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Westward Expansion

Glossary and Terms

History >> Westward Expansion

Bandana - A square piece of cloth that cowboys used to cover their face from dust or to keep the back of their neck from getting sunburned.

Bronco - An untrained horse. Cowboys would often have to "bust" or train a bronco in order for it to take a rider.

Boomtown - During the gold rush, towns would spring up almost overnight at places where gold was discovered. San Francisco grew from 1,000 people to 30,000 in a very short time.

Cattle drive - Cowboys would have to drive a herd of cattle from the ranch to the market where they could be sold. This often took several days or weeks as they traveled from Texas to Kansas.

Cowboy - A ranch hand that rode horses and helped to herd cattle. Other names include cowpoke, cowhand, and buckaroo.

Frontier - The edge of a country or land where few people live.

Ghost town - A deserted town. Ghost towns happened during the gold rush when gold in an area dried up and people left.

Gold rush - A time when lots of people move to an area because gold has been discovered. The California Gold Rush started in 1848 and hundreds of thousands of people flocked to California to find gold.

Gunslinger - A person who used guns in the Old West. It could be an outlaw robbing people or the lawman who tried to stop him.

Homestead - A piece of free land that people claimed from the government. They had to live on it for five years and make improvements to keep it.

Land rush - When certain prime areas of land were opened up for homesteading, people would race to claim the best plots.

Log cabin - A home made from the trunks of trees. Typically, it had one room, a fireplace, and a dirt floor.

Louisiana Purchase - A large area of land that the United States purchased from France. It would someday make up all or part of 15 US states.

Manifest Destiny - A belief by Americans in the 1800s that the United States was destined to expand west all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

Northwest Territory - An area of land to the north and west of the Appalachians. It would someday make up the US states of Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Illinois.

Oregon Trail - An overland trail that settlers used to travel by covered wagon from Missouri to the west coast.

Pioneer - A person who does something first.

Pony Express - A mail system where riders got fresh horses at stops along the way to speed up delivery. It went from Missouri to California.

Reservations - Land set aside for Native Americans to live.

Stampede - When a large group of animals such as bison or cattle suddenly run fast in one direction running over most everything in their path.

Telegraph - A device that sent messages over long distances using wires and electricity.

Transcontinental Railroad - The railroad that stretched from the east coast of the United States to the west coast.

Wagon train - A group of covered wagons traveling to the west together. They traveled in groups for safety.

Westward Expansion
California Gold Rush
First Transcontinental Railroad
Glossary and Terms
Homestead Act and Land Rush
Louisiana Purchase
Mexican American War
Oregon Trail
Pony Express
Battle of the Alamo
Timeline of Westward Expansion
Frontier Life
Daily Life on the Frontier
Log Cabins

People of the West
Daniel Boone
Famous Gunfighters
Sam Houston
Lewis and Clark
Annie Oakley
James K. Polk
Thomas Jefferson
Works Cited

History >> Westward Expansion

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