U. S. History
Westward Expansion

Expansion of Railroads 

§    before the Civil War, most railroads were short lines that connected neighboring cities

§    there was no standard gauge of track

§    each town had its own time - this made railroad schedules difficult

§    1883, the railroads began using time zones and standard time

§    from 1865 to 1900 the number of miles of railroad track in the United States increased from 35,0000 to 200,000 (471%)

§    expansion of the railroads into the West was significant in opening the West to expansion

§    Pacific Railway Acts of 1862 & 1864 gave large amounts of western land to the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads

§    railroads sold this land to settlers in the late 1800s

§  huge loans were given by the government 

§    in 1862 work began on the transcontinental railroad

§    rail would run from Omaha, NE to Sacramento, CA

§    Central Pacific Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad constructed the rail

§    Central Pacific used Chinese workers, had to get through mountain range

§    Union Pacific used Irish workers

§  Contract Labor Act of 1864 encouraged immigration to the United States

§  after 7 years, the two railroads met in 1869 at Promontory Point, Utah

Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882

§  signed into law by Chester A. Arthur on May 8, 1882

§  a similar act in 1878 had been vetoed by Rutherford B. Hayes

§  banned immigration from China

§  California went further in its discrimination against the Chinese by passing discriminatory laws

§  many laws were later held to be unconstitutional

§  newspapers around the country and especially in California started to discredit and blame the Chinese for things like crime and white unemployment

§  the Scott Act (1888) expanded upon the Chinese Exclusion Act, prohibiting reentry after leaving the U.S.

Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862

§  gave land grants to states and established the Dept. of Agriculture

§  offered 30,000 acres for each U.S. senator and representative

§  states could sell part of the land for $ .50 an acre to fund agricultural colleges

§  colleges and universities created as a result of the Morrill Act are known as “land grant universities”

§  land speculators and banks bought most of the land and resold it to settlers at a profit

Homestead Act of 1862

§  gave 160 acres of land to anyone who met the requirements

            1. must be at least 21 or the head of a family

            2. must be American citizens or immigrants who had filed for citizenship

            3. must pay $10 registration fee

            4. must farm the land actively for five consecutive years before receiving final title to the land

§  more land was added with the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867

§  U.S. paid $7.2 mil for 586,400 square miles of territory (2.5 cents per acre)

§  the purchase was negotiated by Secretary of State William Seward

§  it was derided as “Seward’s Folly” and Alaska was called “Seward’s Ice Box”

§  thousands of people migrated west after the Civil War

§  three main groups were southern whites, freed slaves, and immigrants


African Americans 

§  many blacks moved west following the Civil War to become farmers and cowboys

§  1879, Benjamin "Pap" Singleton helped lead a mass Exodus of blacks from the South to Kansas

§  blacks who left the South and migrated west to become farmers became known as "Exodusters"

§  wanted to escape racial violence 


Farming on the Plains 

§  the Great Plains is on the leeward side of the Rocky Mtns. and typically receives little rainfall

§  settlers on the Great Plains dug wells which had to be very deep to reach water

§  used windmills to pump the water

§  growing season could be short and weather extreme

§  crops were often destroyed by drought, fire, or cold

§  "sodbusters" on the Great Plains had to break through thick sod in order to farm

§  this was made easier by the invention of the steel plow by John Deere

§  farmers developed a technique known as dry farming to help conserve water

§  new machines, such as the mechanical reaper and later the steam powered tractor helped increase output

§  businesses bought and farmed large tracts of land

§  became known as bonanza farms

§  as supply increased, farm prices decreased

§  many small farmers could not compete

§  many were in debt 


A Frontier for Women 

§  under the Homestead Act, women were able to file claims

§  women often stayed on the land to secure the claim while the men left to find work

§  1887, Syracuse and Argonia, KS gave women the right to vote

§  1890, Wyoming became the first state to give women the right to vote


The Indian Wars

§  after the Civil War, railroads were built across Native American lands in the West

§  settlers began moving in and taking away Indian lands

§  settlers ignored treaties protecting Indian lands

§  Indians fought to keep their land and preserve their way of life

§  the government adopted a policy of concentration and began forcing Indians onto reservations

§  many violently resisted

§  living conditions on Indian reservations were generally very bad

§  because of fraud, Indians often did not receive what was allotted to them

§  the Navajo and Apache Wars began in the Southwest in 1861

§  the Navajo agreed to settle on a reservation in New Mexico in 1865

§  some Apache leaders surrendered between 1871 and 1873, but many continued to fight

§  Geronimo led Apache resistance until he was captured in 1886

                        ~ Once I moved like the wind. Now I surrender to you, and that is all. [Geronimo]

§  General George Crook led army efforts to end the war [he also helped subdue the Sioux in 1876]

§  1860s & 1870s the Cheyenne were devasted

§  1864, U.S. Army troops led by Colonel John Chivington murdered 450 Cheyenne Indians, including women and children, at Sand Creek in CO

§  became known as the Chivington Massacre, aka Sand Creek Massacre

§  First Sioux War began in 1865 when the federal government decided to build a road across Sioux lands to connect the mining towns of Bozeman and Virginia City

§  Sioux warriors ambushed and killed more than 80 soldiers near Ft. Kearny in Dec. 1866

§  the federal government signed a treaty allowing Indians to keep land in the Black Hills and promised to protect that land from settlers

§  "thar's gold in tem thar hills"

§  one of the richest gold strikes in American history was discovered in the Black Hills

§  Second Sioux War began in 1875 when the federal government allowed gold prospectors onto Sioux land in the Black Hills of South Dakota, violating an earlier treaty with the Sioux

§  Chief Sitting Bull lead the Sioux off of the reservation

§  June 1876, Col. George A. Custer and the 7th cavalry were sent to bring the Sioux back

§  he caught up to the Indians led by Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse at the Little Bighorn River in Montana

§  Custer and his soldiers were killed

§  1890, while the Sioux were handing over their weapons, soldiers opened fire, killing more than 200 unarmed Sioux

§  became known as the Massacre at Wounded Knee

§  Wounded Knee was the last military confrontation between the United States Native American tribes

§  Jan. 1889, a Paiute Indian, Wavoka or Jack Wilson, had a revelation during a total eclipse of the sun

§  began a religious movement that would become known as the Ghost Dance

§  Indians believed would reunite them with friends and relatives in the ghost world

§  Indians began dancing and singing the songs of the Ghost Dance to would cause the world to open up and swallow all other people while the Indians and their friends would remain

§  the unity and fervor that the Ghost Dance Movement inspired spurred only fear and hysteria among white settlers which ultimately contributed to the events ending in the massacre at Wounded Knee


Chief Joseph

§  the Nez Perce' inhabited a large region in the Northwest

§  in the 1850s and 1860s some signed treaties agreeing to sell their lands to the federal government

§  the largest group refused to sell

§  lived in the Wallowa Valley

§  Chief  Joseph became their leader in 1871

§  Gen. Oliver Otis Howard ordered him and his people onto a reservation in Idaho

§  to avoid the destruction of his people, Chief Joseph decided to comply

§  before he could do so a group of Nez Perce' youths attacked a group of settlers who had been accused of stealing Nez Perce' horses

§  the Nez Perce' now faced war with the federal government

§  Chief Joseph wanted to fight but others wanted to escape to Canada

§  only 40 miles from Canada they were captured and sent to the Indian Territory

§  I will fight no more forever. ~ Chief Joseph

§  many died from heat and malaria including Chief Joseph's children


Native Cultures Destroyed

§  some whites became angry at the poor treatment of Indians

§  Helen Hunt Jackson's 1881 book, A Century of Dishonor, help begin a national Indian Rights movement

§  many reformers sought to "help" the Indians by making them like whites

§  1884, the government passed a law forbidding Indians from practicing their religion

§  1887, the Dawes Act gave separate plots of land to each Native American family headed by a male

§  most of the land was not suited for farming

§  many Native Americans had little experience with farming and little desire to become like the white man

§  speculators cheated Indians out of most of the land

§  the Dawes Act was an attempt to assimilate Indians into American culture

§  late 1800’s, the goal of the Federal Government’s policy toward Native American Indians was to destroy tribal bonds and thus weaken their traditional cultural values


The Fate of Indian Territory 

§  in the 1830s, the federal government forced Southeastern Indians from their homes and into an area west of the Mississippi River that became known as Indian Territory

§  the government promised not to allow white settlers

§  after the Civil War, as thousands fled the South and as thousands of immigrants arrived in eastern cities, settlers began moving into the territory

§  the government at first made a partial effort to stop them

§  1889, Congress responded to pressure from squatters and would be settlers and opened nearly 2 million acres of Indian Territory to settlers

§  settlers were to be allowed to enter at noon on April 22

§  thousands lined up at the border awaiting the appointed time, they became known as boomers

§  many others sneaked in early, they were known as sooners

§  Congress created the Oklahoma Territory May 2, 1890

§  1891, the remainder of Indian Territory was opened to settlers

§  1907, Oklahoma became a state


The Cattle Industry 

§  open plains offered unlimited grazing land

§  at the end of the Civil War, cattle that sold for $3-$5 each in Texas could bring $30-$50 each in Chicago or St. Louis

§  Texas had no railroads

§  cattle drives took cattle north to railheads that became "cowtowns"

§  Abilene, KS was the first town established specifically for receiving and transporting cattle

§  established by J.G McCoy in 1867

§  other "cowtowns" were: Cheyenne, WY; Dodge City, KS; and Ellsworth, KS

§  specific routes, or trails were used to drive cattle

§  Goodnight-Loving Trail to Cheyenne, Chisolm Trail to Abilene, Western Trail to Dodge City

§  many cowboys were either black or Mexican

§  Mexican cowboys were known as vaqueros

§  the cattle boom ended in the mid-1880s

§  1874, Joseph Glidden invented barbed wire

§  western range land began to be fenced in

§  the cattle market was over supplied

§  range land was overgrazed

§  in the winter of 1885-86 cold weather killed many cattle

§  some ranchers lost up to 85% of their herd to freezing and starvation


Boom and Bust on the Mining Frontier  

§  gold and silver were discovered at many places in the west

§  many people came expecting to strike it rich

§  1859, gold was discovered near Virginia City, NV by Pat McLaughlin and Peter O'Reilly

§  while digging for gold, miners were slowed by a strange blue mud

§  it was discovered that the blue mud was actually silver ore

§  a rich vein of silver - "lode" - ran throughout the region

§  became known as the Comstock Lode

§  named for Henry Comstock who cheated McLaughlin and O'Reilly out of the property

§  much of the silver was deep underground

§  Philipp Deidesheimer developed a new way of supporting mines called "square set" timbering that allowed the mines to go deep enough to reach the ore

§  some mines were 3,000 feet underground

§  heat increased 5 degrees Fahrenheit every hundred feet

§  work time was reduced to 15 minutes out of each hour, and the ice allotment went up to 95 pounds a day per man

§  among those who became wealthy as a result of the silver strike was George Hearst, father of William Randolph Hearst

§  different mining techniques were developed to deal specific conditions at different sites

§  placer mining was widely used

§  hydraulic mining was very harmful to the environment

§  quartz mining

Ghost Towns

§  news of a mineral strike in an area would start a stampede of prospectors

§  almost overnight, the town near the strike would go from a frontier outpost to a boomtown of thousands of people

§  shops, hotels, newspapers, and other businesses would open to serve the people

§  when the mineral veins were exhausted the mines would close

§  without the mines, the town’s economy would collapse, and most people would move on in search of new opportunities

§  cycle of boom and bust was repeated throughout the mountainous West



The West by 1900 

§  1890 census reported for the first time that there was no longer a frontier in America

§  "Up to our own day American history is the history of the colonization of the Great West. The existence of an area of free land, and the advance of American settlement westward explain American development."

§  1893, historian Frederick Jackson Turner claimed that the frontier had played a central role in forming the American character

§  the frontier produced highly individualistic, restless, and socially mobile Americans

§  frontier life created Americans who were ready for adventure, bent on self-improvement, and committed to democracy

§  this became known as the Turner thesis

§  Turner defined settlers as whites and made no distinction between the experiences of women and men

§  one characteristic of the American frontier continues to be an important part of life in the United States today 

§  significant opportunities for social and economic mobility 


Frontier Realities 

§  many western settlers were either recent immigrants or people who had left the South after the Civil war

§  thousands of blacks served as soldiers in the army

§  they were known as buffalo soldiers 


Frontier Myths and National Identity 

§  the romanticized image of the American cowboy began with dime novels in the 1870s

§  writers transformed real figures from the west into larger than life characters

§  1883, Wm. F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody began touring with his Wild West show

§  books and Wild West shows helped create a stereotype of the west

§  some of the very first motion pictures were westerns which were based on these stereotypes

§  early movies had no sound and relied on these stereotypes to develop characters and plot lines

§  William S. Hart was one of the earliest western movie stars

§  he helped invent the western movie genre