The truth about the settling of the American West is at odds with most of the popular myths
Like so many children of my generation, I grew up on a steady diet of movies and TV shows that depicted the settling of the Old West in mostly mythical terms. This fiction suggested that there were guns and violence everywhere on the frontier and that the West was won by rugged individualism instead of dependence on fancy-pants federal politicians and bureaucrats.
I learned as an adult that this stuff was mostly nonsense, calculated by writers of pulp fiction and producers of Hollywood movies simply to make money. But, alas, there are more than a few Americans who still believe this crap. I ran across an example just the other day in the form of a comment from a firearms enthusiast implying that the Old West was free of gun control and other unworkable schemes advanced by naive politicians.
But, of course, it wasn’t. Gun control was fairly commonplace in communities of the Old West, including such legendary towns as Dodge City, Kan. (see photo above) and Tombstone, Arizona. Indeed, the celebrated gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone was prompted by enforcement of a local gun-control ordinance.
As for the role played by the federal government in settling the West, it was indispensable. The feds cleared Native Americans from their lands, parceled out property to settlers, established transportation and irrigation systems, helped set-up local governments and, in countless other ways, helped civilize and develop the region. Sure, rugged individualism among settlers played an important part, but most of those folks would not likely have succeeded without a helping hand from state and federal governments.
A wealth of history on these matters is readily available through Google or at your nearby library.
Or you can continue to believe the myths peddled in John Wayne movies.