Westin Arthur Goodspeed, 1852 – 1926 (Monograph 33)

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Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

By Dr. William “Bill” Ambrose

Westin Arthur Goodspeed, 1852 – 1926, recognized a need for preserving and sharing general histories of various states, regions, and counties.  He was a successful Nashville, Tennessee publisher seeking more material that would be of interest to a broad audience to put into print and sell.  He developed a basic template for his series of state, region, and county histories that included general history, geography, settlement patterns, early political development, economics, and other topics including Native American history.  He set a new standard in describing the Native American local history by avoiding common previously used derogatory references, instead, just sticking with the facts of their occupation of the land and the civilizations they created.  Remember that many writers in and out of government prior to Goodspeed used references to “uncivilized savages” commonly, for example.  Goodspeed’s telling of the Native American footprint on these lands gave their story a “matter of fact” feel, a genuineness, a human purposefulness that transformed the “Indian Epic” into a human story.  Effectively, he elevated the Native American occupational history by “uncivilized savages” to a human story of various forms of “civilization,” albeit, very different from that and prior times perceptions of “American civil society.”  His fresh approach to the telling of Native American history was not, unfortunately, popular or re-engaged until the 1940’s.

Significantly for Trail of Tears researchers, he included biographies of many important residents of the focus areas of his histories.  Most of the people Lt. Cannon, leader of the first Cherokee Detachment through this region, bought food and supplies from were leaders in agriculture and business across his route in Missouri, and would have been subjects of his biographies.  Very few of those leaders were still alive after the 50-year time-lapse between the 1837 – 1839 Trail of Tears and Goodspeed’s writing and publishing of his histories, but their families were still in the area, many occupying the same farm or business.  Goodspeed’s era biographies, however, often include biographical information about those subjects’ ancestors who did do business with Cannon selling him essential supplies for his detachment of Cherokees on what became known as the Trail of Tears.

Goodspeed’s histories became very popular during his lifetime, and have continued that popularity with contemporary readers and researchers as they provide a snapshot of Missouri and several other states’ social, cultural, commercial, educational, and religious conditions in the 1880’s.  His volumes have been reprinted many times, many being available on the internet today. 

Goodspeed’s Pulaski County, Missouri, history is included in his “History of Laclede, Camden, Dallas, Webster. Wright, Texas. Pulaski, Phelps and Dent Counties, Missouri.”  It was published by THE GOODSPEED PUBLISHING CO. in 1889.  As mentioned, Goodspeed many times included Native American historical information in his books, which he did for Pulaski County in this volume.  As the Missouri Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association is in pursuit of the congressional goals of the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail across Missouri, it is surely important to recognize the significant Native American history and story of Missouri. 

To showcase that, the following is a long, direct quote under the heading of “Settlement and Pioneer History” in the Pulaski County section of the volume previously mentioned above.  Several of the individuals named here are early Pulaski County inhabitants and descendants of subjects of other vignettes in this website’s monograph series.   Enjoy! 

CWD: Insert Monograph 35

3D Diorama Along the Trail of Tears

By William Ambrose

On the western side of the state of Missouri, the Trail of Tears is generally the Springfield to St. Louis Road.  The General Land Office (GLO) surveyors, those earliest government surveyors who surveyed the unsettled frontier lands ahead of any land sales, were required to draw the existing roads on the township plats beginning at about the time they surveyed the western half of Missouri.  The Springfield to St. Louis Road was pre-historic – it was a trace on the ground from Springfield to St. Louis used by Native Americans for travel for trade and hunting long before Americans arrived in the state.  The GLOs were the building blocks of President Jefferson’s rectilinear survey system, known as the Public Land Survey System, created by the Land Ordinance of 1785, a federal law. The system was laid out in 6-mile-by-6-mile squares, each square being known by its north-south “Township” number and its east-west “Range” number. 


By William Ambrose

From 1837 to 1839, the Federal Government forcibly removed 17,000 Cherokees from their centuries-old homelands in Georgia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, and Alabama.  The Cherokee families were rounded up at gunpoint by Federal troops, held prisoner in detention camps, divided up into detachments of about 1000 people, and then forced to walk the 1000 miles to “Indian Territory,” now Oklahoma. Approximately 4000 died during that process. 

If you have any suggestions, comments, or critiques please email Chris.Dunn@GeoVelo.com

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