The Agricultural West

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by Ahenobarbus
Last updated 8 years ago

Social Studies
American History

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The Agricultural West


Mining FrontierThe mining frontier began as rugged individual efforts, (49ers in CA; 59ers in CO). As the surface ores were mined away, corporations took over. When miners steamed into the area to reap ores from rock, boomtown “Helldorados” sprouted; as the miners moved on, the boomtowns became “ghost towns.”

Ranching FrontierWhen railroads first took off, companies owned land for settlers to develop. Cattle Kingdom: Cowboys herded cattle in the “Long Drive” from Southern Texas to the Kansas railroads; from the railroads, cattle were shipped to the East and farmers from the East came to the west. Farmers claimed the land, and cowboys faded into American myth. These expansions happened jointly with the displacement of Indian populations.

Four-oxen plow: The four-oxen plow allowed farmers to break the sod of what used to be known as the “Great American Desert.” Because of “sod-busting,” the land became more fertile.

Iron-barbs: Farmers using iron-barb fences were able to enclose their land. This kept the land away from the displaced Indian tribes as well as the cattle-drivers.

Major obstacles for farmers:160 acres was insufficient;slash and burn farming often drained nutrients in the soil; the massive cowherds trampling fields.

Role of GovernmentThe government took a very active role in settling the West, from supporting the Railroads to the Homestead Act of 1962.Railroad constructionConstruction of the railroads was made possible by loans and subsidies by the Federal Government to the various railroad companies. The first major project was begun by the Union Pacific Railroad company during the beginning of the civil war.HomesteadsFollowing the succession of the South the newly Republican controlled Congress passed the Homestead Act of 1862 to settle the West. The Act authorized the Government to sell Western lands to prospective farmers for a sum of $30 and 160 acres for five years.


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