By the early 1800s, settlers had come through Alaska and Mexico, or across the Pacific, to make new homes on the West Coast. Lewis and Clark had crossed America and reached the Pacific.
Prospectors (miners hoping to discover gold or other valuable minerals) had crossed the Donner Pass to California during the Gold Rush that started in 1848. But in much of the West, Native Americans were the main residents.
Moving West was challenging for many reasons. The biggest obstacles were how long it took, and how difficult it was for people to travel so far from the communities and resources they knew. Railroads made the West easier to reach, thus enabling settlers and businesspeople to develop new lands. The West promised a new life for poor people and for those looking to escape discrimination. That’s unfair treatment based on color, religion, or other reasons.