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PIONEERS. The term "pioneer" now encompasses nearly all endeavors or persons that are first in any new movement: geographic, intellectual, scientific, or cultural. Historically, however, "pioneer" refers to nineteenth-century American frontier settlers. The American frontier consisted of several enterprises: the mining frontier, the logging frontier, the farming frontier, and others. Migrating into the American West, pioneers kept their own culture and superimposed it on the established Indian or Hispanic cultures. Most settled in communities in which social control through voluntary organizations and gendered roles maintained economic and social stability. While some pioneers were bound together by religion, such as Mormon communities, most were linked through self-interest. Many migrants relocated with friends and family, establishing themselves as a community in rural areas, or as a separate community within a larger urban area, such as the Chinese in San Francisco. Occasionally, individuals broke away from initial communities to create new settlements, but usually did so with others of similar backgrounds, reinforcing cultural identity and group connectedness.

Unmarried individuals, usually male, were likely to seek urban areas, mining camps, or cattle towns, where they could market their labor. Males outnumbered females throughout the pioneer period in the West, except

in rural areas marked by family farms. Single males with few assets created anxiety in communities where there were few institutions that could ameliorate discontent or disruption. Communities established churches, schools, and voluntary organizations as mechanisms to counter the rise of prostitution, and saloons as gathering places for unattached laborers.


White, Richard. "It's Your Misfortune and None of My Own": A History of the American West. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991.

Laurie WinnCarlson

See alsoFrontier ; West, American ; andvol. 9:Across the Plains to California in 1852 ; The Oregon Trail ; A Pioneer Woman's Letter Home, c. 1856 .