Spot Light of the Month

In October, 2000 I began to feature websites that embody the true spirit of the Westward Movement. These sites have significant historical content, possibly photos and/or maps, and are suitable for all age groups. The "West" is defined loosely as 19th Century America, primarily west of the Mississippi River and anything and anybody associated with it.

Please e-mail me with your suggestions for a "Spot Light!"

Spotlight of the Month December 2002 Spotlight of the Month: The Interactive Santa Fe Trail Homepage This website has been growing over the years, and it's really over-whelming! There's more to discover each time you visit it--everything related to the Santa Fe Trail. The history of the trail, of course, but also traveling the trail today, complete with maps and exploring the trail on-line, and current events along the trail. There are links to online books, book reviews, and maps about the trail, and also reading lists, and bibliographies. Another section deals with people on the trail, and their genealogies. Be sure to check out the Santa Fe Trail "Who's Who" which includes links to William Becknell (Father of the Santa Fe Trail), Josiah Gregg, and other more recent folks along the trail, including a "first person" account of travel on the trail provided by the g-grandson of the pioneer.

Spotlight of the Month October 2002 Spotlight of the Month: Southwest Explorations: A Study of the Historical Expeditions that Opened Arizona and the American West. To all of us traveling the highways of the West, we've often wondered, "What was this spot like when the first American explorers or emigrants saw it?" The author of this website has taken the diaries, journals, and official reports of early explorers and military expeditions traveling through Arizona, and followed their trails. There are numerous excerpts with accompanying modern photos of specific locations mentioned in the diaries or reports. Explorers' routes have been traced on maps of Arizona and New Mexico. In following the Gila, the San Pedro, the Pecos, the Salinas, the Colorado, and others rivers of the southwest, the author has provided good directions and GPS points to locations and photos. A great feature of this web site is the comparison of historical sketches, photos, and paintings accompanying the diaries or reports with modern photos that the author has taken of the same point of interest. He has also compared USGS topographical maps with historical maps or sketches found in the reports. A Bibliography and Reading List of books and articles pertaining to early explorations in Arizona and the Southwest is also included.

  • Spotlight of the Month August, 2002 Spotlight of the Month: The American Frontier: A Public Lands Journey Two teams of adventurers embarked on a first-of-its-kind trip across the nation's majestic parks and open lands on July 31 as part of a campaign to introduce Americans to the vast public lands throughout the country. This is a celebration of the national treasure that we have in abundance in the western United States. Sponsored by the Public Lands Interpretive Association, in partnership with The National Geographic, and many other agencies, eight people in two teams are trekking from the Mexican border to the Canadian border, through six western states by foot and horse, bike and canoe, ATV and boat some 3,000 miles, never setting foot on private land. Their entire route will be on public lands-- national parks and forests, wildlife refuges, BLM lands, and more-- and they will tell their story on the American Frontier website, through pictures, diaries, interactive maps, and multimedia exhibits. The final event of the trek, when the two teams meet at This Is The Place State Park near Salt Lake City on September 28, will be a festive patriotic event, where the American West, American Lands, and American Freedom will be celebrated in high-energy, dramatic fashion. The complete itinerary, including public events, is on the website. Although only eight men and women are actually following the entire route of the American Frontiers Journey, an incredible array of people are helping them out with mapping, equipment, public relations, education outreach, cooking, medical support, and general logistics. Read about technical support by Amanda, GIS Specialist setting up the satellite Internet connection for the mobile "tech trailer," making maps of the upcoming routes, getting route information into and out of the GPS units the trekkers carry with them, and uploading images and journal entries to the Trek's website.

  • Spotlight of the Month July, 2002 Spotlights of the Month: Independence Rock
    The Great Register of the Desert
    Independence Rock State Historic Site
    Names Recorded on Independence Rock
    Named for a fur trader's Fourth of July celebration in 1830, this huge rock became one of the most famous of all Oregon Trail landmarks. Like a great stone turtle, Independence Rock sprawls over 27 acres next to the meandering Sweetwater River. More than a mile in circumference, the rock is 700 feet wide and 1,900 feet long. Its highest point, 136 feet above the rolling prairie, stands as tall as a twelve-story building. The landmark was a favorite resting place for travelers along the trail. Called the "Great Register of the Desert", more than 5,000 names of early emigrant were carved on this boulder. Starting the trail in the early spring, emigrants along the Oregon Trail hoped to reach Independence Rock by July 4, Independence Day. If they had not arrived by then, they knew they were behind schedule.

  • Spotlight of the Month June, 2002 Spotlight of the Month Coronado's Exploration into the American Southwest This site describes the first European exploration of the modern American Southwest by the Coronado expedition and associated parties in the 1530s and 1540s. The route for the expedition was reconnoitered in 1539 by Father Marcos de Niza, who first recorded the seven cities of Cíbola (now known to be the modern pueblo of Zuni, New Mexico.) In 1540 Coronado led a huge expedition of around 1000 Spanish and native allies from Compostela, Mexico, north through Sonora and southeast Arizona, to Zuni. Side parties discovered the Grand Canyon, the Colorado river crossing near Yuma, and the Hopi pueblos or northern Arizona. Disappointed by lack of gold or transportable wealth, the army reached and occupied the pueblos near Albuquerque, New Mexico, and eventually traveled as far as Kansas, in 1541-42. Ironically, the expedition was regarded as a failure because it brought back no gold. This extensive site describes the history behind the expedition, has a number of maps and describes the route, has a short biography about the main players involved in the expedition, describes several recently discovered campsites of the expedition, has photos of artifacts left by the expedition, and tells of ongoing efforts to inform ranchers in the Southwest to become aware of what Coronado materials might look like in order to pin down the exact route of the expedition.

  • Spotlight of the Month May, 2002 Spotlight of the Month Oregon's Historic Trails Oregon's history is deeply tied to its trails. The routes followed by American explorers stretched across the Oregon Country a full 50 years before the Oregon Trail migrations of the mid-1800s. In 1998, the Oregon Trails Coordinating Council issued a report inventorying sixteen historic trails recognized to exist within Oregon's borders. The story behind each of these trails, from the early Indian paths, to the later wagon roads, is explained. A relief map with the trail superimposed accompanies each explanation. Also included is a section which lists known interpretive resources along each trail and suggests driving directions which approximate the routes of the historic trails. What is perhaps the most valuable for further research is a detailed bibliography for each of the trails. This information is being hosted by the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.

  • Spotlight of the Month April, 2002 Spotlight of the Month Our Golden Past Here's a Spotlight that will have something of interest for everyone. Diverging from the usual single subject web page, the April Spotlight features Richard Hughey, a columnist for the Placerville, California, Mountain Democrat, California's oldest newspaper. Mr. Hughey has written a myriad of articles about the trails, cutoffs, explorers, emigrants, personalities, the journey, Indians, wagons, mountain men, and other subjects pertaining to the trails into California. His articles include information about the Pony Express, the Santa Fe Trail, the Carson Emigrant Trail, the Old Spanish Trail, and of course the Oregon/California Trail. Personalities include the Donners, Frémont, Kit Carson, Jedediah Smith, Peter Lassen, and many more. Just a few of the topics you'll find here range from stage coach robberies, how to load the wagon, the discovery of gold, the founding of towns, to hunting bear. There are several years' worth of articles at this site, so you'll be able to come back often. Richard Hughey is a retired lawyer who now devotes his time to researching and writing about early California history.

  • Spotlight of the Month March, 2002 Spotlight of the Month The Santa Fe Trail: The Great Trail of Commerce The authors of this website claim: "Within this website you will find information on the Santa Fe Trail as it makes it way through the west half of the State of Kansas." That is an understatement! On the almost 500 pages of this site you'll find information about explorers of the area from Coronado, Jedediah Smith, Zebulon Pike and Josiah Gregg, to the government expeditions led by Sibley, Emory, Whipple and St. George Cooke, to the early entrepreneurs along the Santa Fe Trail such as Becknell, Bent, and Magoffin. GPS locations are given for the military forts along the trail, the river crossings, and various markers placed along the trail, including those of the DAR. The sites of Indian treaties are discussed along with present day museums and current archeological digs. Later activity on the trail, from the stage route of the Butterfield Overland Dispatch and the Smoky Hill Route to the laying of the rails for the Union Pacific RR, is all found here. The authors go into great detail about how to follow the trail today by automobile. There are numerous present day and historical photos and sketches. The entire site is well documented, with numerous pages of "footnotes" and bibliographies, and new information continues to be added, so visit it often. There is no part of the Santa Fe Trail through Kansas left untouched!

  • Spotlight of the Month February, 2002 Spotlight of the Month Along the Chisholm Trail. Over the past century, the Chisholm Trail, named after Jesse Chisholm, has been all but forgotten. Millions of longhorns were driven northward across the Texas and Oklahoma plains to railheads in Kansas during the period 1867-1889. Much of the trail has been plowed up or paved over. Houses and golf courses stand on it. Some of it is still open pasture; some of it has been plowed countless times to plant wheat, cotton or other agricultural products. Plowed fields and barbed wire, triumphant over the cattlemen a century ago, remain in control of the trails' passage through the region. Now a new movement is taking place to "revive" the old Chisholm Trail, not as it once was -- a trail to take cattle to market -- but as a tourist destination. This site has history of the trail, lots of maps, information about the river crossings, historic places, and current day photos all along the trail. It is apparent that the author of the website, who was born, raised, and still lives along the trail, has deep feelings about it..."and if you face into the wind and close your eyes and listen real hard, you might be able to hear the whistles and cries of the cowboys, and the complaints of the longhorns as they continue their long walk north."

  • Spotlight of the Month January, 2002 Spotlight of the Month Travel The Bozeman Trail. The Bozeman Trail is unique among trails in the American West, cutting through the last and best hunting grounds of the Northern Plains Indians, and led to military occupation of the region, ultimately resulting in the Indian wars on the Northern Plains. This excellent website explores the history of the Bozeman Trail which overlaid ancient Paleo-Indian and buffalo routes. It was a microcosm of the history of the West, with about every kind of people who lived in, traveled through, or settled the West represented. Included are diary accounts, military reports, and first hand thoughts about the land and place surrounding the trail, from a Crow Scout for Custer to fieldnotes from a modern day exploratory expedition. This site also serves as a guide for the modern traveler of the trail, with museums listed (from south to north) along the trail, a Bozeman Trail Corridor map, events occuring along the trail in 2002, and a gallery of photos, both historic and modern.

  • Spotlight of the Month December, 2001 Spotlight of the Month American Memory: Historical Collections for the National Digital Library. This Library of Congress site is a gateway to rich primary source materials relating to the history and culture of the United States. The site offers more than 7 million digital items from more than 100 historical collections! The easy to use search feature will bring up historic photos, WPA life histories which include many "remembrances" along the trails west, diaries, manuscripts, rare books, maps, recorded sound, moving pictures, journal articles, field notes, and Congressional Records. The History of the American West, a collection of over 30,000 photographs, is drawn from the holdings of the Western History and Genealogy Department of the Denver Public Library. The Nineteenth Century in Print is a collection of 23 popular literary and political magazines. The Learning Page contains stories, activities, lesson plans, and other resources for teachers. Also included is The Library of Congress Searchable Online Catalog which contains over 12 million bibliographic records.

  • Spotlight of the Month November, 2001 Spotlight of the Month All of the previous Spotlights! Many of the Spotlights over the previous year have added much valuable information to their sites. I decided to take this opportunity to recognize them all again! There have also been some address changes, such as Stephenie Flora's site The Oregon Territory The very first Spotlight, in October of 2000 The Columbia River Connection has a new address, and has also added a lot of new material. New Light on the Donner Party, Kristin Johnson's fine site, even has a page of "Updates" to see what's been added since the last time you visited. Please take the time to revisit all of the Spotlights!

  • Spotlight of the Month October, 2001 Spotlight of the Month The Journal of San Diego History The Journal of San Diego History includes illustrated articles about San Diego history, book reviews, and booknotes. All articles from the Journal since the first issue in 1955 are reproduced on-line, and are searchable by keyword. Stage and mail routes in San Diego date from 1852. Also on this extensive website are full text books on-line relating to San Diego history. One of which, the seven volume History of San Diego, by Richard F. Pourade was first published from 1960 to 1977, includes all photos from the original texts, and are also searchable. This series starts with the discovery of San Diego Bay in 1542, and continues to 1970. There are also biographies of early San Diegans, thousands of early photos in a Photo Gallery, a searchable history Timeline of San Diego from 20,000 BC to the present, and much more!

  • Spotlight of the Month September, 2001 Spotlight of the Month John Charles Frémont: Explorer, Mapmaker, Soldier Second Lieutenant John Charles Frémont's second Topographical Expedition mapped the Oregon Trail in 1843. By January, 1844, the expedition, having turned south through Oregon and Nevada, was comprised of twenty-seven men, including Christopher "Kit" Carson and Thomas "Broken Hand" Fitzpatrick, sixty-seven horses and mules, and a bronze mountain howitzer. Being low on provisions, Frémont made the decision to cross the Sierra Nevada to Sutter's Fort. It was mid-winter, and the mountains were covered in deep snow. Included in this fascinating site are a number of articles relating how the study of navigational and hypsometrical technologies available to navigators and surveyors of earlier historical periods can lead to the discovery of lost or historically disputed sites. "The Crossing," a detailed accounting of Frémont's route, complete with photos, maps, GPS coordinates, and a highway guide, is available through this site.

  • Spotlight of the Month August, 2001 Spotlight of the Month The Making of America (MOA) is a digital library of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction. The collection currently contains approximately 8,500 books and 50,000 complete journal articles. The project represents a major collaborative endeavor in the preservation and electronic access to historical texts. The site has an easy "search" and "browse" function. Of particular interest to Trails West folks are the complete journal articles from the Overland Monthly from 1868 to 1900. A simple search on the several of the "trails west" listed well over 100 journal articles in various publications.

  • Spotlight of the Month July, 2001 Spotlight of the Month The Trails Project: Wyoming and Idaho Journal Entries by Location This wonderful collection of Diary Quotes, organized by location and by date for Wyoming and Idaho, were taken from a 1979 cultural resource study of the Oregon Trail from Ft. Casper to Ft. Hall. The study was produced under contract by the Idaho State Historical Society for the Wyoming Bureau of Land Management. Entries include many for Independence Rock, Wyoming, considered an important landmark and should have been reached by July 4th by the pioneer immigrants along the Oregon Trail.

  • Spotlight of the Month June, 2001 Spotlight of the Month The Handbook of Texas Online The Handbook of Texas Online is a multidisciplinary encyclopedia of Texas history, geography, and culture. It comprises more than 23,000 articles on people, places, events, historical themes, institutions, and a host of other topic categories. The scope is broad and inclusive, designed to provide readers with concise, authoritative, and accessible articles that provide factual, nonpartisan accounts on virtually every aspect of Texas history and culture. A quick search on their site listed literally thousands of articles dealing with the trails to the west, including the Oregon Trail, California Trail, Santa Fe Trail, Gila Trail, and various cattle trails.

  • Spotlight of the Month May, 2001 Spotlight of the Month The Kansas Collection. The voices of the past are heard in the Kansas Collection, through nearly-lost books, letters, diaries, photographs, and other materials. The Kansas Collection is dedicated to the idea that history is not a dry assortment of dates and facts, nor is it wildly romanticized stories that hide more of the past than they reveal. History is simply how things were. . .how events happened. . .and who was there when they did. You will find yourself spending hours at this website. . .and coming back often. This is where you'll find entire books on-line, including "The Commerce of the Prairies" and Marcy's "The Prairie Traveler." The Kansas Collection also is currently in the process of transcribing and digitizing The Kansas Historical Quarterly dating from 1931. Volunteers are welcomed to participate in this project. Don't miss "Voices," the Kansas Collection Online Magazine, particularly the article entitled "History."

  • Spotlight of the Month April, 2001 Spotlight of the Month New Light on the Donner Party The story of the Donner Party is one of the most fascinating in the history of the American West. The saga of how a group of ordinary people struggled almost to their journey's end only to encounter greater hardship, even death, continues to intrigue. Over the years the Donner story has been told by many different people in many different ways, but much of what has been written about the Donner Party is fiction. One author's interpretation has become the next generation's fact, and few have stopped to question commonly held beliefs. Years of research have gone into this website created by Kristin Johnson to make public new information about the Donner Party and its members, to ask questions and challenge assumptions. One of the "new features" is a Student Page, which offers great guidance for those student reports.

  • Spotlight of the Month March, 2001 The Oregon Territory This web site was selected as a 1998 American Local History Network Award Winner. An inordinate effort has gone into the creation and maintenance of this website: a listings of emigrants to Oregon. This site is used by millions of folks who are seeking information about their ancestors who emigrated to Oregon via the Trails West from 1839 to 1855. But there's more. Stephenie Flora also has lists of those who were already in Oregon prior to 1838, including Explorers, Fur Traders, French Canadians, and Native Americans. You'll also find links to Oregon Pioneer Cemeteries, The Official Federal Land Patent Records Site, Online Map Resources, a fascinating tutorial on Decifering old Handwriting, and many other topics important to Oregon History.

  • Spotlight of the Month February, 2001 The Oregon-California Trails Association If you have ever thought about throwing all your possessions into the back of your car and heading out for parts unknown, you already know the feeling that propelled hundred of thousands of emigrants westward in the 19th century. Here's an extensive site that will vicariously take you on that journey. Read in their own words the experiences of emigrants, visit grave sites of pioneers that have been preserved by OCTA members, learn about new and renewed efforts to preserve threatened segments of the trails, with information about what YOU can do to help them preserve this unique part of our American heritage. There's much more, including one of the most comprehensive on-line bookstores for trail literature about all the Trails West, including Emigrant Diaries, Women's Experiences, Mountain Men, and Indian Affairs.

  • Spotlight of the Month January 2001 Pony Express Home Station Ranked among the most remarkable feats to come out of the 1860 American West, the Pony Express was in service from April 1860 to November 1861. Its primary mission was to deliver mail and news between St. Joseph, Missouri, and San Francisco, California. Visit the "Bunkhouse" where you'll find links to the history of the Pony Express, a list of riders, stations located from 5 to 20 miles apart, museums along the route, and statues. Also you'll find stories of the Pony Express as published in the newspapers of the times.

  • Spotlight of the Month December, 2000 Ancient Footpaths: Native American Indian Trails The original trails to the West were the established Indian routes. These Ancient Footpaths were established wherever people lived. Footpaths etched the habits of the early inhabitants of America. This is an extensive site with emphasis on the ancient trails in and around Ohio, and with information about "The Great Trail," "The Road to Marietta," "The Buffalo Wallow On Pancake Trail," "Smoke Signal Bowls: The First E-mail," and "Trail Signal Trees."

  • Spotlight of the Month November, 2000 The Santa Fe Trail From Space An incredible amount of work has gone into putting together this site. You'll find over 140 pairs of photos and maps that follow the Santa Fe Trail. The first link for each pair is a USGS Photo of the point of interest along the Santa Fe Trail. A short explanation is included. The second link will take you to a view from space of the same spot along the trail from the "Microsoft Terra Server Site." Campsites, ranches, creek crossings, ruts, grave sites, and junctions with other emigrants roads are all included.

  • Spotlight of the Month October, 2000 The Columbia River Connection Describes the amazing connection between Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery and the Oregon Trail as provided by the Columbia River. A day by day account of the Lewis and Clark travels along the Columbia River. Lots of maps and photos.

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