Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Heading West: Life with the Pioneers with 21 Activities

Heading West: Life with the Pioneers with 21 Activities

by Pat McCarthy

See All Formats & Editions

Heading West traces the vivid saga of Native American and pioneer men, women, and children from the colonial beginnings of the westward expansion to the last of the homesteaders in late 20th century Alaska. In many respects, life in the backwoods and on the prairie was similar to modern life—children attended school and had daily chores, parents worked


Heading West traces the vivid saga of Native American and pioneer men, women, and children from the colonial beginnings of the westward expansion to the last of the homesteaders in late 20th century Alaska. In many respects, life in the backwoods and on the prairie was similar to modern life—children attended school and had daily chores, parents worked hard to provide for their families, and communities gathered for church and social events. But unlike today, pioneers lived against a backdrop of isolation, harsh weather, disease, and even plagues of locust. And for Native Americans, the westward expansion of settlers posed the most direct threat to their centuriesold cultures.
But pioneer life was not all hardship. Settlers were able to build lives and communities, and experience a freedom brought on by new possibilities. Author Pat McCarthy has woven dozens of firsthand accounts from journals and autobiographies of the era to form a rich and detailed story. Readers will find more than 20 activities to help them better understand their pioneering ancestors. Children will churn butter, dip candles, track animals, play Blind Man’s Bluff, create a homestead diorama, and more. And before they finish, readers won’t have just headed west, but back in time as well.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Ellen Welty
Thousands of settlers travelled from their homes in the eastern part of the country to parts farther west. "West" included the Appalachian Mountains initially and came to include the entire continental US and Alaska. Their primary common experience was leaving behind not only friends and family but also many of their possessions. They learned to create new belongings from what they found in their new homes. Many of those creations are adapted for modern children to reproduce in this fun and educational book. The first feature in the book is a timeline listing some highlights of the westward movement so readers can place their activities in the context of the experiences of the pioneers. Each chapter features a particular time beginning with the French and Indian War in the mid-eighteenth century and ends in Alaska in the twentieth century. While most of the text is relatively selective, there are added features that make the history a little more interesting for younger readers including several sidebars about subjects like food needed for the journey and the grasshopper plague of the plains in the nineteenth century. Activities include making a teepee and then a log cabin, making maple snow candy, dipping candles and making a clothespin doll. Young readers will enjoy the activities and their teachers and parents will find a good basic history lesson in each chapter. The book concludes with a list of additional resources and an index. Reviewer: Ellen Welty
School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—Heading West touts its "21 activities" but it is really little more than a cut-and-dry history textbook. Arranged chronologically in eight chapters, the book begins with a time line spanning from 1754 (the French and Indian War) to 1986 (the close of homesteading in Alaska). The page layout and organization have a slightly jumbled appearance with various size photos and drawings strewn throughout, sometimes filling in margins but leaving others empty. Though plentiful, the black-and-white primary-source photos and drawings (the bulk of which are from the Library of Congress) are of mixed quality and often lack dates. Numerous primary quotes from settlers, presidents, and Native Americans enliven the text somewhat. Activities range from the very easy (make a tepee out of paper, draw a community poster) to those needing adult supervision (pulling taffy and dipping candles). If pioneer and Western activities are what you're looking for, try David C. King's Pioneer Days (Wiley, 1997), which offers a much better array in a livelier and easier-to-use format.—Madeline J. Bryant, Los Angeles Public Library

Product Details

Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
Publication date:
For Kids Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.50(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Heading West

Life with the Pioneers; 21 Activities

By Pat McCarthy, Laura D'Argo

Chicago Review Press Incorporated

Copyright © 2009 Pat McCarthy
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-55652-809-5


Exploring the West

Bouncing along a bumpy trail in a covered wagon. Fording a dangerous, rain-swollen stream. Being attacked by hostile Indians. Living in a cozy log cabin in the woods. These were all part of the pioneer experience, but there was so much more.

Many people think all pioneers lived in the 1800s, when many settlers moved west. But the Westward Movement actually began in the 1700s when settlers from Europe started moving west across the Appalachian Mountains. This was when the states were still colonies. They moved into the western parts of New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and what is now West Virginia. Yet before anyone could settle even farther west, people had to explore the region and blaze the trails.

French and Indian War: 1754-63

By the middle of the 1700s, most of the land in North America was claimed by France or England. Spain owned Florida, and both the French and the British claimed the land west of the Appalachian Mountains. When the British started moving into the Ohio Country, the French were upset. Leaders of the two countries met in Paris in 1750 to discuss the problem, but came to no agreement.

The colonies asked permission to raise armies and money in order to protect themselves. King George II refused, and the British officers in the colonies didn't want help from the colonists.

In 1752, Marquis Duquesne (pronounced Du-KANE) became governor general of the land claimed by the French in North America. He was ordered to drive all the British out of the Ohio Valley. In 1753 his soldiers built two forts in western Pennsylvania. This worried the British, including Lt. Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia. Dinwiddie sent a young officer named George Washington with a message demanding the French leave the area. They refused.

To defend the area from the French, the next year the British began building their own fort, where the Alleghany and Monongahela Rivers meet to form the Ohio River. This is where Pittsburgh stands today. They called it Fort Prince George. But before they could finish, the French attacked and captured it. They changed its name to Fort Duquesne.

George Washington had orders to retake the fort, but he knew it was too strong. Instead, he built another fort nearby, Fort Necessity. On July 3, 1754, the French attacked Fort Necessity and captured it. This was the first battle of the French and Indian War.

Many Indian tribes in the area also wanted the British settlers out, so they supported the French. Meanwhile, the British sent General Edward Braddock to lead their forces in the colonies. On his way to attack Fort Duquesne, his army was ambushed by the French and their Indian allies and nearly wiped out. Braddock himself was killed.

War was not formally declared until 1756, although by then the fighting had been going on for two years. The French had the upper hand the first few years. In New York, they defeated the British at Fort Oswego and Fort Ticonderoga. They attacked another New York fort, Fort William Henry, and defeated the British there as well. As the British left the fort, many were killed or captured by the Indians.

In 1757 William Pitt, the British prime minister, sent more troops to the colonies. With the help of the colonists, they captured Fort Duquesne in 1758. That same year, the British made peace with many of the Indians. When their Indian allies pulled out, the French forces were severely weakened. In 1759, the British took Fort Niagara.

In 1759 they attacked the French stronghold of Quebec. It was under siege from June 27 until September 18, when the French finally surrendered. Now the British controlled most of North America. When they captured France's remaining forts at Montreal and Detroit in 1760, the war was over.

France and England had also been fighting a war in Europe at the same time. There it was called the Seven Years War. In 1763 the two countries signed the Treaty of Paris, which settled both wars. The British received all the land in North America east of the Mississippi, except for New Orleans. France turned over New Orleans and lands west of the Mississippi to Spain, in exchange for Spain ceding Florida to the British.

After the French and Indian War ended in 1763, King George III forbade the English to settle west of the Appalachians. A few people ignored the ruling and settled there anyway. Treaties were eventually signed with the Native Americans in 1768, and the next year that land was opened to settlement. Two roads had been built by that time. Settlers poured into western Pennsylvania.

In 1775, Daniel Boone blazed the Wilderness Road, which followed old Indian trails through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky. Boone soon led a group of settlers west. They founded Boonesborough on the banks of the Kentucky River.

The Northwest Territory

Both Massachusetts and New York once claimed what is now western New York. A treaty in 1786 divided the land between them. Massachusetts sold its share to Oliver Phelps and Nathaniel Gorham. (Phelps and Gorham also paid the Indians for much of the land, since they, too, claimed it.) The way was clear for Europeans to move into western New York.

The Northwest Ordinance in 1787 created the Northwest Territory. It was the land south of the Great Lakes, north and west of the Ohio River, and east of the Mississippi River. Several states would be created from this region. During the expansion of the United States, when an area had 60,000 people, it could become a state. In 1803, Ohio became the first state created from the territory.

The Louisiana Purchase and the Corps of Discovery

Exploration of the West really began with the Louisiana Purchase. Spain had sold its land in the New World to France in 1800. In 1803, Napoleon sold it to the United States, doubling the size of the country.

At this time there were few settlements in the far West. California had a few Spanish missions, and there was a settlement at Santa Fe. Some British and Russians had settlements along the Northwest Coast. They were made up of hunters and fur traders, but none of these groups was interested in making a permanent settlement.

The Louisiana Purchase included parts of what are now Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho, California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, Wyoming, and Colorado. The land was wilderness and had not been explored or mapped. It was populated with Native Americans and filled with buffalo, bears, wolves, and beavers. Mountain men and fur traders went into the area on their own. But within 50 years, the government and the U.S. Army had sent explorers and scouts to the area, and most of the land was explored. Pioneers began to settle in the West.

As they traveled, these explorers found wonderful scenic features including rivers, waterfalls, mountains, and lakes. They found deserts where they thought no one could live. They preserved their thoughts in letters, journals, and government reports.

In 1804, President Thomas Jefferson sent the first official expedition to explore the newly purchased land. He chose his private secretary, Meriwether Lewis, to head the group. Lewis asked his friend, William Clark, to join the expedition. Both kept daily journals we can still read today.

Jefferson's orders were to "explore the Missouri River and [find the] most direct and practical water communication across the continent, for the purposes of commerce." Lewis and Clark were also to map the area, see what natural resources were there, and try to make friends with the Indians.

On May 14, 1804, 29 men left the junction of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers near present-day St. Louis. They started up the Missouri in a 55-foot keelboat. It had 22 oars and a sail. Two smaller boats, called pirogues, carried soldiers and rivermen. The rivermen were French Canadian experts who taught the men about travel on the river. As they traveled, Clark mapped the route while Lewis collected plant and animal specimens and made scientific observations. Several others on the trip also kept journals.

The trip was not easy. Where the current was too rough, they had to tow the boats from the shore. They camped and hunted for food. Huge clouds of mosquitoes swarmed around them. On a good day, they were able to go only 12 miles.

They met Indians from the Missouri, the Omaha, the Yankton Sioux, the Lakota, and the Arikara tribes. Lewis and Clark met with the chiefs, offering them gifts. They made speeches about peace. The only unfriendly tribe was the Lakota, who tried to take one of the explorers' canoes as payment for letting them use the river.

Lewis and Clark built a fort in what is now North Dakota, near the five Mandan Indian villages. The Indians were generous and friendly. Clark wrote in his journal, "This place we have named Fort Mandan in honour of our neighbours."

Lewis and Clark hired a French fur trader, Toussaint Charbonneau, as a guide. His Shoshone Indian wife, Sacagawea, would act as interpreter.

In the spring, a few men headed back to report to Jefferson. They took Native American items, soil and mineral samples, and plants. They even took a prairie dog and some live birds. The rest of the group continued their trek west.

On their way to what is now Montana, they saw a lot of wildlife. Wolves, buffalo, grizzly bears, and bighorn sheep were abundant.

At the headwaters of the Missouri, the group visited a Shoshone village. Sacagawea was amazed to find that her brother, whom she hadn't seen for years, was the chief. She was able to obtain horses for the expedition to use to cross the mountains.

Jefferson had thought the expedition would be near the Pacific by September 1804, because he believed there was only a small mountain range to the west of the Great Plains, with a river to the Pacific. Actually, it took the group 11 days to cross the Bitterroot Mountains, in what is now Idaho. They were already covered with snow in September, and the Corps nearly starved.

On the other side of the mountains, they met Nez Perce Indians, who helped them make canoes, provided them with food, and offered to keep their horses while they were gone.

After floating down the Clearwater, Snake, and Columbia Rivers, the expedition finally reached the Pacific early in November. It had taken them a year and a half. They spent a cold, wet, miserable winter near where Astoria, Oregon, is today.

The long journey home began on March 23, 1806. The party split into two groups and explored other territory on the way back. The only violent encounter with native tribes happened to Lewis's group. Blackfeet Indians tried to steal their horses and guns, and Lewis's men killed two of them.

Clark was on a route to the south and found a large stone formation on the Yellowstone River. He named it "Pompy's Tower," for Sacagawea's baby boy. Clark carved his name and the date. The inscription can still be seen today.

The two groups met on the Missouri River at the mouth of the Yellowstone and then continued east together. The expedition reached St. Louis on September 23, 1806.

Lewis and Clark were greeted as heroes. Many people had thought they were dead because they had been gone so long. Yet only one man, Charles Floyd, had died on the trip.

With their return, the government knew a great deal more about the new territory. It now had the maps that Clark made. The expedition had brought back information on the people, the rivers, the mountains, and the plants and animals in the West.

Another Western Expedition

Before Lewis and Clark returned from the West, Zebulon Pike set off on a mission. In 1805, General James Wilkinson sent Pike to find the source of the Mississippi River, but didn't inform Jefferson of the expedition.

Pike's official instructions said to make peace treaties with the native tribes in the area. He was also to take note of the "geographical structure, natural history, and population" of the land he traveled through. And he was to "avoid giving offense to the Spanish," since he would be near their territory.

Wilkinson told him unofficially that he was on a spy mission. He was to find out the size, strength, and location of Spanish forces in and near the Louisiana Territory. However, Pike didn't know that Wilkinson was working as a secret agent for the Spanish.

Pike obtained horses from the Osage Indians after spending three weeks with them. He and his group followed the Kansas River, then the Arkansas. In November the party reached what is now Colorado. They discovered a tall mountain peak that Pike decided was unclimbable. It is today known as Pikes Peak.

Pike became lost after following the South Platte River for a distance. His men spent Christmas week lost in Royal Gorge. They finally made their way out on Pike's birthday. He said he "hope[d] never to pass another so miserably." They nearly starved to death during the freezing weather. They finally killed a buffalo, which likely saved the expedition. On January 30, 1807, they arrived at the Rio Grande. There they built a small stockade, or fort.

One hundred Spanish soldiers appeared at the stockade near the end of February. The commanding officer said, "Sir, the governor of New Mexico, being informed you had missed your route, ordered me to offer you, in his name, mules, horses, money, or whatever you may ... need ... to conduct you to the head of the Red River."

He escorted them to Santa Fe, where they were given supplies and sent home through the Mexican territory of Texas. The expedition arrived home in July 1807.

Pike's trip was important because he was the first to explore some of the land in the southwestern part of the Louisiana Territory. The men also blazed much of what became the Santa Fe Trail.

Trappers, Hunters, and Mountain Men

Others were also heading west, but many were not interested in exploring or settling there. These were the fur trappers, hunters, and mountain men.

John Jacob Astor, a rich and famous fur merchant, sent a group west in 1811. Wilson Hunt led the group. Astor sent another group by water to land on the Pacific Coast of Oregon.

Hunt's group went on horseback as far as Montana. The land became rugged, and water was scarce. The men had to go south into the Laramie Mountains of Wyoming. On the way, they passed Devils Tower.

Crow Indians helped Hunt's group cross the Bighorn Mountains. They continued west, past the Grand Teton Mountains, then stopped at the Snake River to build canoes. Two Snake Indians came into camp and told them the river was too rough for canoes, but the explorers didn't believe it until they sent out a scouting party. They came back and said it would be impossible to canoe down the river.

Two Snake Indians guided them to Fort Henry, which had been abandoned. They again built canoes and attempted to navigate the river. After losing a man in the rapids, they gave up on the canoes. During that winter, they were forced to kill and eat one of their horses to keep from starving. They finally got to Astoria, Oregon, on February 15. The group that had sailed was already waiting for them.

Hunt's expedition was important. It showed that the way Lewis and Clark went was not the only way across the Rockies. This expedition was the first to see the Laramie Mountains and to come through the Wind River Mountains by way of Union Pass. They were also the first to cross the Tetons and the Blue Mountains in southeast Oregon.

Long's Expeditions

Major Stephen Long led the first scientific exploration up the Platte River. On June 6, 1820, Long left Council Bluffs, Nebraska, with 21 men. They followed the Platte to the Rockies. A mountain peak there was later named Longs Peak. Some of the expedition also climbed Pikes Peak. The explorers went south, looking for the Red River, which formed part of the boundary with Mexico. They followed the Canadian River, thinking it was the Red River. When they learned of their mistake, they went east from New Mexico to the Texas Panhandle. They were the first American expedition to cross the Panhandle.

Long reported that the Plains from Nebraska to Oklahoma were "unfit for cultivation and of course uninhabitable by a people depending upon agriculture." On the map he drew, he labeled the Great Plains area "Great Desert." For years, settlers avoided the area.


Excerpted from Heading West by Pat McCarthy, Laura D'Argo. Copyright © 2009 Pat McCarthy. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Pat McCarthy is the author of 10 children’s books including Daniel Boone, Henry Ford, and Thomas Paine, and has written for Cricket and Children’s Digest.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews