to the MAKING OF A NATION – American history in VOA Special English.
reported in our last program, slavery supporters failed to push through
Congress a bill to make Kansas a slave state. Congress, instead, let the people
of Kansas vote on the statehood constitution written by pro-slavery men. The
people rejected the constitution. And slavery supporters gave up the fight for
Steve Ember and Bob Doughty to continue the story.
problem of slavery continued to divide the North and South. Northerners warned
that slavery could spread no farther. Southerners threatened to leave the Union
unless southern rights were protected.
In the far West, one could forget this bitter dispute. There were no slaves in the West.
The land and the weather were not right for the kind of farming that used
was growing quickly. Gold had brought thousands of settlers to California ten
years earlier. New discoveries of gold and silver now were leading men to
Colorado, Arizona and Nevada.
go," warned the New York Tribune, "if you have a job or a farm. But
if you have neither," it said, "and can get fifty dollars, then go to
many men without jobs or farms in the summer of eighteen-fifty-eight. The
country had suffered a serious economic depression the year before, and jobs
were difficult to find. Thousands left cities in the east.
ones to reach Colorado reported that gold was easy to find. They said any man
who worked hard could find five to ten dollars worth of gold a day, and
sometimes even more.
thousands who rushed to Colorado soon found that there was not as much gold as
expected. The valuable metal became harder to find. No longer could it be
washed from the bottoms of mountain streams. Men had to dig into the mountains
of rock to get it. Huge digging machines and crushers were needed to get the
gold from the rock. These machines were expensive. Few men had enough money to
the miners organized companies. They borrowed money from eastern banks or sold
shares of their companies. In a few years, almost all of the gold from Colorado
came from the mining companies.
those who went west to search for gold stayed to become farmers or
storekeepers. Others moved farther west to find gold in Nevada or California.
Some cleared the ground of trees and cut them into wood for houses. Such timber
from the forests of Oregon and Washington was sold in California and Mexico,
even in China and Hawaii.
A few men
recognized the need for transportation across the nation. Engineers planned
four railroads. But northern and southern leaders could not agree on which one
to build first. Until a railroad could be built, supplies were carried west in
wagons pulled by horses or oxen.
-- Russell, Majors, and Waddell -- formed a transportation company in
eighteen fifty-five to carry government supplies to soldiers in the West. They
started with five hundred wagons. Three years later, the company had
three thousand five hundred wagons and forty thousand oxen.
letters to and from the west was not easy in the eighteen fifties. Ships
brought mail to San Francisco two times a month. And once each month, mail
would arrive in California after a slow trip by wagon from Saint Louis, Missouri.
federal government decided to send mail overland two times a week to
California. It gave the job of carrying the letters to a new company -- the
Overland Mail Company.
was carried by train or boat to St. Louis. Then it was put on overland company
stage coaches -- light wagons pulled by four or six horses. The company was
told to take the mail along a four-thousand-kilometer southern route through
Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. The mail arrived in Los Angeles
twenty-four days after it left St. Louis.
a shorter way across the country. But the postal chief was a southerner, A. V.
Brown. He believed stage coach travel might lead the way for a railroad. And he
wanted a southern railroad to California. Brown said the southern route was the
only one that could be kept open in all seasons. He said the other routes would
be closed by snow in winter.
overland stage coaches were large enough to carry four passengers. But not many
people went to California in the coaches. The coaches never stopped for very
long -- only to change horses or drivers. And there were not many places to
eat. Also, the trip was dangerous, because of hostile Indians.
shortest distance between Missouri and California was across the central part
of the country. The Russell, Majors and Waddell Company decided to show that
this central route could be used all year. It began a speedy mail service
called the Pony Express.
were carried by riders on fast horses. Stations with fresh horses were built
about twenty-four kilometers apart, all along the way. A rider would change
horses at each station until he had traveled one hundred twenty kilometers.
Then he would give his letters to another rider. In this way, the letters would
be carried between California and Missouri. The first letters sent by Pony
Express from California took ten days to reach Missouri.
Express lasted only eighteen months. It was no longer needed after a telegraph
line was completed to San Francisco.
communications and transportation improved, the government was able to increase
its control over the West. But closer ties were not welcomed between the
government and a religious group known as the Mormons.
religion was started by a young New England man named Joseph Smith. In
eighteen-twenty-three, at the age of eighteen, Smith claimed that an Angel told
him of a golden book. He said the book contained God's words to the ancient
people of America. Smith said he was able to read the strange writing in this
book and put it into English. He called this work the Book of Mormon.
organized a church and made himself its leader. Many people became Mormons.
They believed themselves to be a special people chosen by God. Mormons worked
hard. They helped each other and shared with those in need.
did not agree with the beliefs of the Mormons did not like them. Trouble
developed between Mormons and other people. Joseph Smith was forced to move his
people from New York to Ohio and then to Missouri.
Mormons seemed finally to have found a home in Illinois. They built their own
town and called it Nauvoo. They governed themselves and had their own defense
force. The Mormons did so well that Nauvoo became the fastest-growing city in
members of the group split apart, because of a new message Smith claimed to
have received from God. Smith said God gave permission for Mormons to have more
than one wife. This was polygamy. And it was opposed by almost all people.
the Mormons who left the church published a newspaper criticizing Smith and the
other Mormon leaders. Followers ordered by Smith destroyed the
newspaper's publishing equipment. This caused non-Mormons to demonstrate and
demand that Smith be punished. Smith was arrested and put in jail in Carthage,
Illinois. His brother also was arrested. An angry mob attacked the jail and
shot both Smith and his brother to death.
of Illinois ordered the Mormons to leave his state. He said only this would
prevent further violence. There was no choice. They had to leave.
Mormons had a new leader: Brigham Young. Young decided to take his people west
and find a new home for them. He wanted a place where they would be
safe -- where no one could interfere with their religion.
Young told his people that he had seen their new home in a dream. He said they
would search for it in the West, for a wide beautiful valley. He said he would
recognize it when he saw it.
will be our story next week.
Our program was written by Frank Beardsley. The narrators were Steve
Ember and Bob Doughty. Transcripts, MP3s
and podcasts of our programs are online, along with historical images, at
voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION - an
American history series in VOA Special English.
This is program #86 of THE
MAKING OF A NATION