American West

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  • Created on: 24-04-19 13:14

Permanent Indian Frontier


  • Us Government passed Indian Trade and Intercourse Act
  • Eastern tribes forced west of Mississippi, now Indian territory
  • All whites banned from settling on any land west of Mississippi other than Louisianna and Mississippi itself
  • Frontier was guarded by US gurads, army forts and military roads
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Indian Appropriations Act


  • 1850s, whites wanted to use Indian land
  • Act provided money for government to move Indiansonto reservations managed by federal government
  • Some tribes allocated hunting grounds
  • Government hoped whites could teach Indians new ways to live
  • Hoped small areas of land would force them to farm 
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Economic conditions


  • Corn prices collapsed, farmers faced ruin, made worse by overcrowding in fertile farming region
  • Financial crisis, banks ran out of money, people lost savings + jobs, unemployment reached 25% in some areas
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Oregon Trail


  • Created by fur trappers for better access to beavers
  • Ran from Missouri to Independence, Oregon
  • Migrants could travel across land inistead of water, massively decreased journey time, dangers and expense


  • Government-funded map produced
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Manifest Destiny

  • Belief it was God's will for white Americans to settle over all of America
  • Encouraged by Government, needed it settled as protection from foreign powers
  • Included the 'civilisation' of Indians
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The First Gold Rush


  • Gold first discovered in California


  • Hundreds of thousands travelled to California in search of Gold


  • Professional miners with equipment + expertise to mine underground took over
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Process of migration

  • Began at Independence, Missouri
  • Train of wagons, 20+
  • 8-9 months
  • Oregon Trail, 3200km
  • California Trail, 3800km
  • Early migrants used explorers and Indians to find the way
  • Later used pamphlets
  • Began in April, enough grass for animals
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Problems of migration

  • Trails crossed the Rockies and Blue Mountains on the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges, steep, little to hunt, bad weather, wagons were hauled across using chaines and pulleys, injuries were common
  • Need to complete journey before winter or get stuck in mountains
  • Sandstorms
  • Quicksand
  • Extreme heat
  • Storms
  • Disease
  • Stampeding buffalo
  • Hostile Indians
  • Lack of supplies
  • Required enough food for whole journey
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The Donner Party


  • led by Jacob + George Donner
  • Left Missouri for California, May 1846 (late)
  • 60 wagons + 300 people
  • Well-equipped
  • More women, elderly + children than normal

Fort Bridger

  • 80 tried to take a shortcut, using a leaflet
  • 4 wagons broke
  • 300 cattle died
  • 1 man killed another
  • Group arrived late in Sierra Nevada
  • Trapped by heavy snow
  • Group sent for help, took 32 days to reach Johnson's Ranch
  • Both groups at their dead to survive
  • Jan 1847, found by rescue parties
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Joseph Smith

Joesph Smith

  • Founded Church of Latter-Day Saints
  • Followed by Mormons
  • Numbers grew to several hundred by 1830
  • Taught Mormons to obey him as his decisions were from God
  • 1844 murdered in Illinois
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Mormon Migration Preparation


  • Persecuted,
  • were successful,
  • desired to free slaves and befriend Indians,
  • practised polygamy,
  • so-called blasphemy


  • Brigham Young became leader after Smith's murder
  • Persecuted in Illinois, forced to find land no-one else wanted
  • 1500 people
  • 2250km journey
  • Split into groups, one leader, each given a specific role
  • Had enough food for a year
  • Advance group specially chosen to pick best route, improve trail, mark water + food for animals
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Mormon Migration


  • Young led an advance party on a carefully researched rout
  • Advance group, chose best rout, improved trails, marked food + water for animals


  • 70,000 Mormons followed on the Mormon Trail

Success in Utah

  • Settlers organised, each town had a mix of skills to prosper
  • Perpetual Emigration Fund, provided resources for thousands of Mormons to travel to Utah
  • Dug irrigation ditches to provide farmland with water
  • Faith encouraged hardwork and determination
  • Mormon church owned all of the land, water and timber, allocated plots to families
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Farming the Plains 1835-62


  • Climate, hot + dry summers, cold winters
  • Lack of water, very little surface water, low rainfall
  • Prarie fires, dry grass burned easily
  • Thick sod, soil was a tangled mass of grass roots
  • Lack of trees, no timber for fencing and building
  • Weather, thunderstorms, violent winds
  • Grasshopper plagues + other insect pests

Differences from East

  • Sod, broke ploughs, had to be dug up by hand, back-breaking work
  • Crops, died from lack of water, easten by insect infestations

Lack of timber solutions

  • Settlers paid large amounts to import timber for fencing
  • Sod houses, thick walls + roof, good insulation, earth walls were fireproof (prarie fires)
  • Impossible to clean, full of insects
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Causes of tension between Indians and Settlers

  • Indians spied on whites, made them nervous
  • Increased conflict between tribes, Whites retaliated with violence
  • Increase in migration, whites built forts along trails, disrupted Indians' travelling, increase in people using resources
  • Whites feared the Indians, scalping viewed as barbaric
  • White migrants killed Buffalo for food, caused stampedes, disrupted Indian organistaion of herds
  • White settlers racist towards Indians, believed they were superior
  • Resources were scarce, white settlers mistook Indian raids for attacks
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Fort Laramie Treaty 1851


  • Plains Indians had to:
  • end fighting between tribes
  • allow migrants through their land safely
  • permit railroad surveyors onto their landd
  • allow government to build roads and army forts on land
  • pay compensation if any individuals from their tribe break the treaty
  • Territories set out for Indian tribes

US government would

  • protect ndians from whites including those trying to settle on Indian land
  • pay tribes an annuity of $50,000 as long as treaty terms are kept to
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Lawlessness in early settlements


  • New crimes, claim-jumping in mining camps, miner took over a promising claim made by someone else, salting a claim, salt flakes scattered to look like gold
  • Isolated comunities, harder to reach by law enforcement, e.g. mining camps in mountains
  • Racial tensions from immigration, Chinese 1949 Gold Rush, Chinese famine 1852, discriminated against in court, not allowed to work new claims, claims stolen from
  • Mining camps became targets for criminals
  • Law enforcement not big enough to cope with rapid population growth
  • Social factors, gambling, alcohol, prostitution, all-male camps, fighting over women
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San Francisco lawlessness

1849 Gold Rush

  • Population grew rapidly, 100 to 25,000
  • Very few found gold
  • Mostly unemployed, angry miners
  • Increased number of chinese immingrants, racial tensions grew


  • gangs had formed, were out of control
  • local policemen unable to cope, often bribed
  • theft, murded and violence common
  • vigilance communities set up to control violence
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Attempts to tackle lawlessness


  • US marshals, appointed by president, responsible for state or territory, needed deputies due to size of land
  • Deputy marshals, assigned to specific towns + counties in federal territories
  • Town marshals, appointed by townspeople yearly, dealt with local lawlessness (e.g. saloon brawls), could appoint deputies, fewer than sheriffs but a similar job
  • Sherrifs, appointed in counties, 2 year office, could force locals into posse to catch lawbreakers, could appoint deputies

Federal control

  • Federal government in charge of territories, decided on laws, appointed a governor + 3 judges to listen to court cases + a US marshal
  • Once territory had population of 5,000, a sheriff could be appointed
  • Once territory reached 60,000, could become a state with its own legal system
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Problems for federal government tackling lawlessne

  • Settlers, disliked government, ignored rules
  • Sheriffs, chosen for ability to keep the peace, no legal training, unfair decisions, led to resentment
  • Money, federal government didn't spend much on law enforcement, law officers poorly paid, corruption was likely
  • Geography, territories were huge, scattered settlements, took days before news of trouble reached US marshal, more days before response was made
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Civil War and Reconstruction


  • North: small family farms, Union, South: large plantations, Confederat
  • North wanted to abolish slavery but it was vital to the South's economy
  • Abraham Lincoln elected as president, against slavery, South attacked Northern fort


  • Reconstruction of towns + cities + factories, increased migration West
  • Plains settlers fighting, sharing stories, increased migration West
  • South defeated, previously resisted Homestead Act, passed 1862
  • Regular troops in West removed to fight for Union, conflict on Plains increased
  • Slavery abolished, increased migration: freed slaves
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Homestead Act



  • 160 acres of land for:
  • Head of family or single over 21
  • Not Indians or Confederate soldiers
  • Women
  • Former slaves
  • Single under 21 + fought for Union
  • $10 to claim land
  • $30 to own land after working it for 5 years
  • 1 claim per person


  • Encourage settlement by families, not large landowners
  • Make land cheap
  • Most American citizens could file a claim
  • Homesteaders had to prove they lived on and improved the land
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Limitations and Successes of the Homestead Act 186


  • Rich landowners found ways to buy land
  • 300 million acres of land given to railroad companies, more successful than Homestead Act
  • High dropout, 60% never 'proved up' (bought the land), plots too small, environment too dry


  • Settlement of the West, half of Nebraska land homesteaded
  • Increased migration
  • 80 million acres of land Homesteaded by end of Act (1930s)
  • 6 million + acres of federal land homesteaded by 1876
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The Transcontinental Railroad beginning

Pacific Railroad Act

  • South had blocked proposed rote, had benefitted North not South
  • Passed in 1862, South had temporarily left Union (Civil War)
  • Granted job to Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroad companies

Government support

  • Gave $61 million in loans to railroad companies
  • 45 million acres of free land given to companies to sell to settlers
  • Agreed treaties with Indians along route to move them to new reservations
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Transcontinental Railroad established

Use of railroad

  • Troops could be moved around to control Indian uprisings
  • Allowed all Americans to keep in touch, united country
  • Easier to fulfil Manifest Destiny, easier to migrate, easier to secure more areas of country
  • Federal law officers could reach settlements quicker
  • Goods could be transported to California + Oregon, good position to trade with Far East


  • 1880, Railroad companies had settled 200 million acres of land
  • Companies sold land along routes + built towns at railheads
  • Railroad 'Bureas of Immigration' sent agents abroad to persuade immigrants to buy land
  • RAilroad companies used effective marketing e.g. leaflets

Impact (Completed in 1869)

  • Travelling west easier + cheaper, farmers + cattlemen could transport produce East for better prices
  • Declining buffalo numbers, reduced grassland, hunters
  • Settlers could buy from industrial cities, clothing, farming machinery
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Homesteader farming solutions

Lack of timber

  • Few trees on Plains
  • No materials to build houses: sod houses built from blocks of earth
  • No materials to build fences to contain cattle and protect crops from animals: 1874: Glidden invented barbed wire, quick and easy to erect
  • No fuel for cooking and heating, Women collected dried buffalo or cattle dung for use as fuel

Lack of water

  • Low rainfall, few rivers + lakes
  • Needed to drink, water crops, for cattle, to wash
  • Drills developed to find water underground
  • Wind pumps built to bring water to surface

Disease and lack of medical care

  • Sod houses hard to clean, had no sanitation
  • Women cared for sick using home remedies, as communities grew doctors arrived
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Homesteader farming solutions continued

Hard, arid land

  • Crops wouldn't grow
  • Plough broke going through deep-rooted grass: mass-produced, stronger machinery from eastern factories helped to cultivate land more easily
  • Low rainfall prevented growth of crops like maize + wheat, common in East: New techniques developed e.g. dry framing conserved rainwater, Turkey Red Wheat brought by Russian migrants

Land holdings were too small

  • 160 acres from Homestead Act not enough for average family
  • 1873: Timber Culture Act: another 160 acres of land if 1/2 planted with trees
  • 1877: Desert Land Act: 640 acres of cheap land

Lack of education

  • Homestead too far from towns with schools: women taught the young
  • As communities developed single, female teachers arrived + schools developed
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More lawlessness

Civil War

  • Young men from defeated Southern states resentful towards victorious US government and laws
  • Young men traumatised by war, found it hard to fit into society
  • Devastated South's economy, many unemployed


  • New towns created along railroads, grew very quickly, no law enforcement
  • Cow Towns: cowboys just paid after weeks of driving cattle, enjoyed drinking, dancing and fighting
  • "Hell on Wheels" towns known for gambling, heavy drinking + prostitution
  • Trains replaced stagecoaches for transporting valuables: targeted by looters
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More lawlessness solutions


  • Private detective company
  • Employed by banks, railroad + stagecoach companies to track down robbers and thieves + to provide advice + protection

Sheriffs & Marshals

  • Enforced laws using intimidation + violence
  • New settlements left to deal with lawlessness themselves by electing town marshals + sheriffs

Cow towns

  • Passed laws banning firearms

Railroad + electric telegraph

  • Improved communication between law officers, increase in federal government influence
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  • Texas cattle had contagious disease Texas Fever
  • Farmers' cattle in settled areas have no immunity
  • 1855, laws block Texan cattle from Missouri
  • 1859, laws block Texan cattle from Kansas
  • These laws blocked the long drives to Sedalia and St Louis

Civil War: 1861-65

  • Texans fight for the Confederancy, cattle herds run wild: 5 million cows by 1865
  • Beef in high deman in Northern citiess, drives to Sedaia blocked (Texas Fever)
  • Creation of railroad: cattle worth $5 a head in Texas but $40 in Northern industrial cities


  • 1867, railroad reaches Abilene, Kansas, outside of quarantine zones 
  • Joseph McCoy sets up first cow town, built stockyards, built a railroad spur for loading cattle onto railroad carts, extended Chisolm Trail to Abilene through Indian territory, spent $5,000 on marketing, 35,000 cattle driven to Abilene over time
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Cattle continued

The Goodnight-Loving Trail

  • Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving recognised settlements in west to be market for Texan cattle
  • 1866: Creatd trail to Fort Summer, government had failed to provide enough supplies for Navajo Indian reservation, sold 800 cattle for $12,000, 4x price in Texas
  • 1868: Goodnight extended trail to Colorado (boomingmining towns) and Wyoming (Union pacific Railroad being built)
  • Other cattlemen drove cattle to Wyoming
  • Wyoming's cattle ranches began to grow

John Iliff

  • Saw oppurtunity to sell meat to booming mining towns in Colorado
  • Denver, Colorado not reached by railroad until 1870, difficult to get supplies to, over Rocky Mountains or across Plains
  • Saw oppurtunity to raise cattle on Plains, 1866: began ranching near Denver
  • 1870: herd of 26,000 cattle on Plains, ranch of 16,000+ acres
  • Denver's 1st millionaire, selling meat to miners, Indian reservations and railroad workers
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Cattle continued +

Beef Bonanza 1870s

  • Investors pile into cattle industry from around the world
  • Rise of cattle barons
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  • Stetson, hat gave protection from sun, rain and cold
  • High-heeled boots, stopped feet slipping though stirrups
  • Chaps, protected legs from vegetation and weather
  • Bandand, pulled over nose and mouth toprotect from dust


  • Young, single men
  • Different nationalities
  • Former soldiers or drifters
  • Criminals on the run


  • Long trails, could ride for 12-24 hours a day in all weather
  • Lonely, cowboys on same drive could be miles apart
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Cowboys continued


  • Seasonal work, spring round-up, long drive in autumn
  • Work, rounding up, branding, driving cattle hundreds of miles, looked out for sick cattle, started fast, slowed to 20km a day for grazing
  • Dangers, stampeding cattle, wild animals, crossing rivers + quicksand, rustlers, hostile Indians, exterme weather
  • Slept in open air, cooked on campfires
  • Freetime spent in saloons + brothels in cow towns


  • Year round, full time work
  • Fewer needed
  • Work, rounding up, branding, driving to market (smaller distances), checked ranch boundaries, mended fences, looked out for sick/injured cattle
  • Dangers, fewer than on trails, rsutlers, wild animals, Indian attacks
  • Slept in bunkhouses, cooked in cookhouses
  • Drinking, gambilng, guns + knives banned, many struggled to adapt
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Ranchers VS Homesteaders

Public land

  • Open-range ranching needed a lot of land to let cattle roam + have enough to eat
  • Federal law stated that everyone could pasture cattle on public land for free, ranchers did
  • Open range was divided into ranches, only a few bought plots when necessary
  • Homesteaders began to file claims for 160 acres of public land

Blocking homesteaders

  • Ranchers filed homestead claims to parts of their land homesteaders may be interested in, bought + fenced off just enough land to block access to other plots
  • Racnhers took homesteaders to court over rights to land, homesteaders to poor to pay court fees


  • Farmers wanted racnhers to fence in their cattle to prevent them grazing on crops, ranchers felt cattle had right to roam, was farmer's responsibility to fence in crops
  • Aguments over fencing ended up in state court cases, tension between ranchers + homesteaders could lead to conflict
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Impacts on Plains Indians


  • Noise of trains + fencing of railroad tracks disrupted buffalo migrations
  • Hunters brought onto plains, extermination of buffalo
  • railroads funded by land grants, sold to settlers, reduced availability of resources
  • Government persuaded tribes to give up lands on railroad route + move to reservations


  • 1849: California Gold Rush, whites trespass on Indian land using Oregon Trail, Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 + Indian Appropriations Act
  • 1859: Rocky Mountains Gold Rush, whites terspass on Cheyenne and Arapaho land, 1861 Fort Wise Treaty, 1864 Sand Creek Massacre
  • 1863: Montana Gold Rush, whites trespass on Sioux lands on Bozeman Trail, 1866-68 Red Cloud's War, Fort Laramie Treaty 1868

Cattle Industry

  • Trails often crossed Indian Territory, tension bewtween cowboys + Indians
  • Cattle + buffalo competed for grass Cattle numbers 1860-1880 = 130,000-4.5 million
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Impacts of Government policy


  • Tribe's council agreed it was necessary for survival
  • White expansion, less land to hunt on + fewer animals
  • US government promised protecton of lands + regular food supplies
  • Tribes desperate for food signed for food
  • Tribes sided with government for support against enemies
  • US Army used force to move tribes + keep them on reservations
  • Smaller than Indian hunting grounds, couldn't survive by hunting, depedndent on food supplies from government
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs, agents ran reservations, often corrupt, cheated tribes out of annuities

President Grant's Peace Policy- 1868

  • President Grant recognised that bad reservation management was leading to conflict
  • Appointed new reseravtion agents who had strong religious views, wouldn't cheat Indians, would instruct them in Christianity
  • Made an Indian Commissioner of Indian Affaris-Ely Parker
  • Obtained a budget of $2million to improve reservations + create new reservations for all Indians
  • Indians who resisted moving under new Peace Policy were treated as hostile + force could be used against them
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