Who were the Homesteaders and why did they settle upon the Plains?

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The Homesteaders were the individuals that pioneered white settlement upon the Plains; as opposed to merely traveling across it to access the Pacific Coast.

The people that most commonly became Homesteaders were:

  • WHITE CIVILIANS FROM THE EAST - They left the east as land was scarce and expensive. With such little opportunity, the 1862 Homestead Act's  offer of 160 acres of effectively free land appealed greatly.
  • BLACK EX-SLAVES - 1865 saw the end of the American Civil War and thus the freedom of black slaves. Nevertheless, they still faced much oppresion; persecution and a lack of opportunity. Being able to manage their own plot of land gave them the freedom and independence they sought. 40,000 arrived in Kansas in 1879. 
  • EUROPEAN SETTLERS - Europeans would purchase the land sold cheaply by railroad companies. They were able to escape the poverty faced within their native homes.
  • RELIGIOUS GROUPS - The Plains offered space upon which religious groups could establish their own communities, free from persecution. The 1870s saw the arrival of the Mennonites from Russia, and the Amish from the Netherlands and Germany. 

The US government undoubtedly played a highly important role in encouraging the settlement of people upon the


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