What Life Was Like For Settlers In The Wild West

When people began moving west in the 1800s, it was a treacherous journey. They had to pass through dangerous terrain, and unpredictable territories, spawning many myths and false facts about the Wild West

Once they settled in the area, though, these hardships didn't end. Generally, life in the Old West meant hard work. When the Homestead Act of 1862 took effect — which provided heads of families with free lands out west — an influx of people from more populous areas of the country made the trek, according to the National Archives. Those interested had to file claims with the government, and had to begin living in the property six months after. They also had to improve the property, which usually meant they had to build farms. Settlers were required to live in their land for five years, and before they officially got the deed, they had to build homes. This was difficult for many, considering that, as the National Archives explains, these structures had to built in areas with no timber: "Pioneers usually built a dugout first, scooping a hole in the side of hill, blocking the front with a wall of cut sod, and covering the top with a few poles that held up a layer of prairie grass and dirt. These homes were often washed away by rains and were always dirty."

As if this wasn't enough of a struggle, nature wasn't exactly on the side of the settlers.

They were cut off from family and had to deal with terrible weather

Clearly, life in the frontier wasn't exactly Little House on the Prarie. Settlers unused to backbreaking work, or farming, had to learn very quickly. Even harder, though, was getting used to the weather, from the bitter winters in the midwest to the dry climate and drought in the southwest, writes North Carolina State University. Strong winds and rains damaged crops and houses, while the lack of water killed livestock. Even those who came for the gold rush still were away from their families, and messages back home took weeks to arrive, via stagecoach. Unless they lived in the towns, many settlers didn't have any neighbors close to their own homes.

Settlers also had to deal with a lot of conflict, either from Native Americans who already lived in these lands, or with fellow settlers who had lost money and were looking for criminal opportunities. Settlers had to make do without the benefits of cities, where many came from. Many women had to source fabric and make their own clothes. Families had to pool together money so they could hire a teacher, who in turn taught all the nearby children. 

Regardless, while life in the Wild West was hard, settlers wanted a fresh start ... and maybe a way for them to deal with these struggles, in fact, was by romanticizing their difficulties. as for people today, well, maybe it's better to just stick to playing Oregon Trail.