The west started to become more popularized by Americans during the nineteenth century. Settlers in New England started to move westward because the soil of New England was not able to produce high amounts of grain. As a result, the farmers would set out to find a new piece of land to grow their crops on. The farmer’s lively hood as well as their families relied on land to produce the resources their family needed to live. However, most of the land settlers began to occupy was already the home to Native Americans.
During the 1840s and later through the Civil War Reconstruction Era, western expansion faced a wave of American interest. Many people thought the west was overflowing with wealth and opportunities. The land was advertised and sold by the government in an attempt to increase the nation’s farming productivity and territorial expansion. Land legislation promised to reward young farmers and families for their successful Midwest homesteads. This legislation included the Homestead Act of 1862 and the Timber Culture Act of 1873.
Technology may not seem like it made a huge impact on Western Expansion, but it in fact did. Without the creation and development of railroads, canals and bridges, expansion would have progressed a lot slower and not nearly as efficiently. Railroads allowed farmers to trade crops into the valley and passed the Appalachian’s which were previously off limits due to distance and terrain. Canals are water pathways connecting two bodies of water through a large piece of land. They allowed trade ships to have a shortcut for easier travel on trade voyages.
The railroad system was a huge factor in in developing the west. It took away the need of steamboats and was much cheaper and safer than traveling on water. The railroad changed the way of transportation, products and animals were shipped from the west to the east coast, and it allowed the United States to expand the west at a much faster rate. In the years between 1855 and 1871 the Federal government operated a land grant system that gave companies millions of acres of land in the uninhabited west.
In the early 1800’s the founding fathers and citizens of the early United States decided that the east coast was not enough for them and they wanted more. More land to conquer, more people to come to their country, more respect from other countries, and to get this they were willing to do anything. The United States expanded west in the 1800’s when the territory west of the mississippi was found to be arable and habitable. After gaining the louisiana territory, which was most of the land west of the Mississippi, which made the US over twice as large as it was before. Then the US continued expanding - gaining Florida, Texas and other states that are now in the US.
During the Western Expansion farmers, as cattle ranchers or cowboys, drove cattle across the plains. Their cattle ranches were founded throughout the Great Plains from Texas to the Prairie regions. Cowboys were not only whites, but blacks and hispanics. They were an important part of expansion because the need for food increased with the railroad industry growing. A prominent cattle rancher during the Western expansion was Joseph McCoy.
The development of the Western Frontier was extremely beneficial to the citizens of the United States. Railroad developments, western settlements, and irrigated land helped to create a strengthened idea of progress in the minds of Americans. Railroads were immensely valuable to the American society of this time. The railroad was the only way to transport goods to the far west. It facilitated the quick transportation of raw materials as well as finished goods from coast to coast.
The Western United States was founded upon several layers of political, economic, and social causes that started the Western movement. The passages from John Barr’s book Peace Came in the Form of a Women which looks at the west before large amounts of Europeans arrived and how the large Native American population organized themselves focusing in on the Caddo people. While William Hyde’s’ book Empires, Nations, and Families: A New History of the North American West 1800-1860 as it depicts the European look and motives for the westward movement. According to Barr and Hyde’s the west before the westward expansion tended to owned and operated by the large Spanish population in Mexico and the enormous cities of the Native Americans that made up the land.
Collins, T. L. (2014). Into the west. North Mankato, MN: Capstone Press. Into the West is a great book to use in this unit because it focuses on not just what happened during the U.S. westward expansion but also the causes and effects of it.
Life for the Native Americans was much harder during and after the western expansion. For example, the US took land from the Indians leading the formation of reservations, White men almost hunted the Buffalo , an important food source for the Indians, to extinction, and forced the Indians to get rid of their culture. Because of the western expansion, the area of land the Indians could occupy decreased significantly. The government would make treaties with the Indians allowing them to keep a certain area of land, but this would soon be broken ; When the Pacific Railroad Act was passed it stated that wherever a track was laid the company would own any land 200 ft surrounding the track including Indian land ; the Government would make sure that
Before European exploration and colonization, Indians attained a massive population throughout the Americas. Living mostly in harmony with neighboring tribes, they were self-sufficient by utilizing their lands. However, the arrival of Europeans greatly altered the lives of American Indians by lessening their population, introducing diseases, and dominating their lands. By the end of the 1400s, Europeans began to take an interest in the world outside their own boundaries.