diplomacy The art of conducting negotiations with other countries. People who engage in diplomacy are called diplomats.
There was a reason many Americans felt that Texas was so valuable. Much of this region was well suited for growing cotton, the South’s most valuable cash crop, and many southerners hoped that one day it would become part of the United States.
Americans Come to Texas The Texas tale begins with Moses Austin, a banker and businessman who dreamed of starting an American colony in Spanish Texas. In 1821, Spanish officials granted Austin a huge tract of land. When Moses died suddenly that year, his son Stephen took over his father’s dream.
Stephen arrived in Texas just as Mexico declared its independence from Spain. Now Texas was a part of Mexico. Mexican officials agreed to let Austin start his colony—under certain conditions. Austin had to choose only moral and hardworking settlers. The settlers had to promise to become Mexican citizens and to join the Catholic Church.
Austin agreed to the Mexican terms. By 1827, he had attracted 297 families—soon known as the “Old Three Hundred”— to Texas.
Rising Tensions The success of Austin’s colony started a rush of settlers to Texas. By 1830, there were about 25,000 Americans in Texas, compared to 4,000 Tejanos, or Texans of Mexican descent. Soon tensions between the two groups began to rise.
The Americans had several complaints. They were used to governing themselves, and they resented taking orders from Mexican officials. They were unhappy that all official documents had to be in Spanish, a language most of them were unwilling to learn. In addition, many were slaveholders who were upset when Mexico outlawed slavery in 1829.
The Tejanos had their own complaints. They were unhappy that many American settlers had come to Texas illegally. Worse, most of these new immigrants showed little respect for Mexican culture and had no intention of becoming citizens.
The Mexican government responded by closing Texas to further American immigration. The government sent troops to Texas to assert its authority and enforce the immigration laws.
The Texans Rebel Americans in Texas resented these actions. Hotheads, led by a young lawyer named William Travis, began calling for revolution. Cooler heads, led by Stephen Austin, asked the Mexican government to reopen Texas to immigration and to make it a separate Mexican state. That way, Texans could run their own affairs.
Stephen Austin made his father’s dream a reality when he founded a colony in Texas in 1822. In this painting, we see a young and charismatic Austin talking with a group of Anglo American settlers about the rules Mexico required them to live by.
In 1833, Austin traveled to Mexico and presented the Texans’ demands to the new head of the Mexican government, General Antonio López de Santa Anna. The general was a power-hungry dictator who once boasted, “If I were God, I would wish to be more.” Rather than bargain with Austin, Santa Anna tossed him in jail for promoting rebellion.
Soon after Austin was released in 1835, Texans rose up in revolt. Determined to crush the rebels, Santa Anna marched north with approximately 6,000 troops.
The Alamo In late February 1836, a large part of Santa Anna’s army reached San Antonio, Texas. The town was defended by about 180 Texan volunteers, including eight Tejanos. The Texans had taken over an old mission known as the Alamo. Among them was Davy Crockett, the famous frontiersman and former congressman from Tennessee. Sharing command with William Travis was James Bowie, a well-known Texas “freedom fighter.”
The Alamo’s defenders watched as General Santa Anna raised a black flag that meant “Expect no mercy.” The general demanded that the Texans surrender. Travis answered with a cannon shot.
Slowly, Santa Anna’s troops began surrounding the Alamo. The Texans were outnumbered by at least ten to one, but only one man fled.
Fewer than 200 Texans fought 4,000 Mexican troops at the Alamo. When the battle was over, they were all dead—including James Bowie and the fabled frontiersman Davy Crocket.
Meanwhile, Travis sent messengers to other towns in Texas, pleading for reinforcements and vowing not to abandon the Alamo. “Victory or death!” he proclaimed. But reinforcements never came.
For 12 days, the Mexicans pounded the Alamo with cannonballs. Then, at the first light of dawn on March 6, Santa Anna gave the order to storm the fort. Desperately, the Texans tried to stave off the attackers with a hailstorm of rifle fire.
For 90 minutes the battle raged. Then it was all over. By day’s end, every one of the Alamo’s defenders was dead. By Santa Anna’s order, those who had survived the battle were executed on the spot.
Santa Anna described the fight for the Alamo as “but a small affair.” But his decision to kill every man at the Alamo filled Texans with rage. It was a rage that cried out for revenge.
Texas Wins Its Independence Sam Houston, the commander of the Texas revolutionary army, understood Texans’ rage. But as Santa Anna pushed on, Houston’s only hope was to retreat eastward. By luring Santa Anna deeper into Texas, he hoped to make it harder for the general to supply his army and keep it battle-ready.
Houston’s strategy wasn’t popular, but it worked brilliantly. In April, Santa Anna caught up with Houston near the San Jacinto River. Expecting the Texans to attack at dawn, the general kept his troops awake all night. When no attack came, the weary Mexicans relaxed. Santa Anna went to his tent to take a nap.
Late that afternoon, Houston’s troops staged a surprise attack. Yelling “Remember the Alamo!” the Texans overran the Mexican camp. Santa Anna fled, but he was captured the next day. In exchange for his freedom, he ordered all his remaining troops out of Texas. Texans had won their independence. Still, Mexico did not fully accept the loss of Texas.
To Annex Texas or Not? Now an independent country, Texas became known as the Lone Star Republic because of the single star on its flag. But most Texans were Americans who wanted Texas to become part of the United States.
Despite their wishes, Texas remained independent for ten years. People in the United States were divided over whether to annex Texas. Southerners were eager to add another slave state. Northerners who opposed slavery wanted to keep Texas out.
Others feared that annexation would lead to war with Mexico. The 1844 presidential campaign was influenced by the question of whether to expand U.S. territory. One of the candidates, Henry Clay, warned, “Annexation and war with Mexico are identical.” His opponent, James K. Polk, however, was a strong believer in Manifest Destiny. He was eager to acquire Texas. After Polk was elected, Congress voted to annex Texas. In 1845, Texas was admitted as the 28th state.
The flag of the Lone Star Republic. Sam Houston was elected the first president of the independent country of Texas in 1836. In 1845, Texas was admitted to the United States. Today, Texas is known as the Lone Star State. This is the only known official Lone Star flag of the Republic of Texas of the period 1836-1846.
annex To add a territory to a country. Such an addition is called an annexation.
15.5 Oregon Country
Far to the northwest of Texas lay Oregon Country. This enormous, tree-covered wilderness stretched from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. To the north, Oregon was bounded by Russian Alaska. To the south, it was bordered by Spanish California and New Mexico.
In 1819, Oregon was claimed by four nations—Russia, Spain, Great Britain, and the United States. Spain was the first to drop out of the scramble. As part of the treaty to purchase Florida, Spain gave up its claim to Oregon. A few years later, Russia also dropped out. By 1825, Russia agreed to limit its claim to the territory that lay north of the 54°40’ parallel of latitude. Today that line marks the southern border of Alaska.
That left Britain and the United States. For the time being, the two nations agreed to a peaceful “joint occupation” of Oregon.
Discovering Oregon America’s claim to Oregon was based on the Lewis and Clark expedition. Between 1804 and 1806, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark had led a small band of explorers to the Oregon coast. You will read more about their epic adventure in the next chapter.
Lewis thought that many more Americans would follow the path blazed by the expedition. “In the course of 10 or 12 years,” he predicted in 1806, “a tour across the continent by this route will be undertaken with as little concern as a voyage across the Atlantic.”
That was wishful thinking. The route that Lewis and Clark had followed was far too rugged for ordinary travelers. There had to be a better way.
In 1824, a young fur trapper named Jedediah Smith found that better way. Smith discovered a passage through the Rocky Mountains called
In the 1800s, wagon trains like the one depicted in this William Henry Jackson painting transported thousands of American families from established eastern settlements to the rugged West. This wagon train is winding its way across Nebraska toward Oregon Country.
South Pass. Unlike the high, steep passes used by Lewis and Clark, South Pass was low and flat enough for wagons to use in crossing the Rockies. Now the way was open for settlers to seek their fortunes in Oregon.
Oregon Fever The first American settlers to travel through South Pass to Oregon were missionaries. These earnest preachers made few converts among Oregon’s Indians. However, their glowing reports of Oregon’s fertile soil and towering forests soon attracted more settlers.
These early settlers wrote letters home describing Oregon as a “pioneer’s paradise.” The weather was always sunny, they claimed. Disease was unknown. Trees grew as thick as hairs on a dog’s back. And farms were free for the taking. One joker even claimed that “pigs are running about under the great acorn trees, round and fat, and already cooked, with knives and forks sticking in them so you can cut off a slice whenever you are hungry.”
These reports inspired other settlers who were looking for a fresh start. In 1843, about 1,000 pioneers packed their belongings into covered wagons and headed for Oregon. A year later, nearly twice as many people made the long journey across the plains and mountains. “The Oregon Fever has broke out,” stated a Boston newspaper, “and is now raging.”
All of Oregon or Half? Along with Texas, “Oregon fever” also played a role in the 1844 presidential campaign. Polk won the election with stirring slogans such as “All of Oregon or none!” and “Fifty-four forty or fight!” Polk promised that he would not rest until the United States had annexed all of Oregon Country.
But Polk didn’t want Oregon enough to risk starting a war with Britain. Instead, he agreed to a compromise treaty that divided Oregon roughly in half at the 49th parallel. That line now marks the western border between the United States and Canada.
The Senate debate over the Oregon treaty was fierce. Senators from the South and the East strongly favored the treaty. They saw no reason to go to war over “worse than useless territory on the coast of the Pacific.” Senators from the West opposed the treaty. They wanted to hold out for all of Oregon. On June 18, 1846, the Senate ratified the compromise treaty by a vote of 41 to 14.
Polk got neither “fifty-four forty” nor a fight. What he got was even better: a diplomatic settlement that both the United States and Great Britain could accept without spilling a drop of blood.
Settlers who braved the 2,000 mile trek from Independence, Missouri, to Oregon Country were rewarded by fertile land in the Willamette Valley.
converts people who accept a new religion
15.6 War with Mexico
You might think that Texas and Oregon were quite enough new territory for any president. But not for Polk. This humorless, hardworking president had one great goal. He wanted to expand the United States as far as he could.
Polk’s gaze fell next on the huge areas known as California and New Mexico. He was determined to have them both—by purchase if possible, by force if necessary.
These areas were first colonized by Spain, but they became Mexican territories when Mexico won its independence in 1821. Both were thinly settled, and the Mexican government had long neglected them. That was reason enough for Polk to hope that they might be for sale. He sent a representative to Mexico to try to buy the territories. But Mexican officials refused even to see him.
War Breaks Out in Texas When Congress voted to annex Texas, relations between the United States and Mexico turned sour. To Mexico, the annexation of Texas was an act of war. To make matters worse, Texas and Mexico could not agree on a border. Texas claimed the Rio Grande as its border on the south and the west. Mexico wanted the border to be the Nueces River, about 150 miles northeast of the Rio Grande.
On April 25, 1846, Mexican soldiers fired on American troops who were patrolling along the Rio Grande. Sixteen Americans were killed or wounded. This was just the excuse for war that Polk had been waiting for. Mexico, he charged, “has invaded our territory and shed American blood on American soil.” Two days after Polk’s speech, Congress declared war on Mexico.
To Mexico, the truth was just the opposite. Mexican president Mariano Paredes declared that a greedy people “have thrown themselves on our territory…. The time has come to fight.”
The Fall of New Mexico and California A few months later, General Stephen Kearny led the Army of the West out of Kansas. His orders were to occupy New Mexico and then continue west to California.
Mexican opposition melted away in front of Kearny’s army. The Americans took control of New Mexico without firing a shot. “General Kearny,” a pleased Polk wrote in his diary, “has thus far performed his duties well.”
Meanwhile, a group of Americans led by the explorer John C. Frémont launched a rebellion against Mexican rule in California. The Americans
Volunteers from Exeter, New Hampshire, line up as they leave New England to fight in the war against Mexico.
arrested and jailed General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, the Mexican commander of Northern California. Then they raised a crude flag showing a grizzly bear sketched in blackberry juice. California, they declared, was now the Bear Flag Republic.
When Kearny reached California, he joined forces with the rebels. Within weeks, all of California was under American control.
The United States Invades Mexico The conquest of Mexico itself was far more difficult. American troops under Zachary Taylor battled their way south from Texas. Taylor was a no-nonsense general who was known fondly as “Old Rough and Ready” because of his backwoods clothes. After 6,000 troops took the Mexican city of Monterrey, an old enemy stopped them. General Santa Anna had marched north to meet Taylor with an army of 20,000 Mexican troops.
In February 1847, the two forces met near a ranch called Buena Vista. After two days of hard fighting, Santa Anna reported that “both armies have been cut to pieces.” Rather than lose his remaining forces, Santa Anna retreated south. The war in northern Mexico was over.
A month later, American forces led by General Winfield Scott landed at Veracruz in southern Mexico. Scott was a stickler for discipline and loved fancy uniforms. These traits earned him the nickname “Old Fuss and Feathers.” For the next six months, his troops fought their way to Mexico City, the capital of Mexico.
Outside the capital, the Americans met fierce resistance at the castle of Chapultepec. About 1,000 Mexican soldiers and 100 young military cadets
In this painting by Hal Stone, we see the American cavalry overwhelming the enemy in the Battle of Resaca de la Palma, Texas, in May 1846.
fought bravely to defend the fortress. Six of the cadets chose to die fighting rather than surrender. To this day, the boys who died that day are honored in Mexico as Los Niños Héroes—the heroic children.
Despite such determined resistance, Scott’s army captured Mexico City in September 1847. Watching from a distance, a Mexican officer muttered darkly, “God is a Yankee.”
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo Early in 1848, Mexico and the United States signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Mexico agreed to give up Texas and a vast region known as the Mexican Cession. (A cession is something that is given up.) This area included the present-day states of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico, as well as parts of Colorado and Wyoming.
By this agreement, Mexico gave up half of all its territory. In return, the United States agreed to pay Mexico $15 million. It also promised to protect the 80,000 to 100,000 Mexicans living in Texas and in the Mexican Cession. (As you will learn in Chapter 17, most of these promises were not kept.)
In Washington, a few senators spoke up to oppose the treaty. Some of them argued that the United States had no right to any Mexican territory other than Texas. They believed that the Mexican War had been unjust and that the treaty was even more so. New Mexico and California together, they said, were “not worth a dollar” and should be returned to Mexico.
Other senators opposed the treaty because they wanted even more land. They wanted the Mexican Cession to include a large part of northern Mexico as well. To most senators, however, the Mexican Cession was a Manifest Destiny dream come true. The Senate ratified the treaty by a vote of 38 to 14.
“From Sea to Shining Sea” A few years later, the United States acquired still more land from Mexico. In 1853, James Gadsden arranged the purchase of a strip of land just south of the Mexican Cession for $10 million. Railroad builders wanted this land because it was relatively flat and could serve as a good railroad route. With the acquisition of this land, known as the Gadsden Purchase, the nation stretched “from sea to shining sea.”
Most Americans were pleased with the new outlines of their country. Still, not everyone rejoiced in this expansion. Until the Mexican War, many people had believed that the United States was too good a nation to bully or invade its weaker neighbors. Now they knew that such behavior was the dark side of Manifest Destiny.
As this map shows, Manifest Destiny was accomplished by the 1850s. The country stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and the present outline of the United States was complete.
15.7 Chapter Summary
In this chapter, you read about how Americans extended their nation to the west and the south. You used a map of America’s acquisitions to study how and why the United States expanded into these territories.
In the 1800s, many Americans believed that they had both the right and the duty (an idea called Manifest Destiny) to spread their way of life across the continent.
America’s first great expansion was the Louisiana Purchase. Next, Florida was added to the United States through a treaty with Spain. A treaty with Great Britain added Oregon Country.
Americans in Texas rebelled against the Mexican government there and created the Lone Star Republic. Ten years later, the United States annexed Texas.
In 1846, the United States went to war with Mexico and acquired California and New Mexico as part of the Mexican Cession. Later, the Gadsden Purchase completed the outline of the contiguous United States.
America’s expansion across the continent was now complete. Yet much of the West was only thinly settled. In the next chapter, you will learn about the people who moved into this vast area.
As the 19th century progressed, more and more settlers were lured to the West by hopes of free land and an independent and prosperous life.
Life in the West
Why are these people moving west?
The vast region that stretches from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean is one of the most extraordinary landscapes on earth. Today, tourists come from all over to see its towering mountains, deep canyons, painted deserts, and fertile plains.
To American settlers from across the Mississippi, this great expanse of grasslands, mountains, and deserts was the West. For all its beauty, the West was a challenging environment. Look at the names settlers gave to its features. Where else can you find a confusion of mountains called the Crazies, a scorching desert named Death Valley, a blood-red canyon called Flaming Gorge, or a raging river known as the River of No Return?
Despite its daunting challenges, the West was never empty. Perhaps as many as 3 million Native Americans lived there before Europeans arrived. These first westerners were far more diverse in language and culture than the Europeans who claimed their land.
For most Americans in the early 1800s, however, the West was mostly a blank map. By 1850, it had become the land of opportunity. The West boasted wide open spaces and great natural wealth in timber, gold, silver, and other resources. It became a magnet for immigrants and for easterners looking for a new start in life. And as Americans began their westward trek, they created new markets for eastern merchants. In time the West changed the nation’s economy and politics. It also created a folklore of “rugged individualism” that has become a lasting part of American culture.
Newspaperman Horace Greeley captured the growing enthusiasm for “going west” when he wrote, “If you have no family or friends to aid you, and no prospect [opportunity] opened to you…turn your face to the great West, and there build up a home and fortune.” In this chapter, you will learn about eight groups of people who turned their faces to the West in the first half of the 1800s. You will find out why they came, what hardships they faced, and what legacy they left.
Graphic Organizer: Illustration
You will use this illustration to learn about the people who settled the West.
16.2 The Explorers
In the early 1800s, a number of expeditions set out from the United States to explore the West. The most famous was the Lewis and Clark expedition, a pet project of President Thomas Jefferson.
The public purpose of the expedition was to make friendly contact with Indian groups that might be interested in trade. Its secret purpose was to find the “Northwest Passage,” a water route across North America that explorers had been seeking ever since Columbus bumped into America. With the purchase of Louisiana from France in 1803, the expedition gained a third purpose—finding out just what the United States had bought.
Up the Missouri River In May 1804, the 45-member expedition left St. Louis, Missouri, in three boats. The group was led by Jefferson’s private secretary, Meriwether Lewis, and his friend William Clark. Its members included soldiers, frontiersmen, and Clark’s slave York.
It was hard going from the first day. Rowing upstream against the Missouri River’s strong current left the explorers’ hands blistered and their muscles sore. Hungry mosquitoes feasted on sunburned faces.
By summer, the explorers had reached Indian country. Most groups welcomed the strangers, and York fascinated the Indians. They had never seen a black man before. Again and again, wrote Clark in his journal, York allowed his skin to be rubbed with a wet finger to prove “that he was not a painted white man.”
The explorers made camp for the winter near a Mandan village in what is now North Dakota. There, a French fur trapper joined them along with his 16-year-old wife, a Shoshone woman named Sacagawea, and their infant son. As a girl, Sacagawea had been kidnapped from her people by another group. Lewis and Clark hoped she would translate for them when they reached Shoshone country.
This painting shows members of the Lewis and Clark expedition at Three Forks, Montana. The woman is Sacagawea. To her right are Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and Clark’s slave, York.
To the Pacific and Back In the spring of 1805, the explorers set out once more. As they moved up the Missouri, their progress was slowed by rapids and waterfalls. When they hauled their boats by land around these obstacles, the thorns of the prickly-pear cactus pierced their feet. Meanwhile, grizzly bears raided their camps, and game became scarce.
By late summer, the explorers could see the Rocky Mountains looming ahead. To cross the mountains before the first snows of winter closed the high passes, they would have to find horses—and soon.
Fortunately, the expedition had reached the land of Sacagawea’s childhood. One day a group of Indians approached. To Sacagawea’s great joy, they proved to be Shoshone. Learning that her brother was now a Shoshone chief, Sacagawea persuaded him to provide the explorers with the horses they desperately needed.
The explorers made it over the Rockies, but they were more dead than alive. The Nez Percé, an Indian people living in the Pacific Northwest, saved them from starvation. A grateful Lewis wrote in his journal that the Nez Percé “are the most hospitable, honest and sincere [people] that we have met with on our voyage.”
As winter closed in, the explorers reached their final destination, the Pacific Ocean. Clark marked the event by carving on a tree, “William Clark December 3rd 1805 By Land from the U. States.”
The Explorers’ Legacy After a wet and hungry winter in Oregon, the explorers headed homeward. In September 1806, two years and four months after setting out, they returned to St. Louis. Lewis proudly wrote to Jefferson, “In obedience to our orders, we have penetrated the continent of North America to the Pacific Ocean.”
Lewis and Clark had good reason to be proud. They had not found the Northwest Passage, for it did not exist. But they had traveled some 8,000 miles. They had mapped a route to the Pacific. They had established good relations with western Indians. Most of all, they had brought back priceless information about the West and its peoples.
Other explorers added to this legacy and helped prepare the way for the settlement of the West. In 1806, the same year Lewis and Clark returned to St. Louis, 26-year-old army lieutenant Zebulon Pike set out to explore the southern part of the new Louisiana Territory. Pike and his party traveled up the valley of the Arkansas River into present-day Colorado. There Pike saw the mountain that today is called Pikes Peak.
Pike went on to explore Spanish territory along the Rio Grande and the Red River. His reports of the wealth of Spanish towns in the Southwest brought many American traders to the region. But Pike was not impressed with the landscape. He called the West a “Great American Desert.”
Another famed explorer, John C. Frémont, helped to correct this image. Nicknamed “the Pathfinder,” Frémont mapped much of the territory between the Mississippi Valley and the Pacific Ocean in the 1840s. His glowing descriptions of a “land of plenty” inspired many families to try their luck in the West.
Zebulon Pike’s published reports of his expedition spurred American interest in the Southwest. Part of his path would become the Santa Fe Trail, used by thousands of pioneers.
Lewis and Clark Expedition
1. What details do you see on this map?
2. What specific geographic features did Lewis and Clark encounter?
3. What challenges might these features have created for them?
4. What other challenges might Lewis and Clark have faced on their expedition?
Image A: August 3, 1804. Excerpts from William Clark’s journal: “chiefs,” “long speech,” “wishes of our government,” “trading,” and “a canister of (gun) powder.”
Image B: November 3, 1804. Excerpts from William Clark’s journal: “plenty of timber,” “building,” “our camp,” and “we received a visit from Kagohami.”
Image C: March 9, 1805. Excerpts from William Clark’s journal: “grand chief of the Minnetarees,” “surprised,” “examined him closely,” and “wash off paint.”
Image D: August 6, 1805. Excerpts from Meriwether Lewis’s journal: “rapid current,” “baggage wet,” “several articles lost,” and “thrown out of one of the canoes.”
Image E: August 17, 1805. Excerpts from William Clark’s journal: “companions in childhood,” “embraced with the most tender affection,” “conference,” and “interpret.”
Image F: November 3, 1805. Excerpts from Joseph Whitehouse’s journal: “fog so thick…we cannot see,” “met several Indians in a canoe,” “they signed to us,” and “two hundred miles…to the ocean.”
16.3 The Californios
If Lewis and Clark had turned south from Oregon after reaching the Pacific, they would have found Spain’s best-kept secret, a sun-drenched land called California.
The California Missions In 1769, a Spanish missionary named Junipero Serra led soldiers and priests north from Mexico to California. Serra’s goal was to convert the California Indians to Christianity. To do this, he began a chain of missions that eventually stretched from San Diego to just north of San Francisco. Each mission controlled a huge area of land, as well as the Indians who worked it.
Although the missionaries meant well, the missions were deadly to native Californians. Indians were sometimes treated harshly, and thousands died of diseases brought to California by the newcomers.
Settlers followed the missionaries to California. “We were the pioneers of the Pacific coast,” wrote Guadalupe Vallejo, “building pueblos [towns] and missions while George Washington was carrying on the war of the Revolution.” To reward soldiers and attract settlers, the Spanish began the practice of making large grants of land.
When Mexico won its independence in 1821, California came under Mexican rule. In 1833, the Mexican government closed the missions. Half of the mission land was supposed to go to Indians. Mexico, however, established its own system of land grants in the Southwest and gave most of California’s mission lands to soldiers and settlers. The typical Spanish-speaking Californian, or Californio, was granted a rancho of 50,000 acres or more.
Life on the Ranchos Life on the ranchos combined hard work and the occasional fiesta, or social gathering. Most families lived in simple adobe houses with dirt floors. The Californios produced almost everything they needed at home. Indian servants did much of the work.
The ranchos were so huge that neighbors lived at least a day’s journey apart. As a result, strangers were always welcome for the news they brought of the outside world. During weddings and fiestas, Californios celebrated with singing, dancing, and brilliant displays of horsemanship.
In the 1830s, cattle ranching became California’s most important industry. Cattle provided hides and tallow (beef fat) to trade for imported goods brought by ship. An American sailor named Richard Henry Dana described the goods his trading ship carried to California:
The prosperity and pride of the Californios is evident in this painting, Hacendado y Su Mayordomo, meaning “The Landowner and His Foreman.”