History GCSE American West - Homesteaders/Settlers

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Homesteaders and the railways

The US government did a lot to encourage homesteaders and the building of the railways.

The Railway companies encouraged homesteading

Politicians and railway companies made exaggerated claims about the good life on the Plains. "Booster" (promotional) railways were built by companies trusting - correctly - that their existence would help create communities and customers. Politicians in the territories wanted 60000 residants so their territory could become a state, giving them more power.

The railway companies were granted huge areas of land in 1862 by the government to help fund the railways. The sold land cheap to settlers.

Huge economic, geographical and engineering problems were overcome to construct the transcontinental railroad. The government supplied loans. Labour shortages in the West were saved by using Chinese workers. Steep gradients were risked when crossing the Rockies. The army defended railway gangs against attacks by Plain Indian tribes. Lines built from the east and west finally met at Promontory, Utah, in May 1869. This made westward migration, and communication with the East, much easier.

More Government Acts and new Technology helped too

The homestead act of 1862 gave each settler 160 acres of free land, if he farmed it for 5 years. This occupancy condition was meant to discourage speculators - those aiming to make a short-term profit on rising land prices rather than settling.

Newcrops were tried, including Turkey Red Wheat from Russia. Better machinery was developed, including John Deere's "sodbuster" plough. Wind pumps increased water supply. New techniques allowed settlement on the High Plains. Farmers learnt "dry farming", using techniques like turning the soil after rain to retain the moisture.

In less fertile ares farmers needed more than 160


abby grace


woo thanks Caitlin! (;

Caitlin Miralles


Haha, no problem(;

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