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Chapter 14: The Western Crossroads ( )

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2 Chapter 14: The Western Crossroads (1860-1910)
Section 2: Western Farmers

3 Economic Development of the West
After the southern states seceded from the Union, Republicans passed a series of acts in 1862 to turn public lands into private property that was free of slavery.

4 Land Acts Three government acts increased non-Indian settlement of the Great Plains.

5 Land Acts The Homestead Act permitted “any citizen or intended citizen to select any surveyed land up to 160 acres and to gain title to it after five years’ residence” if the person cultivated the land. Eventually 400,000 families took advantage of the offer.

6 Land Acts The Pacific Railway Act gave lands to railroad companies to develop a railroad line linking the East and West coasts.

7 Land Acts The Morrill Act granted a total of more than 17 million acres of federal land to the states. The act ordered the sale of this land to finance the construction of agricultural and engineering colleges. The act led to the founding of more than 70 state universities (including Penn State).

8 Desire for Land Competition for land was fierce.
‘Runs’ for land took place throughout the West. In October 1889 a flood of prospective settlers responded to a government offer of inexpensive homesteads in Oklahoma in the Oklahoma Land Rush. People came on horses, bicycles, and pushing wheelbarrows.

9 The Railroads Railroad companies also lured settlers west.
Between 1869 and 1883, four rail lines were built across the West. 10 years after passing the Pacific Railway Act the U.S. government had given railroad companies more than 125 million acres of public land.

10 The Railroads Government officials believed that railroad companies would promote western settlement and economic growth. Settlers benefited from the nearby rail lines, using them to ship their crops to distant markets.

11 Question 1 How did the U.S. government encourage the growth of private property ownership on the Great Plains? by passing the Homestead Act and granting 125 million acres of public land to railroad companies

12 Moving West Three main groups traveled westward after the Civil War:
white Americans from the East African Americans from the South immigrants from foreign countries Some sought economic opportunity, and others hoped for racial tolerance.

13 White Settlers Most white settlers moved from the states in the Mississippi Valley, where land was expensive and difficult to obtain.

14 African Americans African Americans moved west to escape the violence and persecution they faced following the withdrawal of federal troops from the South in Many fled to Kansas, especially during the Kansas Fever in 1879. Some 20,000 to 40,000 African Americans fled the South, where violence had broken out during elections in Known as Exodusters, they trekked west, following leaders such as Benjamin Singleton, a 70-year-old former slave.

15 Immigrants European immigrants went west. Many helped build the railroads, and Russian immigrants may have introduced the Russian thistle – also called tumbleweed – to the West. Many of the Chinese immigrants to the U.S. worked as farmers, farm laborers, produce vendors, or sharecroppers.

16 Question 2 Why did various groups of people migrate to the West?


18 Chapter 14: The Western Crossroads (1860-1910)
Section 2: Western Farmers

19 Western Environments and Farming
The Great Plains region did not prosper immediately. Supplies were expensive, and the environment posed problems for farmers.

20 Scarce Resources - Water
Water was in short supply throughout much of the West. Farmers had developed irrigation systems that used canals, dams, and sloping fields to control water flow. The Great Plains had few water sources. Digging wells was difficult. Some farmers used windmills to draw water from their wells.

21 Scarce Resources - Trees
Trees were also scarce on the Great Plains, which meant a lack of fuel and building material. Some burned dried buffalo manure. Some built sod houses, stacking chunks of the heavy topsoil like bricks.

22 USDA The U.S. Department of Agriculture (1862) helped farmers adapt. USDA experts sought out and publicized new varieties of wheat suitable for the Great Plains. Agents also taught dry farming – new techniques that conserved moisture.

23 New Farming Equipment James Oliver’s plow factory in South Bend, Indiana produced thousands of plows with sharp, durable blades that could slice through the tough sod of the Plains.

24 New Farming Equipment “Self-binding” harvesters cut wheat and also tied it into bundles. Many new devices used steam-powered engines.

25 Competition Purchasing this new equipment put many farmers into debt when they bought the equipment to compete with larger landholders.

26 Bonanza Farms Efficient new farm machinery and cheap, abundant land enabled some companies to create a new kind of large-scale operation, the bonanza farm. Most were owned by large companies and operated like factories.

27 Bonanza Farms When weather conditions were favorable, bonanza farms produced large profits, but in times of severe drought or low wheat prices, bonanza farm profits fell. The era of bonanza farms soon faded due to their inability to handle boom and bust cycles.

28 Question 3 What technological innovations made farming profitable on the Great Plains?

29 Farm Life on the Plains Farm families on the Plains faced many problems for which inventors, manufacturers, and agricultural experts had no ready answers. Sod houses were damp and dirty, and the roofs often leaked or collapsed when it rained.

30 Harsh Weather and Hard Work
Winter on the Plains often brought blizzards and bone-chilling cold. The summer heat was also fierce. There were droughts with no relief.

31 Harsh Weather and Hard Work
In the 1870s farmers faced swarms of grasshoppers that devoured everything in their path, even the wooden handles of farming tools. Raging fires sometimes swept across the prairies.

32 Harsh Weather and Hard Work
Farming involved hard labor. Men did most of the heavy labor of building houses, fencing the land, and farming. Women did household and child-rearing tasks, and often spent hours in the field. They also tended gardens, preserved fruits and vegetables, and cared for farm animals. Children had chores that involved fetching water, tending gardens, and churning butter.

33 Storytellers of the Plains
Many western writers recorded stories about life on the Plains. Willa Cather traveled west with her family to Nebraska. She grew up on the farm and put her knowledge into writing her books. She published her first in 1913, called O Pioneers!

34 Optimism Though life on the Plains inspired some to write, it was a very difficult life. Many farmers had to abandon their farms. Many persevered, however, building towns and remaining optimistic about the future.

35 Question 4 Provide examples of hardships that farmers on the Great Plains faced. harsh weather insects prairie fires unending work


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