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Explaining the influence of geography on the migration of Virginians into western territories.



  • In this lesson, students will understand how geography influenced the movement of people and ideas as Virginians moved to and beyond the Virginia frontier.

  • Ask students the following questions: “Where did most people settle when the colony was getting started?” (the Coastal Plains, Tidewater, and Piedmont) “How did most people make their living?” (farming) “What was the major crop?” (tobacco)

  • Explain that after the American Revolution, Virginia’s agricultural base began to change, and as a result large numbers of Virginians moved west and to the deep South to find better farmland and new opportunities.

  • Ask, “Why do people move?” List the responses on a chart.

  • Guide students to understand the following geographic influences:

    • Tobacco farming was hard on the soil, causing many farmers to look west and south for new land to farm.
    • Virginians migrated into western territories looking for large areas of land and new opportunities.
    • As Virginians moved, they took their traditions, ideas, and cultures with them.
    • Settlers crossed the Appalachian Mountains through the Cumberland Gap as they migrated to new lands in the west.

  • Explain that for almost 200 years, Virginians had been planting tobacco, and that over the course of time, the soil’s nutrients had begun to deteriorate. That caused problems for farmers trying to make a profit with tobacco. Therefore, Virginians had to find new land and new opportunities.

  • Ask, “Where do you think they moved?” Explain that most migrated west and south in search of better farmland. (Settlers crossed over the Appalachian Mountains through the Cumberland Gap as they migrated to new lands in the west.)

  • Show a picture map of Virginia and have students determine which mountains were crossed in the western migration.

  • If desk maps are available, have students plot routes in these directions.

  • Review the groups of people who settled in Virginia and where they settled. Remind students that these people had different traditions, ideas, and cultures, and the newly settled communities would reflect their traditions, ideas, and cultures.

  • Optional: Have students read a teacher-selected book about the migration of Virginians into western territories.

  • Ask students to list additional factors that may influence migration. Write the list on the board. Ask students to classify the factors into categories: economic, social, political, and environmental. The same factors can also be categorized as "push" or "pull." Push factors drive people away from their previous location, while pull factors draw people to a new location.

  • Review that as Virginians migrated, they took their traditions, ideas and cultures with them.




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Updated on August 11, 2008.