Timeline of the American Old West

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This timeline of the American Old West is a chronologically ordered list of significant events, births and deaths associated with the period of westward migration across continental North America. After the American Revolution, the newly independent United States began securing the colonial frontier, from the Appalachian Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, for settlement and economic investment by American citizens. The portion of the modern United States west of the Mississippi River, in the period roughly between the end of the Revolution in 1781 and the admission of the last mainland states into the Union in 1912, is sometimes called the Old West or the Wild West, referencing the lawless nature of much of the settlement in the region during this time. The long history of American expansion into these lands has played a central role in shaping American culture, iconography, and the modern national identity, and remains a popular topic for study by scholars and historians.

Early exploration and development[edit]

Initial interest in the vast unexplored territory came through the fur trade, with trappers and hunters moving ahead of settlers.[1]:150 The early years were largely a period of scientific exploration and survey, such that by 1830 the rough outline of the western half of the continent had been mapped to the Pacific Ocean.[1]:162

Year Date Event
1800 Mar 4 Thomas Jefferson takes office as the third President of the United States.
Oct 1 Under pressure from Napoléon Bonaparte, the Kingdom of Spain transfers its colony of Louisiana back to the French Republic with the secret Third Treaty of San Ildefonso.
1803 Apr 1 The United States and the French Republic sign the Louisiana Purchase Treaty.
Dec 20 The United States officially takes control of the French colony of La Louisiane, an enormous area of undetermined boundaries extending from the Mississippi River west to the Rocky Mountains, more than doubling the land area of the new nation.
1804 May 14 The Lewis and Clark expedition sets out to explore and chart the regions west of the Mississippi River.[2]
1806 Jul 15 A U.S. Army reconnaissance expedition under the command of Captain Zebulon Pike departs Fort Bellefontaine near Saint Louis in the Louisiana Territory.
1807 Feb 26 Spanish cavalrymen arrest the Pike expedition in the Spanish territory of Santa Fe de Nuevo México (now southern Colorado).
1810 Aug 1 Mexican priest Miguel Gregorio Antonio Ignacio Hidalgo y Costilla y Gallaga Mandarte Villaseñor proclaims the independence of Mexico from the Kingdom of Spain.
1819 Feb 22 The United States and the Kingdom of Spain sign the Adams–Onís Treaty.
1821 Feb 22 The Adams–Onís Treaty takes effect, defining a new border between the territory of Spain and the United States.
Aug 24 The Kingdom of Spain finally recognizes the independence of Mexico with the signing of the Treaty of Córdoba.
Sep 1 William Becknell and a party of frontier traders leave New Franklin, Missouri bound for Santa Fe. The Becknell route will become the Santa Fe Trail.
1829 Jun Birth of Geronimo, warrior and leader of the Bedonkohe Apache, in present-day Arizona (d. 1909).


Year Date Event
1831 Mexico ratifies the boundaries with the United States originally established by the Adams–Onís Treaty.
1832 May The Bonneville Expedition departs Missouri with 110 men. Over the next two years, the party explores several major river systems in present-day Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, and establishes an overland route to California that will later become the California Trail.
1833 Spring Frontier trader William Bent establishes Bent's Fort on the north bank of the Arkansas River on the Santa Fe Trail.
1835 Spring Frontier traders Louis Vasquez and Andrew Sublette establish Fort Vasquez on the South Platte River, 35 miles northeast of present-day Denver, Colorado.
Oct 2 The Texian Revolt begins with the Battle of Gonzales.
1836 May 2 Texians (immigrants from the United States in the Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas) declare the independence of the Republic of Texas from Mexico.
May 14 Texians force captured General Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón to sign the Treaties of Velasco recognizing the independence of the Republic of Texas. Mexico never ratifies these treaties.
1837 May 27 Birth of James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok, lawman and folk hero, in Troy Grove, Illinois (d. 1876).


Year Date Event
1845 Jun 1 John C. Frémont's third expedition with 55 men and Kit Carson as guide leaves St. Louis to "map the source of the Arkansas River" but continues to the Sacramento Valley.
Dec 19 The "Lash Law" bans blacks from living in the Oregon Territory.
Dec 29 The United States admits the Republic of Texas to the Union as the slave State of Texas. The boundaries of the state remain undefined.
1846 Apr 25 The first skirmish of the Mexican–American War takes place on the Rio Grande near present-day Brownsville, Texas.
May 13 The United States under President James K. Polk declares war on Mexico, formally commencing the Mexican-American War.
Aug 18 Troops under the command of Brigadier General Stephen W. Kearny seize the territorial capital of Santa Fe for the United States with little resistance.
Dec 27 An army of volunteers led by Colonel Alexander W. Doniphan seizes El Paso.
1847 Jan 19 Governor Charles Bent of the New Mexico Territory is assassinated and scalped during the Taos Revolt.[3]
Feb The first of three relief missions arrives to rescue survivors of the Donner Party, who have been snowbound in California's Sierra Nevada mountains for more than three months.
Jul 24 Brigham Young and his vanguard company of Mormons first arrive in the Salt Lake Valley in present-day Utah.
1848 Jan 24 James W. Marshall discovers gold at Sutter's Mill near Coloma, California, precipitating the California Gold Rush.[4]
Feb 2 The United States and Mexico sign the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, ending the Mexican-American War. The agreement results in the cession of nearly all of the present-day Southwest, including California, to the U.S., as well as the designation of the Rio Grande as the boundary between Texas and Mexico.


Year Date Event
1850 Jan 29 Responding to questions of how to accommodate slavery in a growing nation, Henry Clay proposes a series of measures to preserve the Union that come to be called the Compromise of 1850.
Feb The Pinkerton Detective Agency is founded.[5]
Apr 4 City of Los Angeles, California incorporated.
Apr 15 City of San Francisco, California incorporated.
Apr 16 The State of California sends a military expedition to attack hostile Yuma Indians along the Colorado River in retaliation for the Glanton Massacre earlier in the year, sparking the Yuma War.
Jun 3 Five Cayuse tribesmen are hanged in Oregon City for their participation in the Whitman massacre.[6]
Sep 9 California is admitted as the 31st U.S. state.
Sep 9 The New Mexico Territory and Utah Territory are organized by order of the U.S. Congress.
Sep 27 The Donation Land Claim Act takes effect to promote homestead settlement in the Oregon Territory.
Sep 29 President Millard Fillmore appoints Brigham Young the first governor of the Utah Territory.
1851 Horace Greeley, editor of the New-York Tribune, popularizes the saying "Go West, young man", though the phrase was originally written by Indiana newspaper writer John Soule in the Terre Haute Express.
Western Union is founded as The New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company.
Jan 23 The flip of a coin determines whether a new city in Oregon is named after Boston, Massachusetts, or Portland, Maine, with Portland winning.
Mar 27 Mariposa Battalion, led by James D. Savage, are the first reported non-natives to enter California's Yosemite Valley.
Sep 17 The Treaty of Fort Laramie (1851) is signed with Sioux Indians.
Nov 13 The Denny Party lands at Alki Point, the first settlers of what will become Seattle, Washington.
1852 Mar 18 The Wells Fargo company is founded to provide express and banking services to California.
Mar 20 Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriett Beecher Stowe is published.
May 1 Birth of Calamity Jane, frontierswoman (d. 1903).
Jun 29 Death of Henry Clay, US statesman and senator, and a key figure in the Compromise of 1850.
Jul 19 Birth of Commodore Perry Owens, lawman and gunfighter (d. 1919).
1853 Omaha City is founded in the Nebraska Territory.
Feb 8 The Washington Territory is organized from a portion of the Oregon Territory.
Mar Levi Strauss arrives in San Francisco and opens a store supplying goods and clothing to Gold Rush miners.
May 26 Birth of John Wesley Hardin, outlaw (d. 1895).
Oct 26 Paiute Indians attack U.S. Army Captain John W. Gunnison and his party of 37 soldiers and railroad surveyors near Sevier Lake, Utah.
Nov 24 Birth of Bat Masterson, gunfighter, lawman, journalist (d. 1921).
Nov 28 Olympia, Washington is designated capital of the Washington Territory.
Dec 30 The United States and Mexico agree to the Gadsden Purchase, transferring portions of southern Arizona and New Mexico to the U.S.
1854 Birth of Luke Short, gunfighter (d. 1893).
Death of Chief Conquering Bear of the Lakota Sioux.
Feb 13 The Mexican army forces would-be conqueror William Walker and his mercenary troops to retreat to Sonora.
Feb 14 Texas is linked by telegraph with the rest of the United States when a connection between New Orleans and Marshall, Texas is completed.
May 24 Birth of John Riley Banister, law officer, cowboy, and Texas Ranger (d. 1918).
May 30 The Kansas-Nebraska Act becomes law, rescinding the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and creating the Kansas Territory and Nebraska Territory. A provision that settlers will vote on the legality of slavery in the new territories leads to violence beginning the next year.
Jun The Grand Excursion takes prominent Eastern United States inhabitants from Chicago, Illinois to Rock Island, Illinois by railroad, then up the Mississippi River to St. Paul, Minnesota by steamboat.
Jun 14 Birth of Dave Rudabaugh (Dirty Dave), outlaw (d. 1886).
Jul 6 The first statewide meeting of the United States Republican Party, formed in response to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, is held in Jackson, Michigan.
1855 Jan 23 Birth of John Browning, inventor and gunsmith, in Ogden, Utah (d. 1926).
1857 Sep 11 Nearly 120 emigrants passing through the Utah Territory are massacred by a combined force of Mormon militiamen and Paiute Indians during the hysteria of the Utah War.
1858 May 11 Minnesota is admitted as the 32nd U.S. state.
1859 Spring The Comstock Lode, the first major discovery of silver ore in the country, provokes a silver rush in present-day Nevada that funds boomtowns including Virginia City and Gold Hill. Over the next 30 years, hundreds of mines extract more than $320 million in gold and silver from the region, making millionaires of investors such as George Hearst and the Bonanza Kings and contributing to significant advances in mining technology.[7]
Feb 14 Oregon is admitted as the 33rd U.S. state.
Nov 23 Birth of outlaw Billy the Kid, as accepted by most historians. It is also widely believed that he was born in New York City.


Year Date Event
1860 Apr 14 The Pony Express arrives in Sacramento, California.
Nov 21 Tom Horn, scout, detective, and hired gun, is born in Memphis, Missouri (d. 1903).
1861 Jan 29 Kansas is admitted to the union as the 34th U.S. state, and a free state.
Feb A series of hostilities involving U.S. Army Lt. George Nicholas Bascom and Chiricahua Apache chief Cochise triggers the Apache Wars, which remain a central conflict in Arizona and New Mexico for the next 25 years.
Feb 28 Colorado is organized as a U.S. territory.
Mar The New Mexico Territory nominally joins the Confederate States of America.
Mar 2 The Nevada Territory and Dakota Territory are organized.
Mar 4 Abraham Lincoln takes office as the 16th President of the United States.
Jul 25 250 Confederate troops with the 2nd Texas Mounted Rifles, led by Lieutenant Colonel John R. Baylor, engage Union forces under Major Isaac Lynde at Mesilla, New Mexico, resulting in Lynde's troops retreating into the Organ Mountains, toward Fort Stanton. Lynde was relieved of duty after abandoning his post.
1862 Feb-Apr Confederate forces under Henry Hopkins Sibley and Thomas Green undertake what is widely regarded as one of the most ambitious military operations of the American Civil War when they begin the New Mexico Campaign. Their goals include seizing the Colorado gold fields and invading the Mexican states of Sonora, Chihuahua, and Lower California.
Feb 20-21 The Battle of Valverde is fought at a ford of Valverde Creek in present-day New Mexico, resulting in a Confederate victory.
Mar 26-28 The Battle of Glorieta Pass is fought in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains between Confederate cavalry forces and Union volunteers from Colorado and New Mexico. It marks a turning point in the New Mexico Campaign in favor of the Union.
Mar 30 The Battle of Stanwix Station is fought at a Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach stop 80 miles east of Yuma, Arizona, between Capt. William P. Calloway of the California Column and Confederate 2nd Lt. John Swilling.
Apr 15 The Battle of Picacho Pass is fought between the 1st California Cavalry under Union Lt. James Barrett and a detachment of Arizona Confederates led by Sgt. Henry Holmes. It is often cited as the westernmost battle of the American Civil War, occurring 50 miles northwest of Tucson.
May 5 Confederate Sgt. Sam Ford and his men are ambushed by Apache warriors led by Cochise in the Dragoon Mountains near the present-day towns of Benson and Dragoon, Arizona at the Battle of Dragoon Springs.
May 9 The Second Battle of Dragoon Springs is fought in retaliation for the deaths of the four Confederates killed at the Apache ambush four days earlier. Rebels under Capt. Sherod Hunter take back the cattle stolen by Cochise and his warriors and kill five Apaches.
Jul 15-16 140 Union troops from the California Column are ambushed by about 500 Apaches under Mangas Coloradas and Cochise at the Battle of Apache Pass in Arizona. It was one of the first battles in which the United States Army was able to use artillery against Indians.
Aug 17 The Dakota War of 1862 begins when a Sioux hunting party slaughters five white settlers, and the tribal council decides to attack white settlements throughout the Minnesota River valley.
Nov 5 More than 300 Santee Sioux in Minnesota are sentenced to hang for the rape and murder of white settlers.
1863 Jan 1 Daniel Freeman submits the first claim under the Homestead Act for land near Beatrice, Nebraska.
Jan 18 Chiricahua Apache leader Mangas Coloradas is captured, tortured, and killed by U.S. Army sentries after meeting with Brigadier General Joseph Rodman West to call for peace.
Jan 29 Col. Patrick Edward Connor leads his troops to fight the Shoshone Indians in present-day Idaho, resulting in the Bear River Massacre.
Feb 24 The Arizona Territory is organized from a portion of the New Mexico Territory.
Mar 3 Idaho is organized as a U.S. territory.
Aug 21 Confederate guerrilla fighters led by Capt. William Quantrill attack the pro-Union town of Lawrence, Kansas, resulting in the Lawrence Massacre. Quantrill claimed his motive was revenge for the Union Sacking of Osceola.
1864 John Bozeman leads a group of about 2,000 settlers across the Bozeman Trail, which he and John Jacobs had scouted the previous year.
Jan Col. Kit Carson accepts the surrender of most of the Navajo nation after the final two years of the bloody Navajo Wars.
May 26 Montana is organized as a U.S. territory.
Jul Confederate-sympathizing outlaw Jim Reynolds and his gang plunders and robs settlements in the South Park Basin in the Colorado Territory. He claimed their mission was to loot the gold mines of the region to support the fledgling Confederacy.
Oct 31 Nevada is admitted as the 36th U.S. state.
Nov 29 Col. John Chivington and his volunteer militia massacre a peaceful Cheyenne village near Sand Creek in the Colorado Territory, in what is later called the Sand Creek massacre.
1865 May 12-13 The Battle of Palmito Ranch is fought in Texas. It is the final armed engagement of the American Civil War.
1866 Feb 13 Notorious outlaws Frank and Jesse James rob their first bank in Liberty, Missouri.
Spring The period of the great cattle drives begins when Texas cattle ranchers drive more than 260,000 head of cattle to assorted markets. Some travel eastward to Louisiana, where the animals are shipped to Cairo, Illinois and St. Louis, Missouri. Others travel westward through Indian territory to Fort Sumner, New Mexico and Denver, Colorado, inaugurating the Goodnight-Loving Trail. But the vast majority follow the Shawnee Trail north through Indian territory to Kansas City or Sedalia, Missouri.[8]
Apr 13 Birth of Robert Leroy Parker (better known as Butch Cassidy), outlaw, in Beaver, Utah (d. 1908).
Dec 21 Capt. William J. Fetterman of the 2nd Cavalry and the 18th Infantry Regiment are ambushed and wiped out near Fort Phil Kearny, Wyoming. A fort built the next year, Fort Fetterman, is named in his honor.
1868 Nov 27 Battle of Washita River.
1869 May 10 Leland Stanford drives the Golden Spike to join the rails of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads at a special ceremony in Promontory Summit, Utah Territory, completing the First Transcontinental Railroad.
May 19 Wyoming is organized as a U.S. territory.
May 24 John Wesley Powell and nine others embark on a scientific expedition that charts more than 930 miles of the Green River and Colorado River through the canyon country of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. Powell and his crew become the first known white men to travel through the Grand Canyon. They reach the mouth of the Virgin River in present-day Nevada on August 30.


Year Date Event
1870 Bret Harte's The Luck of Roaring Camp and Other Sketches, a collection of stories based on his years as a San Francisco journalist, is published.[9]
William "Hurricane Bill" Martin, a notorious Kansas outlaw, begins rustling cattle southeast of Abilene before he and his gang are driven off by a posse from Marion.[10]
Settling in the New Mexico Territory, gunfighter Robert Clay Allison purchases a ranch in Colfax County. According to local newspapers, Allison is reported to have killed as many as fifteen men in gunfights during this time.[11]
With the growing railroad industry and cattle boom, buffalo hunters begin moving onto the Great Plains. In less than ten years, the buffalo population is dramatically reduced, and the animal remains an endangered species for much of the next century.[9]
The Utah Territorial Assembly, supported by Brigham Young, grants women the right to vote. Over the next several decades, this provides Mormons with an added margin of political power.[9]
Jan Shortly after leaving the post of sheriff of Ellis County, Kansas, James "Wild Bill" Hickok travels to Missouri and eventually resumes his duties as a U.S. Marshal.[12]
Spring With the emergence of Abilene, Kansas as a major stopover for cattle ranchers, the town trustees attempt to curb the violence brought by the beginning of the cattle season by banning guns within the town limits. This proves extremely unpopular and unenforceable, as Texas cowboys make a habit of shooting up ordinance posters and also tear down the city's first jailhouse; violence continues in the city until the appointment of Tom "Bear River" Smith as City Marshal on June 4.[13]
Jul 17-18 "Wild Bill" Hickok is involved in a shootout with several members of the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment in Hays City after killing one trooper and wounding another.[12]
Nov 2 Abilene City Marshal Tom "Bear River" Smith is killed while serving an arrest warrant near the town.[12]
1871 John K. "King" Fisher is hired by settlers of the Pendencia River country in Dimmit County, Texas as a hired gun to protect their livestock and other property. It is during this time that Fisher becomes known as a skilled gunfighter.[14]
Jan 1 After a long illness, U.S. Army Captain John Barry is forced into retirement. While stationed at Fort Ord, Barry attempts to improve relations between the United States and the Apaches, as well as encourages the enlistment of scouts to combat renegade Apaches.[14]
Feb 16 John Younger kills Captain S.W. Nichols in a gunfight in Dallas, Texas.[15]
Feb 23 While heading an Apache-hunting force near present-day Clifton, Arizona, John M. Bullard is shot and killed when he approaches a wounded Apache warrior.[14]
Feb 28 "Handsome Jack" John Ledford, an outlaw-turned-hotel-owner involved in counterfeiting and horse theft in Kansas and the Indian Territory, is killed in a shootout with a group of U.S. Army soldiers led by scout Lee Stewart and U.S. Marshal Jack Bridges, who claimed to have a warrant for his arrest. Although he had recently come under suspicion for his involvement in the robbery of a government wagon train in which several teamsters had been killed, later newspaper accounts claimed that Ledford had been murdered by Bridges due to a previous argument in which Bridges had threatened his life.[16]
Mar 16 Death of Navajo chieftain Barboncito (Hastin Daagii).[14]
Apr 15 "Wild Bill" Hickok succeeds "Bear River" Tom Smith as City Marshal for Abilene, Kansas and remains in the position until December 13.[17]
Apr 28 In what becomes known as the Camp Grant Massacre, over 100 Apache women and children are killed by a mob of Mexicans and Papago Indians led by several Tucson businessmen, including D.A. Bennett and Sam Hughes. Bennett and several others are indicted in December, though all are acquitted.[14]
Jun 14 Thomas Carson, reportedly a nephew of mountain man Kit Carson, is appointed to the Abilene police force under City Marshal "Wild Bill" Hickok. After an incident with gunfighter John Wesley Hardin over Hardin's insistence on wearing his gun in public, he was briefly hired as Deputy in Newton, Kansas before returning to Abilene in November. Carson and Deputy John W. "Brocky Jack" Norton are fired from the police force on November 27 after assaulting a local bartender.
Jun 30 Shortly after robbing a nearby bank, Jesse James addresses a crowd at a political rally in Corydon, Iowa.[15]
Oct 5 Professional gambler Phil Coe is involved in a shootout with Abilene City Marshal "Wild Bill" Hickok after Hickok attempts to censor a painting of a bull with abnormally large genitals in Coe's saloon. Deputy Mike Williams is killed when Hickok accidentally shoots him, and Coe dies from his wounds four days later.[18]
Dec 5 Birth of rodeo star Bill Pickett near Austin, Texas.
1872 William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody, a scout for the U.S. 5th Cavalry Regiment, is awarded the Medal of Honor. Later that year, he appears on stage for the first time, portraying himself in "Scouts of the Prairie".
Ellsworth, Kansas succeeds Abilene as the northern stopping point on the Old Texas cattle trail.
Following the completion of the Santa Fe Railroad across the border of the Colorado Territory, the use of the Santa Fe Trail begins to decline, although Dodge City remains a major cattle shipping town for the next decade. The Santa Fe Railroad would also complete a rail line at Wichita, Kansas causing a major population boom over the next several years.
"Home on the Range", later adopted as the state song of Kansas, first appears in a poem, "My Western Home", written by Dr. Brewster M. Higley. Following its publication, it is set to music by Daniel Kelley.
Jan 31 Author Zane Grey is born in Zanesville, Ohio.
Mar 1 Yellowstone National Park is designated America's first national park by President Ulysses S. Grant.
Nov 29 The Battle of Lost River results when the U.S. 1st Cavalry Regiment tries to force a band of Modoc Indians under Captain Jack to return to the Klamath Reservation in southern Oregon. In the subsequent Modoc War, a party of 53 Modoc warriors entrenched in the Lava Beds of northern California manages to hold off hundreds of U.S. soldiers for more than five months.
1873 Inventor Henry Rose first introduces barbed wire at a county fair in De Kalb, Illinois.
1874 Ham Anderson, a cousin of gunfighter Wes Hardin, is killed in a gunfight in Dodge City, Kansas.
Outlaws Ceberiano and Reymundo Aguilar are killed during the Harrold War of Lincoln County, New Mexico.
May 25 John Alexander, an outlaw and horse thief, is shot and killed by a mob in Belton, Texas while attempting to steal horses.
Jun 27 While occupying an old trading post in the Texas panhandle, 28 bison hunters including 21-year-old Bat Masterson are besieged by 700 Comanche warriors at the Second Battle of Adobe Walls.
1875 Aug 8 Jermin Aguirre is killed near the San Augin Ranch in the New Mexico Territory.
1876 After being wounded in the hip during a gunfight in Sweetwater, Texas, Bat Masterson agrees to become assistant city marshal of Dodge City, Kansas.
Mar 17 After Sioux chieftains Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse refuse to comply with the United States government's order to leave the Black Hills of the Dakota Territory, General George Crook attacks and defeats their forces at the Battle of Powder River, thereby beginning the Great Sioux War.
Apr 19 Wyatt Earp is not rehired by the Wichita Police Department after beating up a candidate for county sheriff.
Jun 17 General George Crook's forces are forced to withdraw following his defeat by Crazy Horse at the Battle of Rosebud.
Jun 25 While leading an attack into a Sioux village, the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment under Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer is ambushed and massacred by over 2,000 Sioux and Comanche warriors led by Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse at the Battle of Little Bighorn.[19]
Aug 1 Colorado is admitted as the 38th U.S. state.
Aug 2 James "Wild Bill" Hickok is shot and killed by Jack McCall during a poker game in Deadwood, Dakota Territory.
Sep 7 Several members of the James-Younger Gang, including Cole Younger, are captured after the failed robbery of the First National Bank leads to a gunfight with bank employees and local residents in Northfield, Minnesota.
1877 Nez Perce War in Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana.
Gunfights involving John Morco in Kansas.
Gunfights involving John Higgins in New Mexico.
Gunfights involving the Horrell Brothers in Texas.
Aug 17 At 17 years old, Billy the Kid shoots his first man, Frank "Windy" Cahill, in self-defense, after Cahill wrestled him to the ground at a saloon in Fort Grant, Arizona. Cahill dies the following day.
1878 Feb 18 Rancher John Tunstall is killed by a posse whose members include gunman Charles Wolz, beginning the Lincoln County War.
Mar John Younger, a member of the Younger Gang, is killed by Pinkerton detectives Louis Lull and Jim Duckworth in St. Clair County, Missouri.
Jun 18 Nick Worthington, a well-known outlaw throughout New Mexico and Colorado, is killed by residents of Cimarron, New Mexico after killing several men and stealing horses.
Jul 15-19 The Battle of Lincoln takes place over five days in Lincoln, New Mexico. Alexander McSween, a major character in the Lincoln County War and former partner of John Tunstall, is shot and killed on July 19, along with gunman Francisco Zamora.
1879 Ike and Billy Clanton enlist William "Curly Bill" Brocius and Johnny Ringo as they begin cattle rustling in the New Mexico and southern Arizona Territories.
Jan Captain Marcus Reno, the highest-ranking officer to have survived the Battle of Little Bighorn, is brought before a general court-martial but is acquitted of cowardice.
Nov 4 Birth of Will Rogers, actor and cowboy, on a ranch in Cherokee Indian territory in what is now Oklahoma (d. 1935).


Year Date Event
1880 George Alford is sentenced to five years imprisonment for murdering a sheriff in Fort Worth, Texas.
Mar 2 James Allen kills James Moorehead after ordering eggs in a tavern in Las Vegas, New Mexico and, after escaping from prison for Mooreland's murder, is killed by a posse soon after.
May 11 A dispute over land titles between settlers of California's San Joaquin Valley and the Southern Pacific Railroad leaves seven people dead in what is later called the Mussel Slough Tragedy.
Dec 19 Tom O'Folliard, best friend of Billy the Kid, is shot and killed by members of Pat Garrett's posse in Fort Sumner, New Mexico.
Dec 23 Charlie Bowdre, a member of Billy the Kid's gang, is shot and killed by members of Pat Garrett's posse at Stinking Springs, New Mexico.
Dec 24 Abran Baca kills A.M. Conklin in Socorro, New Mexico with several other outlaws, though he is acquitted the following year.
1881 Apr 14 A gunfight involving El Paso, Texas Marshal Dallas Stoudenmire results in what witnesses recall as "four dead in five seconds".
Jul 14 Billy the Kid is shot and killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. He was buried the next day between his friends Tom O'Folliard and Charlie Bowdre in Fort Sumner's old military cemetery.
Oct 26 The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral takes place in the street behind a saloon in Tombstone, Arizona, pitting the Earps and Doc Holliday against the Clantons, the McLaurys, and Billy Claiborne. Frank and Tom McLaury and Billy Clanton are killed, and Virgil and Morgan Earp, along with Holliday, are wounded.
1882 Mar 18 Morgan Earp is shot and killed while playing a game of pool in Tombstone, Arizona. His assassination was very possibly due to his involvement in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
Mar 24 Outlaw William "Curly Bill" Brocius is shot and killed by Wyatt Earp at Iron Springs in Arizona.
Apr 3 Jesse James murdered by Bob Ford.[20]
1884 Dec 1 A 36-hour standoff begins in the town of Reserve, New Mexico when a posse of Texan cowboys confronts lawman Elfego Baca for having arrested an intoxicated cowboy.
1886 Jack Langrishe, a popular western entertainer, is elected justice in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
Feb 18 Dave Rudabaugh, a former member of Billy the Kid's Dodge City Gang, is reportedly captured and decapitated by townspeople after terrorizing the village of Parral, Mexico.
Mar 21 The "Big Fight" in Tascosa, Texas takes place, where three ranch hands, ex-members of Pat Garrett's "Home Rangers," are killed by rival ranch hands and assorted gunmen.[21]
Jul 16 Death of Ned Buntline, writer.
Aug 7 Fort Fred Steele, used to protect railroads from local Native American tribes in the Wyoming Territory, is closed.
Aug 20 Fort Duchesne is officially opened by Major Frederick William Benteen in the Utah Territory.
Sep 4 Apache renegade Geronimo surrenders to forces under General Nelson Miles and is taken into custody at Fort Grant, Arizona. His surrender is often considered the end of the Apache Wars.[22]
Nov 8 Doc Holliday dies of tuberculosis in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.[23]
Winter The extremely harsh winter of 1886–87 devastates the American cattle industry, leading to the end of the open range era. As a result, cattle ranching is completely reorganized and the period of the great cattle drives is over.
Dec 1 Brothers Jim and Rube Burrow rob their first train in Bellevue, Texas.
1887 Feb 8 Luke Short kills former Fort Worth, Texas Marshal Jim Courtright in a gunfight on the streets of Fort Worth. The shooting is ruled self-defense, since Courtright drew his pistol first.
1888 Dec 18 Richard Wetherill and his brother-in-law discover the Indian ruins of Mesa Verde in southwestern Colorado.
1889 Feb 3 Belle Starr is murdered in Oklahoma.[24]
Nov 2 North Dakota and South Dakota are admitted as the 39th and 40th U.S. states.
Nov 8 Montana is admitted as the 41st U.S. state.
Nov 11 Washington is admitted as the 42nd U.S. state.


Year Date Event
1890 Jun Data collected for the Eleventh United States Census indicate that the distribution of the population into unsettled areas has resulted in the disappearance of the American frontier. As a result, the U.S. Census Bureau declares that it will no longer monitor westward migration in the country.[25]
Jul 3 Idaho is admitted as the 43rd U.S. state.
Jul 10 Wyoming is admitted as the 44th U.S. state.
Dec 29 The U.S. Cavalry kills 146 Sioux at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota.
1893 Sep 8 Luke Short dies of dropsy in Geuda Springs, Kansas.
1896 Jan 4 Utah is admitted as the 45th U.S. state.


Year Date Event
1903 Nov 20 Legendary Old West gunman Tom Horn, who had previously served as a U.S. Cavalry scout, Pinkerton detective, lawman and outlaw is hung in Cheyenne, Wyoming for the disputed July 18th, 1901 killing of 14-year old sheepherder Willie Nickell.
1905 Dec 30 Former Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg is wounded by a bomb in his home in Caldwell, Idaho and dies a short time later. An investigation suggests the assassination was motivated by prior labor unrest in Idaho's mining communities.[26]
1907 Nov 16 Oklahoma is admitted as the 46th U.S. state.
1908 Feb 29 Death of Pat Garrett, former New Mexico sheriff and killer of Billy the Kid.
1909 Apr 19 Joseph Allen is hanged in Ada, Oklahoma for his involvement in a local feud.
Nov 24 Outlaw Donaciano Aguilar is captured and sentenced to life imprisonment in New Mexico.


Year Date Event
1912 Jan 6 New Mexico is admitted as the 47th U.S. state.
Feb 14 Arizona is admitted as the 48th U.S. state. It is the last state to be admitted in the contiguous United States.
1916 Dec 5 The last stagecoach robbery in American history occurs at Jarbidge Canyon, Nevada, in which robbers Ben Kuhl, Ed Beck and William McGraw hold up a U.S. Postal Service stagecoach, shoot the driver, Fred Searcy, and steal $4,000 in cash. The three criminals are captured without incident at their cabin soon after.
1917 Jan 10 William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody dies of kidney failure in Denver.


Year Date Event
1929 Jan 13 Wyatt Earp dies of chronic cystitis at his home in Los Angeles.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Robert M. Utley, ed. (2003) The Story of The West DK Publishing, New York ISBN 0-7894-9660-7.
  2. ^ "The Lewis & Clark Expedition: A Western Adventure – A National Epic". 1998. Retrieved Sep 24, 2008. 
  3. ^ The Yarmouth Herald (Apr 8, 1847) From New Mexico Retrieved 4 May 2010
  4. ^ The Deseret News (Feb 11, 1898) First Found California Gold
  5. ^ Morn, Frank (1982). The Eye That Never Sleeps: A History of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-32086-0. p. 18
  6. ^ The Whitman Massacre Trial: A Verdict is Reached. Oregon State Archives. Retrieved 4 May 2010.
  7. ^ Smith, G.H., 1943, The History of the Comstock Lode, 1850–1997, Reno: University of Nevada Press, ISBN 1888035048
  8. ^ "The History of Cattle Drives" on the Genealogy Trails website
  9. ^ a b c Public Broadcasting Service (2001). "New Perspectives on the West: Events in the West, 1870 to 1880". PBS.org. 
  10. ^ Rosa, Joseph G. Gunfighter: Man Or Myth?. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969. (pg. 47)
  11. ^ Wexler, Bruce. The Wild, Wild West Of Louis L'amour: The Illustrated Guide to Cowboys, Indians, Gunslingers, Outlaws and Texas Rangers. Philadelphia: Running Press, 2005. (pg. 78) ISBN 0-7624-2357-9
  12. ^ a b c Rosa, Joseph G. Wild Bill Hickok, Gunfighter: An Account of Hickok's Gunfights. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2003. (pg. 17) ISBN 0-8061-3535-2
  13. ^ Rosa, Joseph G. Gunfighter: Man Or Myth?. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969. (pg. 196)
  14. ^ a b c d e Thrapp, Dan L. Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography: In Three Volumes, Volume I (A-F). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988. ISBN 0-8032-9418-2
  15. ^ a b Wellman, Paul Iselin. A Dynasty of Western Outlaws. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986. ISBN 0-8032-9709-2
  16. ^ Wallis, Michael. Billy the Kid: The Endless Ride. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2007. ISBN 0-393-06068-3
  17. ^ Patterson, Richard M. Historical Atlas of the Outlaw West. Boulder: Johnson Publishing Company, 1985. ISBN 0-933472-89-7
  18. ^ Kohn, George C. Dictionary of Culprits and Criminals. Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press, 1986.
  19. ^ The Deseret News (Jul 8, 1876) Headquarters, Departm't of Dakotah (General Terry's report) Retrieved 6 May 2010[dead link]
  20. ^ The Modesto Bee (Apr 4, 1982) The outlaw Jesse James: His legend lives on 100 years later Retrieved 3 May 2010
  21. ^ http://www.territorialnewspapers.com/archives/2010/2010-04-21/page-11.pdf
  22. ^ Capps, Benjamin (1975). The Great Chiefs. Time-Life Education. pp. 240. ISBN 978-0-316-84785-8
  23. ^ Poling, Dean (2010-01-01). Valdosta's most infamous resident - John Henry "Doc" Holliday. Valdosta Scene VI (1): 19-20.
  24. ^ Toledo Blade (Feb 19, 1954) Belle Starr, Sweetheart of Outlaws Retrieved 6 May 2010
  25. ^ Porter, Robert; Gannett, Henry; Hunt, William (1895). "Progress of the Nation", in "Report on Population of the United States at the Eleventh Census: 1890, Part 1". Bureau of the Census. pp. xviii–xxxiv. 
  26. ^ Horsley, Albert (1907). The Confessions and Autobiography of Harry Orchard. 

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