This is the home of the library and museum of the State Historical Society. The University library and its accompanying seminary rooms for advanced study, each with its special library, occupy quarters here, but the building itself is ...
Author: Lyman Pierson Powell
Publisher: Library of Alexandria
THE first two volumes of this series—those devoted to the historic towns of New England and the Middle States—dealt with communities each group of which has had for the most part a common origin, has progressed along practically parallel lines, and possesses characteristics closely akin. The volume upon the towns of the South brought closely to view the cosmopolitan character of the population which has settled our continent to the South and Southwest of the Appalachian wall. The stories of Baltimore, Washington, Richmond, Charleston, Savannah, and St. Augustine bring into view widely-different origins, experiences, and interests along a single stretch of coast; while Mobile and New Orleans, Knoxville, Nashville, and Louisville, Vicksburg and Little Rock, are groups representing chapters in our history which appear to have but slight connection save in the view of those who have closely studied the mainsprings of American development. The present volume represents even a wider range of historical interest. The attentive reader will, however, discover that although these towns of the far-stretching trans-Alleghany region have sprung from curiously divergent beginnings, and are apparently incongruous in composition and in aims, there really is and has been much in common among them. In order to understand Western history, one must first have knowledge of the details of the titanic struggle for settlement in North America, made respectively by Spain, France, and England. The early decline of Spanish power north of the Red and the Arkansas, save for the later temporary holding of Louisiana; the protracted tragedy which ended on the Plains of Abraham in the Fall of New France; the Revolution of the English colonists, and its portentous results; the Louisiana Purchase of 1803; the Mexican War, the episode of California, the story of Texas, with their consequent ousting of Spain from lands north of the Rio Grande and the Gila—all these are factors bearing the closest relation to the history of the West, and consequently of many of the historic towns whose stories have been grouped within these covers. With these episodes of national rivalry, and consequent diplomacy and war, were intimately concerned the French fur-trade outposts of Detroit, Mackinac, Vincennes, and St. Louis, links in the forted chain which bound Canada and Louisiana, and by means of which it was sought to form a barrier against the Westward growth of the English colonies; also the Spanish stations of San Francisco, Monterey, Los Angeles, and Santa Fé, which were at once political vantage points and mission seats, for the spread of Spanish power and civilization from Mexico, among the brown barbarians of the North. St. Louis experienced both French and Spanish régimes, while Mackinac, Detroit, and Vincennes were much affected by the period of English occupancy. As settlement grew upon the Atlantic coast, the English frontier was inevitably pushed farther and farther from tidewater. The hunter followed his game westward; so the forest trader, seeking the ever-receding camps of the aborigines, and, in due course, the raiser of cattle, horses, and swine who needed fresh pastures for his herds as tillage steadily encroached upon the wild lands of the border. At first timorously occupying the valleys and foothills of the eastern slopes, hunter, trader, and grazier, each in his turn, cautiously followed buffalo traces and Indian war-paths over the crest of the great range, and hailed with glee waters descending into the mysterious West. Not less formidable than the barriers reared by nature were those interposed by the savage, who with dismay saw his hunting grounds fast dwindling under the sway of the land-grabbing English; and by the jealous machinations of the military agents and fur traders of New France, who brooked no rivalry in their commercial exploitation of the forest.