Visit Your Local Station PBS Home Search TV Schedules shopPBS Station Finder
New Perspectives on THE WEST
The Program People Places Events Resources Lesson Plans Quiz
To 1500

Events of the West (1650 - 1800)

1658 French traders Medard Chouart and Pierre Esprit Radisson become the first Europeans to make contact with the tribes of the northern Plains when they venture west and south of Lake Superior in search of furs.
1674 Louis Joliet and the Jesuit Father Jacques Marquette become the first Europeans to journey down the Mississippi.
1675 HopiUnder pressure from missionaries in the territory, New Mexican Governor Juan Francisco de Treviño begins a campaign against Pueblo religious practices, hanging four Indians in the plaza at Santa Fe on accusations of witchcraft and publicly whipping 43 others.
Among those whipped is Popé, an Indian from the Ohke Pueblo who has long resisted Spanish authority and who now begins encouraging rebellion. The hardships of a near-decade long drought, coupled with the increasing demands of the Spanish, help Popé win a receptive audience in the pueblos.
1680 From his headquarters in a kiva at Taos, Popé leads the Pueblo Revolt against the Spanish in New Mexico. On August 10, in a coordinated uprising at more than two dozen Indian settlements, separated by hundreds of miles and six different languages, the Indians kill more than 400 Spaniards, including 21 of the province's 33 missionaries, and sack or destroy every building and church.
Those who survive flee to Santa Fe, where they are surrounded by a combined force of 2,500 warriors who burn the town and mock their persecutors, now barricaded in the Governor's Palace, by chanting phrases from the Latin Mass. After a skirmish which temporarily drives the Indians back, the Spanish retreat to El Paso on the Rio Grande, establishing a secular community around the mission founded there in 1659.
The Pueblo people watch this retreat from the hills overlooking Santa Fe, content simply to have their homeland back again. Under Popé's leadership they have carried out what will stand as the most successful Indian revolt in North American history.
But even with the Spanish gone, the life of the Pueblos still bears the scars of their influence. Popé eradicates all signs of the Christian religion, but he retains elements of the Spanish political system, setting himself up in the Governor's Palace as ruler of the pueblos and collecting tribute from the once autonomous communities of the region until his death in 1688.
1682 Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, and Henri de Tonti complete a four-month voyage to the mouth of the Mississippi, claiming the entire Mississippi Valley for France and naming it Louisiana.
1685 Intending to establish a permanent French settlement in Louisiana, La Salle accidentally sails past the mouth of the Mississippi River and lands in Spanish territory on the Texas coast, where he founds Fort St. Louis.
1687 La Salle is killed in a mutiny when he attempts a desperate march from his outpost on the Texas coast to French settlements on the upper Mississippi for assistance. Those who remain behind at Fort St. Louis have all perished by the time Spanish forces, patrolling the region against a rumored French incursion, discover their settlement in 1689.
1687 The Jesuit Father Eusebio Kino arrives in present-day Arizona to begin building a string of 24 missions that will minister to the local Indians.
1690 Alonso de León establishes a mission at San Francisco de los Tejas near the Neches River, the first Spanish settlement in what will become Texas. By 1693, however, resistance from local Indians and the absence of a French threat in the region lead Mexican authorities to abandon this outpost and withdraw from Tejas for more than twenty years.
1692 On an expedition to reclaim New Mexico for Spain more than a decade after the Pueblo Revolt, Diego de Vargas leads a band of 200 soldiers from El Paso to Santa Fe, where he surrounds the town before dawn and then calls on the Indians to surrender, pledging clemency if they will swear allegiance to the King and return to the Christian faith. After a decade in which many have been forced to abandon their pueblos to escape Apache raiders, the Indians gathered in Santa Fe agree to peace. Vargas keeps his word, and over the next few months extends the same offer throughout the region. By year's end, he has accomplished his mission and reimposed Spanish rule over New Mexico almost without bloodshed.
1705 Eusebio Kino produces a map which finally establishes that California is part of North America, not a giant island.
1714 French explorer and fur trader Etienne Veniard ventures up the Missouri River to the Platte. French traders explore the length of the Mississippi and its tributaries during these decades.
1716 To guard their territory against the spread of French trading posts in neighboring Louisiana, the Spanish establish permanent border settlements in east Tejas near the Sabine River.
1718 The AlamoMartin de Alarcon establishes San Antonio at the junction of the San Antonio and San Pedro Rivers in Tejas, midway between Mexico and Spain's settlements on the Sabine River along the border with French Louisiana. Nearby, Fray Antonio de San Buenaventura establishes the mission of San Antonio de Valero, later known as The Alamo.
1718 New Orleans is established by the French.
1738 French fur trader Pierre de la Verendrye arrives among the Mandans of the upper Missouri River, becoming the first European to enter North Dakota.
1741 French fur traders Pierre and Paul Mallet complete a 2,000 mile trek through the interior of the continent. Leaving their outpost on the Missouri River in 1738, they journey upriver to the Platte, then west to Santa Fe. From there they follow the Canadian River east to the Arkansas and then head down the Mississippi to New Orleans. They discover a range of mountains at the headwaters of the Platte which the Indians call the Rockies, becoming the first Europeans to report on this uncharted mountain range.
1741 Russians Vitus Bering and Alexi Chirikov explore the coast of Alaska.
1743 French explorers Francois and Louis-Joseph de la Verendrye bury an inscribed lead plate at Fort Pierre, South Dakota, claiming the area for France.
1753 Describing British ambitions in the New World, Bishop George Berkeley writes, "Westward the course of empire takes its way."
1755 Beginning of the Seven Years War between England and France, which in the British colonies of North America is known as the French and Indian War.
1759 Responding to a Comanche attack that destroyed two missions on the San Saba River in central Tejas, a Spanish force of 600 marches north to the Red River where they engage several thousand Comanche and other Plains Indians fighting behind breastworks and armed with French rifles. The Spaniards are routed, losing a cannon in their retreat, and Comanche raids become a constant threat to settlers throughout Tejas.
1762 France cedes its colonial territories west of the Mississippi to its ally Spain to compensate for the loss of Cuba, Florida, Minorca and the Philippines to the British in the Seven Years War.
1763 The Treaty of Paris ends the French and Indian War. France cedes its Canadian territories to England.
1764 Auguste Chouteau, a 14-year-old from a wealthy family in New Orleans, begins clearing a site for St. Louis, a new trading post on the Mississippi River near the mouth of the Missouri.
1764 Catherine II of Russia orders further exploration of Alaska and revokes the fur tax, lending strong governmental support to the growth of trade with the Aleuts and raising the prospect of a permanent Russian settlement in North America.
1769 Father Junipero SerraFather Junipero Serra, a Franciscan accompanying a Mexican expeditionary force under the command of Gaspar de Portola, establishes Mission San Diego de Alcala near the site of present-day San Diego. The outpost is the first in a planned string of settlements along the coast of Spain's California territory which are intended to guard against Russian intruders. Before his death in 1784, Serra founds eight more missions, including San Carlos at Carmel (1770, his headquarters in California), San Gabriel near present-day Los Angeles (1771), and San Francisco (1776).
1769 Jose de Ortega, a scout with the Portola expedition, discovers the entrance to San Francisco bay.
1772 Pedro Fages, now in command of the Portola expedition, leads a scouting party into central California, exploring San Francisco Bay and the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys.
1775 Forced to labor in the mission fields and to worship according to the missionaries' teachings, the Indians at San Diego rebel against the Spanish, burning every building and killing most of the inhabitants, including the mission's head priest. Thanks to a Spanish sharpshooter, the Indians are finally driven off and the Spanish retain control of their outpost.
1776 The Declaration of Independence marks the beginning of the American Revolutionary War.
1776 A group of nearly 200 settlers, led overland from Mexico across desert and mountain by Governor Luis Anza, arrive to establish a permanent colony on San Francisco Bay.
1778 British Captain James Cook discovers Hawaii, which he names the Sandwich Islands after his benefactor, the Earl of Sandwich. Cook goes on to explore an Alaskan estuary, now called Cook's Inlet, in hopes that it might be the Northwest Passage, and sails along the Northwest seacoast, where he trades the Indians pennies for sea otter pelts that will fetch $100 in China.
1781 A band of settlers, following the overland trail from Mexico, escape a massacre by once-friendly Yuma Indians along the Colorado River. Fifty-five members of their party are killed and nearly 70 are taken captive. The 46 survivors forge on to Mission San Gabriel, near which they establish Los Angeles. But the overland route to California is abandoned and Spain's northernmost province becomes increasingly isolated and self-dependent.
1781 The British surrender at Yorktown marks the end of the American Revolutionary War.
1784 Russia establishes its first North American colony on Kodiak Island.
1784 The North West Company is established in Montreal to challenge the Hudson's Bay Company for control of the fur trade on the northern Plains.
1787 The Northwest Ordinance sets guidelines for settlement on the American frontier, including the prohibition of slavery and a requirement to deal fairly with Indians.
1787 The United States Constitution is approved by the Constitutional Convention and ratified by the states the following year.
1788 The Columbia, captained by Robert Gray of Boston, trades iron tools, mirrors and trinkets with Indians of the Northwest for otter furs. Gray explores the Columbia River, which he names for his ship, establishing an American claim to the region. Two years later, the Columbia returns to Boston after a trading stop in China, becoming the first American ship to circle the globe.
1792 The Russian Orthodox Church begins missionary work in Alaska, establishing a bishopric at Sitka.
1792 British Captain George Vancouver, a veteran of Cook's expeditions, begins a survey of the Pacific coast. Charting the many inlets and channels north from near San Luis Obispo to Prince of Wales Island, he confirms that no sea lane connects the Pacific with Hudson Bay. On this voyage he circles Vancouver Island, which he names for himself, and explores Puget Sound, which he names for Peter Puget, the officer who first sights it.
1793 Alexander Mackenzie, a fur trader with the North West Company, becomes the first white man to cross the North American continent. From his trading post, Fort Chipewyan on Lake Athabasca in what is now Alberta, Canada, Mackenzie crosses the Rocky Mountains and travels through British Columbia, eventually canoeing down the Bella Coola River to the Pacific.
1795 The Treaty of San Lorenzo establishes the border between the United States and Spanish territories along the Mississippi and gives U.S. merchants the right to ship goods through New Orleans duty-free.
1797 Charles Chaboillez, a fur trader with the North West Company, establishes Pembina, a trading post at the junction of the Pembina and Red Rivers in present-day North Dakota.
1799 The Russian American Company establishes its headquarters at Sitka, Alaska.
1799 Daniel Boone leaves Kentucky for "elbow room" in the Spanish territories west of the Mississippi, settling near St. Charles on the Missouri River.

The Program | People | Places | Events | Resources | Lesson Plans | Quiz
--> 'use strict';