The United States has brought about tremendous changes to American Indian tribes, and the most significant thing about the American border is that it is at the farthest end of free land. In census reports, it is treated as the margin of that settlement, which has a density of two or more per square mile. This article will not attempt to deal with the subject in an exhaustive manner; its purpose is simply to draw attention to the border as a fertile field for research and to suggest some of the problems that arise in connection with it. Institutional students have paid too much exclusive attention to Germanic origins and too little to American factors.
The border is the fastest and most effective line of Americanization. It takes people out of the railroad car and places them in the birch canoe. They take off the clothes of civilization and wear their hunting shirt and moccasin. They place themselves in the log cabin of the Cherokees and Iroquois and surround it with an Indian stockade.
In a short time, they have dedicated themselves to planting Indian corn and plowing with a sharp stick; they shout the war cry and eat their scalp in the orthodox Indian way. At first, the border was the Atlantic coast. It was the border of Europe in a very real sense. Moving west, the border became increasingly American. As successive terminal moraines are the result of successive glaciations, each border leaves its marks and, when it becomes a populated area, the region still shares the characteristics of the border.
Therefore, the advance of the border has meant a constant departure from European influence, a constant growth of independence on American lines. At first, traders followed Delaware and Shawnese Indians to Ohio as early as the end of the first quarter of a century. Spotswood, from Virginia, made an expedition in 1714 across Blue Ridge. At the end of the first quarter of the century, Scots-Irish and Palatine Germans advanced through Shenandoah Valley into western Virginia and across Piedmontese region of Carolinas. The Germans in New York pushed settlement border up Mohawk to German Flats.
In Pennsylvania, Bedford indicates settlement line. Settlements had begun at New River, a branch of Kanawha, and at sources of Yadkin and French Broad. When first census was conducted in 1790, continuous population area was bounded by line that ran near coast of Maine and included New England, except for portion of Vermont and New Hampshire, New York along Hudson and up Mohawk around Schenectady, eastern and southern Pennsylvania, Virginia, far across Shenandoah Valley, and Carolinas and eastern Georgia. Beyond this region of continuous settlement were small populated areas of Kentucky and Tennessee, and Ohio with mountains that stood between them and Atlantic area. In middle of this century, line indicated by current eastern border of Indian Territory, Nebraska and Kansas marked border of Indian country. Minnesota and Wisconsin still had border conditions but distinctive border of time was in California where gold discoveries had sent sudden wave of adventurous miners, and Oregon and settlements Utah.
Just as border crossed Alleghanies it now bypassed Great Plains and Rocky Mountains; just as advance frontiers beyond Alleghanies had led to emergence important issues transportation internal improvement now settlers beyond Rocky Mountains needed means communication East furnishing them settlement Great Plains development yet another type frontier.