By the early 1800s, settlers had come to make new homes on the West Coast. Some came through Alaska and Mexico, while others crossed the Pacific.
Lewis and Clark had crossed America and reached the Pacific. The Gold Rush started in 1848. It lured many prospectors—miners hoping to discover gold or other valuable minerals—to cross the Donner Pass to California. But in much of the West, Native Americans were the main residents.
Several problems prevented settlers from moving to the West. The biggest was the time and challenge of traveling so far from known communities and resources. Railroads made the West easier to reach. They allowed settlers and businesspeople to develop new lands. For poor people and those who wanted to escape discrimination—or bad treatment because of color, religion, or other reasons—the West promised a new life.