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Westward Expansion Study Guide
The Great Plains
Physical features/climate of the Great Plains• Flatlands that rise gradually from east to west• Land eroded by wind and water - • Low rainfall• Frequent dust storms How did people’s perceptions and use of the Great Plains change after the Civil War? 1850-1890 - Before 1860, those who crossed the Mississippi generally traveled all the way to the west coast. Few settled in the Great Plains.
Before the Civil War, the Great Plains were considered a "treeless wasteland".
Encouraged by the Homestead Act of 1862 which gave willing farmers land on the Great Plains, and new technologies which allowed people to live in more challenging environments, farmers and immigrants flocked to the Great Plains during the decades after the Civil War. People began to see the Great Plains no as a "treeless wasteland" but as a vast area to be settled.
How did people adapt to life in challenging environments? Some of the innovations and technologies that encouraged settlement of the Great Plains and help people adapt to the challenging environment of the Great Plains were:
• Railroads1860-1890 The railroad network in the US grew fast. The Transcontinental Railroad, completed in 1869, was made of many different lines. It linked the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and opened the vast interior to people who wanted to settle there. The railroad made trade between different parts of the country easier, encouraging industrial and economic growth
• Beef Cattle Raising In the early 1800s, cattle ranches began appearing on the Great Plains, especially in Texas. Demand for beef was high, and as railroads developed, ranchers would drive their cattle north to meet up with the lines.
• Barbed wireThe invention of barbed wire allowed farmers to keep cattle from nearby ranches off their fields and away from their crops.
• Wheat farming Farmers adopted an improved strain of Russian wheat which required less water and grew well in the dryer soil of the Great Plains.
• Steel plows With improved steel plows, farmers could break up the tough soil.
• Sod housesLacking trees and other materials, settlers on the Great Plains built their homes from sod, a sort of packed dirt held together by roots and cut into squares. • Windmills New models of windmills were used throughout the Great Plains to pump water from the ground and to provide power.
Why did westward expansion occur?
Opportunities for land ownership
The Homestead Act of 1862 provided that any adult citizen (or person intending to become a citizen) who headed a family could qualify for a grant of 160 acres of public land by paying a small registration fee and living on the land continuously for five years.
Technological advances, including the Transcontinental Railroad
Railroads could reach interior areas, including places where an inadequate water supply or rough terrain made canals impossible. By 1840, the United States had almost three thousand miles of track; by 1860, a network of thirty thousand miles linked most of the nation's major cities and towns.
Possibility of wealth created by the discovery of gold and silver
California Gold rush of 1849 was followed by new discoveries of gold and silver between 1857 and 1890. Prospectors swarmed to the mines where gold and silver were found.
Some people thought that life in the West was filled with adventure. Young men were drawn to the cowboy life.
A new beginning for former slaves
Few of the freed slaves could afford to own land and most worked as sharecroppers, work not very different from what they did as slaves. Thousands of black families took advantage of the opportunity to become homesteaders on the Plains.
Sitting Bull- led Native American warriors in a fierce battle against General George Custer (The Battle of Little Big Horn) Thousands of Sioux defeated Custer. Custer and all his soldiers were killed, and the battle became known as “Custer’s Last Stand”
Chief Joseph- Educated by Christian Missionaries. Led the Nez Perce tribe. Known for his surrendering speech. “I will fight no more…forever.”
Geronimo- Apache Indian who fought against settlers and US soldiers. Known for his great bravery.
Native children were taken from their homes at a very young age
They were sent to schools hundreds of miles away from their homes
They were forced to give up their clothing and wear the clothes of the Americans.
Impact on American Indians
Forced relocation from traditional lands to reservations
Reduced population through warfare and disease
Reduced their homelands through treaties that were broken
ns, and new technologies which allowed people to live in more challenging environments, farmers and immigrants flocked to the Great Plains during the decades after the Civil War. People began to see the Great Plains no as a "treeless wasteland" but as a vast area to be settled.
Chief Joseph- Educated by Christia