of Midwestern Pioneers
Chase T. Gibb
Midwestern pioneers carried weapons. The variety of these
weapons was vast.
and knives were among the most popular of these weapons.
The weapons became useful tools for hunting and in defense
against people and animals. Each weapon had unique
characteristics that made it beneficial to the pioneers.
were many knives for the pioneer to choose from. Some of
the more popular knives were the Green River Knife, the
Hudson Bay Camp knife, and the Bowie Knife. One of the
biggest reasons why the Green River Knife was popular
among pioneers was because it made for a good butcher
knife. The pioneers could use it for more than one cause.
The main use was to cut meat of animals hunted for food by
the pioneers. Protection was another use of the Green
River Knife. In 1832, John Russell founded the Green River
Knife Company in Massachusetts.
Hudson Bay Camp knife served as the perfect utility tool
because of its size. It was used for butchering and many
tasks around the camp of the pioneers. This all-purpose
knife had an 8 1/2 inch making the perfect size for odd
jobs. The blade was thick and durable and was held by a
sturdy wood handle. Jukes Coulson, Stokes & Co.
manufactured this handy tool during the first half of the
Bowie knife is believed to have been most commonly found
among the traveling pioneers. James Bowie made this knife
popular. So many people tried to copy his model of the
knife that many versions of it soon emerged. Because of
this widespread mimicking of the original knife, the Bowie
knife reigned as the most popular among the pioneers. This
knife was used primarily for combat and hunting due to its
extra large blade. Here are some examples of the knife.
types of guns dominated the frontier of the pioneer days.
The rifle was a necessity of most pioneers for survival.
The Plains Rifle became the most popular of all rifles
used by pioneers. It was such a good rifle that many
manufacturers attempted to model their rifles after it.
The octagon-shaped barrel reached 34 inches in length,
helped make this gun popular because it was shorter than
most. The shorter barrel made the rifle lighter and more
accessible to the pioneers. The Plains Gun originated in
1807 when Jacob Hawken completed the first model in St.
other desired weapon among guns that pioneers carried was
the pistol. Some pistols were flintlocks, some were
cap-and -ball, but the majority were single-barreled
smooth bores of the horse-pistol type. These three
characteristics had to do with the firing and mechanics of
the gun. Later models of the Colt pistol came about in the
second half of the nineteenth century. In contrast to the
rifle, the pistol served as more of a defensive weapon. It
was used for close encounters with snakes, rodents, and in
some cases, people.
pioneers had many useful weapons available to them. The
Bowie Knife was used in combat. Two other knives, the
Green River Knife and the Hudson Bay Camp knife, served as
butchery tools and basic needs knives. The rifle took care
of hunting duties, and the pistol insured safety
especially when pioneers were camped for the night. The
survival and safety of the pioneers depended on such
became a state in 1818. There are many more people in
Illinois today than there were in 1818, and Illinois had
little diversity among the different cultures of people
who lived here in 1818. At this time settlers came from
different countries and sections of our country to take
advantage of the many different opportunities that
Illinois offered. The early pioneers had many different
reasons to settle in Illinois.
of the first pioneers who settled in Illinois came from
the north. These pioneers were French people who came from
Canada. The earliest of these explorers came to Illinois
as fur traders. One of the more famous explorers was
George Rogers Clark. Furbearers thought that traveling
down the Mississippi River would help them find furs. Then
more French explorers followed; they built military
outposts. The majority of the Frenchmen came before 1760,
while hardly any of the French came after the French and
Indian War in 1763. This was because the French had to
relinquish all of the land that they owned east of the
Mississippi to England. In 1818 there were around 1500
French people in Illinois. Many of these were native to
the area due to the little immigration after 1760. Nearly
all of the French people lived near the Mississippi River,
because most of them were fur traders. The river made for
easy traveling and much wildlife. The French got along
with the Native Americans well. In fact, there were even a
few French people who married Native Americans. The French
people built cabins to live in, and they used timber from
around the area to build these cabins. Many people who
followed the French used this method of building houses.
They grew trees around their houses, most of them being
apple, cherry, peach, and pear trees, and this gave them
fruit to eat. They also grew other crops. They started out
with a system of farming called town farms. Everybody in
the town would pitch in and help on this farm. Everybody
would share the crops and money made from this. Later, the
farmers decided that it would probably be easier to have
your own farm and work on it yourself. People who later
came to Illinois later also used this method.
group of foreigners who traveled to Illinois were the
Germans. They came to Illinois in smaller numbers around
1800. Some of the Germans who traveled to Illinois were
straight from Germany, but most of the Germans who ended
up here were native to America. A large proportion of
these settlers came from the state of Pennsylvania , and
most of these Germans settled in the southern portion of
Illinois. They came to Illinois because they needed
prairie land to farm. In the east land was more crowded
than in Illinois, and the Germans were mostly farmers, so
they needed room to farm. Illinois had a lot of prairie
land to offer in large quantities for cheap prices. The
Germans took advantage of this opportunity.
English made up a group of the settlers in Illinois, also.
They had several reasons for traveling to Illinois. The
Englishmen wanted their liberty. In England they did not
have this, because England was a monarchy run by kings and
queens. They knew that if they traveled to the United
States they would have their freedom. They wanted to
worship freely, and they wanted to be able to speak out.
The English were against slavery, and since they were
against it they didn't travel below the Mason-Dixon line
into slave states. The English wanted to establish their
own estates. Since most of the English were farmers, farm
hands, or rural merchants, they wanted to live on the
prairie land. Like the Germans, they saw how cheap the
land was and decided to move to it. Farming would have
been tough for them on rougher land back east. The
Appalachian Mountains caused very rugged land in the east.
They also had problems living in the east. This is because
the revolutionary war had just ended. The people of
America didn't like the English people all that well. The
English people had a tougher time adapting to Illinois,
and because of that they didn't play an important role in
politics and the economy in Illinois, although they did
play a part in the growth of Illinois to a state. The
pioneers had many rivers that could take them to Illinois.
largest group of people to move into Illinois were the
Americans. The earliest of the pioneers were people from
Virginia in search of furs and new lands. The pioneers had
many rivers that could bring them to Illinois. Most of
these pioneers came around the year 1765. Between 1765 and
1800 there was little population growth in Illinois by the
Americans. Then between 1800 and 1810 the population in
the territory increased from 2458 people to 12,282 people.
Once again the population growth halted. This was because
the Native Americans became very hostile to people
traveling through their lands, and when people back east
heard of this they became scared to move to Illinois.
Around 1815 there was finally peace reached with the
Native Americans, and this allowed there to be a huge
population boom to the west. In 1815 there were nearly
15,000 people in the Illinois territories. By mid 1818,
35,000 people located to Illinois and by the end of 1818
around 40,000 people lived in Illinois. The population of
Americans was very diverse. Of the people who moved to
Illinois, estimates indicated that 38% were from southern
states, 37% were from western states, 13% were from mid
states, and 3% were from New England. 71% of these
Americans came from south of the Mason-Dixon line. With
all of these people moving to Illinois, it was easy to
blaze trails for people to follow. Many of the people who
moved here from the south moved because they disagreed
with slavery and wanted to live in a non-slave state. They
didn't like living in the south and having to work on one
huge plantation; whereas in the north they could establish
their own family farm. People were also treated worse in
the south if they were poor. So, people would move to
Illinois to try to avoid prejudice. The people who moved
from the west and east moved for simpler reasons. Many of
the pioneers had a love of wilderness and wanted to be
surrounded by it. Other people who moved came as settlers
following the range, looking for a place to settle down
and farm. The last group of people were doctors, lawyers,
and other business people looking to find a place for
their business. The Americans saw Illinois as a great
place to establish themselves.
people who moved to Illinois in it's earliest stages saw
many different reasons to settle there. Illinois was
sparsely populated and had plenty of room for growth.
Almost anybody who wanted to establish them self in
Illinois had the opportunity to do so. There were vast
amounts of opportunities in the newly founded land, and
many different kinds of people decided to take advantage
of these opportunities.
for this paper was found in 3 different sources.
Solon J.. Illinois in 1818. Chicago: University of
Illinois Press, 1967.
Samuel K. and Nowlan, James D.. Encyclopedia Americana
Grolier Incorporated, 1986.
Illinois State Historical Society.
Illinois State Historical Society Homepage.