Roosevelt describes this movement of men of means and influence thus: 16Next Page
This distress at home inclined many people of means and ambition to try their fortunes in the West; while another and equally powerful motive was the desire to secure great tracts of virgin lands, for possession or speculation. Many distinguished soldiers had been rewarded by successive warrants for unoccupied land, which they entered wherever they chose, until they could claim thousands upon thousands of acres. Sometimes they sold their warrants to outsiders; but whether they remained in the hands of the original holders or not, they served as great stimulus to the westward movement, and drew many of the representatives of the wealthiest and most influential families in the parent states to the lands on the farther side of the mountains.
Although everyone had a vote and "all Kentuckians took a great interest in politics . . . the gentry and men of means and the lawyers very soon took the lead in political affairs." 17
The ultimate test of the social class standing of migrants was to be found in the equipment, especially in the kinds of house-furnishings, the families took with them into the West and the kinds of homes they built there. One reads that, 18
Thought the typical inhabitant of Kentucky was still the small frontier farmer, the class of well-to-do gentry had always attained good proportions. Elsewhere throughout the West, in Tennessee, and even here and there in Ohio and the Territories of Indiana and Mississippi, there were to be found occasional houses that were well built and well furnished, and surrounded by pleasant grounds, fairly well kept; houses to which the owners had brought their stores of silver and linen and, heavy old-fashioned furniture from their homes in the Eastern States.
"The leaders of Kentucky life were men who owned large estates, on which they lived in their great roomy houses." If they engaged in the law, they also supervised the plantations and "were always ready to try their hand at some kind of manufacture . . . to any business in which there was a chance to make money . . . . " These gentlemen were "always on the lookout for any fresh region of exceptional advantages, such as many of them considered the lands along the lower Mississippi." 19
Carman, describing the movement westward, shows the migration of upper class elements alongside those without means, who "trudged on foot." He says: 20
The roads leading from Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia to Kentucky and Tennessee were, with few exceptions, always crowded with long trains of heavy, lumbering, canvas-covered Conestoga wagons, each drawn by four or six horses, laden with a precious cargo of humanity and household goods . . . . Planters and the well to-do usually took with them slaves and herds of cattle and sheep.
Large landowners dominated the scene in Louisiana, too. Timothy Flint describes the area below Baton Rouge along the river as follows: 21
In the whole distance to New Orleans, plantation touches plantation . . . . Noble houses, massive sugar houses, neat summer-houses, and numerous black villages succeeded each other in such a way, that the whole distance has the appearance of continued village. The houses are airy and neat, some of them splendid . . . . Among the noblest of the plantations is that of General Hampton.
Turner describes the movement of population into the Gulf states in a manner which recalls the realities of the westward migration: the little man was being pushed aside and the rich and influential were reaping the rich rewards in that area. He states: 22
But while this population of log-cabin pioneers was entering the Gulf plains, caravans of slave-holding planters were advancing from the seaboard to the occupation of the cotton lands of the same region. As the free farmers of the interior had been replaced in upland country of the south by the slave-holding planters, so now the frontiersmen of the southwest were pushed back from the more fertile lands into the pin hills and barrens. Not only was the pioneer unable to refuse the higher price which was offered him for his clearing, but, in the competitive bidding of the public land sales, the wealthier planter secured the desirable soils . . . . Little by little, therefore, the old pioneer life tended to retreat to the less desirable lands, leaving the slave-holder in possession of the rich "buck-shot" soils . . . .
By the side of the picture of the advance of the pioneer farmer, bearing his household goods in his canvas-covered wagon to his new home across the Ohio, must therefore be placed the picture of the southern planter crossing through the forests of western Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi Valley, in his family carriage, with servants, packs of hunting-dogs, and a train of slaves, their nightly camp-fires lighting up the wilderness where so recently the Indian hunter had held possession.
16. Ibid., p. 18.
17. Ibid., p. 186.
18. Ibid., pp. 442 - 443.
19. Ibid., p. 443.
20. Carman, op. cit., p. 513.
21. Timothy Flint, Recollections of the Last Ten Years (Boston, 1826) pp. 299 - 300; see also Coman, op. cit., pp. 20 - 21.
22. Frederick Jackson Turner, Rise of the New West, (New York, 1906) pp. 91 - 91.