The United States relentlessly pushed its frontier westward during the 19th century in pursuit of Manifest Destiny, steadily populating vast swathes with a relentless stream of new arrivals who upped stakes and abandoned their homes in pursuit of dreams of greener pastures and a fresh start in the American West. Unsettled frontiers tend to attract a disproportionate number of single young men, eager for adventure and new horizons, rowdy, rambunctious, restless, and in the absence of the social restraints typically imposed by families and neighbors in more established communities, frequently lawless. Such was the case in the Old West, where many years often elapsed between the settlement of new communities, and their settling down into the rut and norms of established civil society. In such a fluid and volatile environment, it took decades to establish effective law and order and finally tame the Wild West. In the meantime, the region saw a boom in banditry as violent criminals, many of whom frequently transitioned from outlaws to lawmen and back again, crossing and recrossing that line multiple times during their lifetimes, gave in to the temptation of easy riches in a region abounding with readily portable wealth, be it cash, gold, cattle or horses.
Credit Voices of the Past