CHAPTER 1Westward March
"Thare is good land on the Massura for a poar mans home."
This theme, penned in an 1838 letter from Arkansas to Tennessee, appears with its variations as the moving spirit of western migration. The frontiersman who scrawled out the good news from the banks of the White River probably had no conception of the wide reach of land between his few acres and the Pacific shore. He dreamed no dream of empire. His eye was on the good land he had found, where a "poar man" could prosper.
To settlers on the bottom lands of the great midwestern rivers and on the forested fringes of the Great Plains,...