In the 1800’s, more people were moving to the West. This was because of land, gold, and other economic incentives. Land was a major attraction because people were given land cheaply as long as they agreed to farm on it for so many years and during this time, plant so much of the land with trees. Gold also gave people jobs and wealth so many people came to the West hoping and looking for fortune and by 1848 some 6000 men were working at the diggings along the rivers and streams running form the Sierras.
Therefore very quickly, towns were set up so people who had moved west had a house but in newly-set up towns, there was a lack of facilities such as shops and places to go. With most of the population interested in the gold, no-one was opening their own shops because the men moved on once the gold had run out.
With towns having lots of diseases, due to toilets being outside where they were never cleaned and with everyone using them, cooking was poor so then the cleanliness was just as bad and the shacks were dirty, which lead to disease.
The shacks that people lived in including the miners from the Gold Rush were made from old blankets spread over wooden frames.
Living in the west gave you hardly any chance of getting entertainment apart from going to bar rooms to drink and gamble and spend money on prostitutes. This created an aggressive atmosphere where tempers would often be lost resulting in a lot of violence. Also the gender in balance did not help. At first towns were mainly populated by men, again creating an aggressive atmosphere.
There were problems were gangs e.g. gangs of robbers stagecoaches where of robbed, often with the knowledge of the sheriff. This illustrates how the law and order system was often corrupt and lawless.
So describing the problems of living in a newly-set up town in the west brings to mind lots of problems from houses to shops, land to gold and violent to lawlessness.
Overall living in the west gave you big problems for yourself and the community; whilst you could become rich you could do so at the price of violence.
So I therefore conclude the main problems of living in a newly-set up town in the West were that houses were badly made with very few amenities such as a loo or no stove, a lot of diseases due to the hygiene conditions, very few chances of having any entertainment apart from going to bar rooms to drink and gamble and spend money on prostitutes. The gender in balance did also not help and problems with gangs e.g. gangs of robber’s stagecoaches where of ten robbed.
Why Were the Towns in the West Often Violent and Lawless Places?
In the west towns were often violent due to reasons like greed, the gender balance and lawless. Men also got aggressive due to a mixture of alcohol and gambling. Lawless came in where greed was involved, with gangs robbing banks, stagecoaches and trains etc for anything valuable they could get their hands on.
The law was always too late. For example Butch Cassidy was known for train hold ups and bank robberies.
Greed came from the ‘golden rush’. People came from all over America to try and get their hands on the gold to make their selves which made them get aggressive against anyone that came near them to try and take their gold or take their spot where there might be gold.
With the greed of settlement growing, more and more strangers arrived in the west. This meant that they were not frown and so it was easier to commit crime without being recognised. Occasionally, there were groups settling in the west that would not get on, for example, after the civil war 1865 confederates and unionists would go to live in the same towns. This resulted in a lot of racial attacks due to the fact a lot of blacks’ moved west after the civil war. Also a lot of immigrants came over to America from Europe.
Although movement to the west was because of the economic depression in 1837, there were a number of factors to why there was lawlessness in the west; these were geographical, political and social and economic.
Geographical factors were: the west was a vast area and transport was very slow. This made it very difficult to enforce Law and Order.
Political factors were that the new mining and new towns sprang up so quickly that there were particularly lawless in their early years. There was a shortage of reliable law-enforcements officers and politicians and they didn’t think the issue was important enough to spend money on employing and training more or better officers.
Social factors were that there were any potential sources of conflict between the different ethnic groups. After the Civil War, thousands of soldiers, confederates and unionists were demolished. For many readjusting to civilian life was difficult. Also many people on both sides were unable or unwilling to forgive or forget what had happened.
Economic factors were that many potential sources of conflict between the different economic groups, for example; between cowboys and townspeople, homesteaders and ranchers, miners and hunters, sheep herders and ranchers or cattle barons and small ranchers.
Also, the west was dominated by a primitive code of honour. It was your responsibility to settle things yourself. You had no duty to retreat in a confrontation. Since most westerners carried guns, this meant that an argument could end in a shooting. If you shot a man in self-defence, then you had not broken the law, as long as the other man was armed. This attitude lay behind the willingness of big businessmen, cattle barons and railroad owners to resort to violence.
I think the towns in the west were often violent and lawless places because like economic depression, the Civil War, the Geographical, Political and Social factors. They all contribute to the problem but this all started due to greed which leads to aggression.
Analyse the Part Played by Vigilantes, and Woman Dealing with Problems of Living in Early Towns in the West.
Vigilantes were people who took the law into their own hands. When they identified someone whom they believed to be a criminal they punished them. They might run them out of town of lynch them. There were over 200 vigilante groups west of Mississippi. Often, they were led by local elites, the well-to-do members of frontier communities, who were often racist.
The women were vital with dealing with the problems in the West. In addition to raising families and maintaining the home, women on the Plains established industries, ran newspapers, provided vital medical and educational services and campaigned for various causes. Some women became cowboys and still others turned to a life of crime.
One example of a vigilante group at work was in Bannack, Montana. In 1864 the area was being terrorised by a gang who robbed travellers and miners. The gang was believed to be over 100 strong and was well informed about valuable stage-coaches to rob. The local law officers seemed unable to stop the robberies. Eventually a vigilante committee was established. It turned out that the sheriff, Henry Plummer, was also the leader of the robbers. In 1865 he was captured, tried and lynched by the vigilantes
One example of women in the life of crime was Pearl Hart who was the West’s last stagecoach robber.
Vigilantes were members of a self-appointed body for maintaining law and order in US frontier towns. With the slow development of official policing vigilance committees, organised by local citizens, frequently took the law into their own hands, meeting out rough justice and sometimes resorting to lynching. Notable vigilante groups sprang up in the 1850’s to bring order to the waterfront at San Francisco, known as the Barbary Coast and notorious for the brothels and gambling saloons spawned by the 1948 Gold Rush.
The forces of law and order in the west were US marshals, Town Marshals, Sheriff’s, The Texas Rangers, The Pinkerton Detective Agency and Judges. But this was not enough to keep violence and crime in the west low. Although there were this many job titles, ones like sheriffs and US Marshals did not work because it was dangerous job and they did not have enough people to do it. These jobs were also badly paid.
Women played a big role with problems in the west but they tried to make as lest amount of trouble possible, traditional bar hostesses or prostitutes also had other roles such as running newspapers, and providing vital medicine and educational services, and they also ran shops.
The women biggest roles were on the plains, they had jobs like having to operate a chain of restaurants in many rough mining communities. Publishing newspapers and delivering them, manage programmes for the US, and stuffing animals (taxidermy). They also served as missionaries bringing Christianity and education to the Indians. They often bought about trouble; this was because of the morale balanced gender, or such things as being members of lethal gangs.
The main problems of living in the West were that the towns were quickly set-up, they towns were male populated, racism, law and order in control by the government could not cope with rises in the number of towns and rises in violence. Also vigilantes were set and agencies were used as early as 1820, debateable to how successful they were at solving these problems.
Overall I think that the vigilantes causes or involved with much more of the problems that came with living in the West. The vigilantes basically went round doing as they wanted without getting caught and killing mostly black or Mexican women. They tackled every problem but in the wrong way.
Where as the women tried to solve problems by having more than one job and opening stores.
Vigilantes did not deal with any problems correctly or try to help problems for the whole town just for themselves. The women contributed quite heavily to solve problems in towns in the West.