Westward Migration tells of the experiences of 19th century settlers through their own words, including, most notably, through the letters they sent their loved ones back home, and the letters they received in return. In these primary sources they demonstrate their motivations for heading west, as well as the various impacts this migration had on their families.
Westward Migration draws heavily from four notable pioneer collections housed at the American Heritage Center, the University of Wyoming's repository of manuscripts collections, rare books, and the university archives. These four collections are: the John and Frances Casement Papers, James Bertenshaw Family Letters, Thaddeus Capron Family Papers, and Morton E. Post Family Papers.
John (Jack) Casement was a railroad construction foreman who oversaw the construction of the Wyoming section of the Union Pacific Railroad from 1866 to 1869. While out west, Casement exchanged letters with his wife, Frances, who remained in Ohio. The Casement Papers also contain several dozen stereocards, which depict Western scenes from the 1860s.
James Bertenshaw left his home in Mt. Carmel, Indiana, for the Montana gold fields in March, 1864, and never returned home. He died while attempting to travel back home to his wife, Mary, with whom he exchanged regular letters, in late 1865.
Unlike Mary Bertenshaw and Frances Casement, Cynthia Capron -- the wife of U.S. Infantry lieutenant, Thaddeus Hurlbut Capron -- accompanied her husband out west. Thaddeus Capron was stationed at various western forts throughout the 1860s and 1870s. Though he sometimes was separated from his wife and exchanged letters with her, many of the letters found in this collection are between the Caprons out west and their family members in the East.
Morton Everel Post migrated west to Denver from New York in 1860. He married Amalia Nichols in 1864 before moving to Cheyenne, where he became a prominent businessman and public servant in the Wyoming Territory. Morton and Amalia exchanged letters with each other when separated, and also exchanged letters with family in the East.
Westward Migration includes web pages detailing how to use and identify primary sources of the kind found here. In addition, it provides several letters from each of the collections, a small exhibit of stereocards from the west, images from some of the collections, an engaging map of the migratory trails through Wyoming, and a lesson plan that instructors can use in middle and high school classrooms.