This could be dismissed as ‘the grass is always greener’. There were however a number of factors involved. These included the search for precious metal, the possibility of obtaining land and the expansion of the railways. Although usually described as a move west, it was to some extent also a move south as in the case of those seeking gold and silver in Californian mines as a result of the accidental finding of gold by James Marshall in 1848 as described by Steve Weigand on the web page ‘The California Gold Rush, an era remembered. Land was seen as a form of wealth and the majority of those who migrated to America did so in the hope of obtaining land to farm.
Under British rule Europeans had been restricted in their settlement to the area east of the Appalachians, but after the Revolutionary War this inhibition was removed and so people streamed south and west. Later, with the coming of the railways, markets in the north could be served from further west. This allowed the great expansion of cities such as New York and Chicago.
In the years immediately before the American Civil War in the 1860’s the railways had built up into quite a network serving the eastern states, but afterwards they gradually spread over the rest of the country. This meant that people no longer had to spend many weeks of hardship in order to reach their destination and so the tiny townships already established by earlier settlers were quickly expanded new comers seeking for themselves and their families a better life.
The Irish potato famine of the 1840’s as described on the History Place web page, ‘The Blight Begins’ led to many immigrants from that country, the majority would not have been city folk, so it is perhaps natural that some migrated to the western states where they saw at least some hope for their future, just like all the other migrants.