NASA: History Along the Track
The path of the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse has been crossed by the tracks of 15 previous eclipses over the continental United States between 1503 and 1970.
This means that by standing on these various intersection points in space, we can imagine ourselves taking a hop-skotch of steps back in time to explore the history of this continent:
1618 – This eclipse finds us in Idaho in the midst of the Shoshone Nation. The colony of Jamestown, Virginia had been founded in May 1607 by the colonists of the London Company, but did not survive. A small pox epidemic in New England decimated the Native American populations in that region within a few years. Back in the Old World, Johannes Kepler announced his Third Law of Planetary Motion on May 15, 1618. A decade before, Galileo Galilee had devised the first astronomical telescope and made revolutionary discoveries.
1679 – We join the Cheyenne Nation in what is now Wyoming. Although some settlers had founded Duluth, Minnesota by this time, before 1776, the West was of high priority for settlers and politicians and was essentially any part of the interior of the continent beyond the fringe of existing settlements along the Atlantic coast. These regions of the continent were still reserved for explorers and trappers, who traveled through Cheyenne territory very carefully and usually unwelcomed.
1724 – The second eclipse to pass through Wyoming arrived on May 22 of this year. The historic Indians in Wyoming were nomadic tribes known as the Plains Indians. They were the Arapaho, Arikara, Bannock, Blackfeet, Cheyenne, Crow, Gros Ventre, Kiowa, Nez Perce, Sheep Eater, Sioux, Shoshone and Ute tribes. Of all of these tribes, the Cheyenne and Sioux were the last of the Indians to be controlled and placed on reservations. By 1742 Francois Louis Verendyne entered Wyoming, discovered Big Horn Mountains
1834 – We in Wyoming with the Cheyenne Nation to watch the November 30 total solar eclipse. Artist George Catlin (1796–1872) traveled up the Missouri as far as North Dakota, producing accurate paintings of Native American culture. Helping settlers move westward were the emigrant "guide books" of the 1840s featuring route information supplied by the fur traders and the Frémont expeditions, and promising fertile farm land beyond the Rockies. With more emigrants from the East passing through these regions headed westward, more encounters with Native Americans were inevitable. Military posts such as Fort Laramie were established to maintain order in the area. In 1851, the first Treaty of Fort Laramie was signed between the United States and representatives of Native American nations to ensure peace and the safety of settlers on the trails.
1878 – The July 28 eclipse again finds us in the Shoshone Nation in what is now Wyoming, but by now the fragile peace between the Native Americans and Westerners had dissolved into warfare. As encounters between settlers and Indians grew more serious in 1865, Major General Grenville M. Dodge ordered the first Powder River Expedition to attempt to quell the violence. The expedition ended in a battle against the Arapaho in the Battle of the Tongue River. The next year the fighting escalated into Red Cloud's War which was the first major military conflict between the United States and the Wyoming Indian tribes. The second Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868 ended the war by closing the Powder River Country to whites. Violation of this treaty by miners in the Black Hills lead to the Black Hills War in 1876, which was fought mainly along the border of Wyoming and Montana. Meanwhile, The Union Pacific Railroad played a central role in the settlement of Wyoming. The land was good for cattle ranches, but without transportation it was too far for a cattle drive. The UP reached the town of Cheyenne, which later became the state capital, in 1867. The railroad eventually spanned the entire state, boosting the population, and creating some of Wyoming's largest cities, such as Laramie, Rock Springs and Evanston. After the arrival of the railroad, the population began to grow steadily in the Wyoming Territory, which was established on July 25, 1868.
1889 – This eclipse finds us in Idaho. During this time, the region was part of an unorganized territory known as Oregon Country, claimed by both the United States and Great Britain. In 1853, areas north of the 46th Parallel became Washington Territory, splitting what is now Idaho in two. The first of several gold rushes in Idaho began in 1860 at Pierce in present-day Clearwater County. The original Idaho Territory included most of the areas that later became the states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, and had a population of under 17,000. Idaho Territory assumed the boundaries of the modern state in 1868 and was admitted as a state on July 3, 1890.