Presentation on theme: "The Great Plains Story. The Great Plains are located near the center of the 48 contiguous states. The land is characterized as being flat grassy land."— Presentation transcript:
The Great Plains Story
The Great Plains are located near the center of the 48 contiguous states. The land is characterized as being flat grassy land with few trees. The land there tends to be hard because of the small amount of rainfall it receives each year. The area was so harsh that settlers usually just passed through on their way to California or Oregon. The Great Plains were not so great and most people thought of it as a treeless wasteland.
Then in 1862 Congress passed the Homestead Act. This would allow families to get up to 160 of land for free! All they had to do was pay a filing fee then live on the land and farm it for five years. The offer was too good for many people to pass up. Land equals wealth and if the government is going to give it to you for free then why not?
If you look at this map, you can see that much of the US was still not settled. So, if you were to move to the Great Plains, you may be living miles and miles away from a town, you might not be able to take some of your things and there was a good chance you would never see the family members and friends you left behind again. Not to mention that the Great Plains already had some people living there, mainly the Sioux Indians!
Even with all the draw backs, many families loaded up their wagons and headed to the plains. They went for several reasons, the possibility of land ownership, former slaves went for a new beginning, in the 1870s gold was discovered in the Black Hills and people went for the possibility of getting rich, new technologies were making life on the plains a bit more livable, so more people were willing to give it a try and of course there are always those people looking for an adventure.
After the Civil War was over many of the freed slaves looked to the Homestead Act as a way to begin fresh. A man named Pap Singleton helped thousands of former slaves leave the South for Kansas and other parts of the Great Plains.
One of the towns many African Americans settled in was Nicodemus, Kansas. At one point Nicodemus was a thriving town, although it is much smaller, the town is still around to this day.
Just like their white counter parts, life on the plains was hard for the African Americans. They lived in sod houses, needed windmills and had to rely on themselves to survive the harsh environment of the Great Plains.
In order to make life more livable on the plains a series of inventions and adaptations were made to help the settlers. The first major adaptation was the Sod House. People have to have shelr and if there are not that many trees for you to cut down, then you will use what you do have a lot of, in this case sod….or dirt! Can you imagine sleeping in a house made of dirt? Think of the bugs and snakes that could be living in the walls and ceilings of your house! Often people hung sheets from the ceiling to keep dirt from falling into food or snakes into beds! These men are cutting sod for a house
Next came the steel plow. Farmers needed a reliable plow that was sturdy enough for the hard ground on the Great Plains. They also had to have one that did not make them stop and clean it off every few feet. There was much to much work on a homestead to be wasting that kind of time. John Deere came up with the first steel plow.
Something else the homesteaders needed was water. There was not much water on the Great Plains. Sure there were creeks and lakes in some places, but over all, it did not rain much, so it was hard sometimes to find a good water supply. The wells that had to be dug were very deep and it was difficult to get the water out of the well. The windmill would pump the water for the homesteaders.
Soon many settlers started to raise beef cattle. This would be the start of many conflicts between farmers and ranchers on the plains. It was also the start of the Cowboy! Cowboys came about during this time to help manage the large herds and especially to work on the long cattle drives to get the herd to railheads to move the cattle to Chicago or other points east. Chicago was a major meat packing city and the cattle would go there to be prepared for market.
With all those cows wandering around the plains, it didn’t take long for the ranchers and farmers to start arguing over whose cow ate whose wheat and whose land was okay for grazing. So, the invention of Barbed Wire did a lot to keep the peace and control the herds.
Many of the settlers grew what is called Red Wheat. It was a type of wheat that the Russian immigrants brought with them. This type of wheat did so well on the Great Plains because it does not need a lot of water to grow and was well suited to the harsh conditions of the plains.
Many farmers in the Great Plains used what is called dry farming to help with the small amount of rain. That means that they planted crops like wheat that do not need much water and that they would try to keep weeds from growing. Before the winter came they would plow up what was left of their crops to help capture the moisture from the snow
The Transcontinental Railroad was a huge technological advance for the US. The railroad spanned the continent and connect the east to the west. Now it was easier for people to move around the country. For the plains settlers, this meant they could more easily get supplies into the Great Plains and products like wheat or cattle out of the Great Plains.