The Homesteaders problems and solutions

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  • The Homesteaders
    • Lack of timber
      • Explanation
        • There was nothing to build houses with
          • People built sod houses made from blocks of earth
        • There was nothing to make fences to contain cattle and protect crops from animals
          • In 1847, Joseph Glidden invented barbed wire, which was quick and cheap to erect
        • There was nothing to use for cooking and heating
          • Women collected dried buffalo and cattle dung, which was used for fuel
    • Lack of water
      • Explanation
        • There was low rainfall and few rivers and lakes
          • Drills were developed to find underground water, then wind pumps built to bring it to the surface
    • Hard, arid land (crops wouldn't grow)
      • Explanation
        • Ploughs often broke going through deep-rooted grass.
          • Mass-produced and stronger machinery from eastern factories helped cultivate land more easily
        • Low rainfall prevented growth of crops like maize and wheat, which farmers were used to growing back east
          • New techniques lie dry farming (which conserved rainwater) were used. Migrants from Russia used Turkey Red wheat, which thrived on the Plains
    • Natural disasters (prairie fires and pests destroyed crops)
      • Pests, such as grasshoppers, could destroy a whole season's crop. Fire spread quickly and burned everything
        • There were no solutions. Homesteaders could be bankrupted by such disaters
    • Land holdings were too small
      • The 160 acres allocated in the Homestead Act could not support the average family.
        • The Timber Culture Act 1873 let homesteaders have another 160 acres if they promised to plant trees on half of it. The Desert Land Act 1877 let settlers buy 640 acres of desert land cheaply
    • Disease and lack of medical care (people were often ill)
      • Sod houses were hard to keep clean and had no sanitation
        • Women cared for the sick, using their own remedies. As communities grew, doctors arrived
    • Lack of education
      • Most homesteads were too far from towns and schools
        • Women taught the young. As communities grew, single female teachers arrived and schools developed
    • Isolation
      • Life was lonely and tough on the plains
        • Railroads improved travel and brought much-needed supplies to homesteaders. Communities worked together to build schools and churches. Women homesteaders formed valuable social networks


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