This lesson plan leads students to understand how agriculture, mining, and ranching were transformed by this 'new technology.'
Hall of Fame at Education Place
In this multidisciplinary lesson for social studies, language arts, and art, students create a Hall of Fame of the West.
Happy Trails: An Introduction to American Cattle Drives
This lesson was developed as an interest approach lesson to a unit encompassing cattle drives. This lesson incorporates agriculture, art, English, family and consumer sciences and history.
West: Lesson Plans from PBS
Here are resources to study the U. S.'s westward expansion in the Nineteenth Century. This multidisciplinary unit of lessons addresses a variety of subject areas, including history, language arts, fine arts, and science.
Gold Rush
cattle drive
Mormon Trail
Native American
Fetterman Massacre
Butterfield Route
Pony Express
Lewis & Clark
Mountain Meadows Massacre
Chisholm Trail
Civil War
Buffalo Soldiers
Oregon trail
mountain men
Johnson Massacre
cattle baron
Gadsden Purchase
barbed wire
Sand Creek atrocities
Battle of the Little Big Horn
Indian Nation
Lincoln County War
chuck wagon
livestock brand
range war
barbed wire
Created by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson, 1/99, Updated 2/02.