The most critical component of pioneer life was risk, as people left behind all they knew for an unknown future. Days were filled with grueling travel, incessant work and the threat of violence arising between themselves, criminals and native peoples.
Pioneers hoped life in the West would improve their lots in life. New England farmers hoped for more fertile land and larger portions of it. Immigrants were seduced by the idea of possessing their own land outright in a new country. While some traveled West in iconic covered wagons laden with supplies, others traveled with next to nothing, perhaps only an axe and a rifle. Some brought as much as they could, including farming equipment and livestock, to help get established when they reached their destination.
Most pioneers cleared their land when they arrived, clearing fields until their acreage was suitable for plowing. Before building a cabin, pioneers often took saplings and built a lean-to shelter as a temporary residence out of the weather.
Pioneer life demanded constant self-reliance. Woman were obliged to furnish all the family's clothes, along with sundry household goods, such as candles and soap, crafted out of materials such as tallow and wood ash. Because the labor of every capable hand was needed for survival, schooling and literacy took a back seat to practical, everyday knowledge and industry on the farm.