In 1883, Sitting Bull was a guest of honor at the opening ceremonies for the Northern Pacific Railroad. When it was his turn to speak, he said in the Lakota language, "I hate all white people. You are thieves and liars. You have taken away our land and made us outcasts." A quick-thinking interpreter told the crowd the chief was happy to be there and that he looked forward to peace and prosperity with the white people. Sitting Bull received a standing ovation.
The Western Frontier 1858-1896
Section 1: The Mining Booms
"My eye was caught with the glimpse of something shining in the bottom of the ditch. I reached my hand down and picked it up; it made my heart thump, for I was certain it was gold.” Carpenter James Marshall.
Section 1: The Mining Booms
- A mining expedition found gold on the slopes of Pikes Peak in the Colorado Rockies
- Miners were making 20$ a day panning for gold (A lot of money at the time)
- Mining companies took notice and set up mining communities, and now businesses had a better chance of getting rich than the individual miner.
- In 1859, Henry Comstock discovered a rich lode of silver-bearing ore in the Carson River in Nevada. The discovery was called the Comstock Lode.
- Henry Comstock sold his share of the claim for $11,000 and two mules, a good deal of money for the time period.
- Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gold and silver were pulled from the Comstock Lode gold and silver strike.
- Boomtowns: Towns that grew almost overnight around mining sites.
- Example: Virginia City, Nevada was a boomtown. In 1859 the town was a mining camp. Two years later it had a stock exchange, banks, an opera company, and five newspapers.
Life in a Boomtown
- A fortunate miner could make $2,000 a year, which was four times as much as a teacher .
- Violence was an everyday part of life in a boomtown. People carried large amounts of money and guns.
- Vigilanteswere men who took the law into their own hands, because there were rarely police or prisons. Vigilantes would deal their own brand of justice, often by means of hanging someone from a tree.
Boom and Bust
- Women and children made up less than 10% of boomtowns. Some opened service businesses.
- Towns turned into “busts” when the gold and silver went dry. Virginia City’s population went from 30,000 in 1870 to under 4,000 by 1900. These are called Ghost Towns.
Railroads Connect East and West
- Gold has no value unless it gets back to the markets
- Markets were on the East Coast, gold was closer to the West Coast
- Wagon trains and stagecoaches could not meet the demand, and could not bring supplies fast enough to miners
Money from the Feds
- Railroads were supported by government subsidies. Subsides were large financial aid ($$$) and land grants from the government.
- Railroad companies believed the govt should give them the land, because railroads would benefit the entire nation. The govt agreed.
The First Big Business
- The Transcontinental Railroad went across the country and connected the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts and began in the 1850’s.
- There were two companies who constructed the railroads. The Union Pacific and the Central Pacific.
- The Central Pacific hired Asian Workers and the Union Pacific hired Irish and African American workers. They worked in harsh conditions for little pay.
Riding in Luxury
- The railroad was finished in 1869. It took 19 years
- People started migrating west at record speeds. Towns such as Denver, Colorado became huge cities
- Time zones were created
Section 2: Ranchers and Farmers
“Behind every successful rancher is a wife that works in town” Unknown
Ranchers and Farmers
- Most of Texas was open range. This meant the land was not fenced in.
- Ranchers branded the cattle, which showed who owned what cattle.
- The demand for cattle was in the North and East. Sometimes farmers from Texas would drive 260,000 cattle north to Missouri, where the nearest railroad was.
- Railroads quickly increased value of the cattle (similar to gold and silver).
- The long drive involved Texans herding cattle over a thousand miles to the nearest rail station.
- Life was hard and lonely for cattle ranchers.
There was a diverse population who were cattle drivers.
Vaqueros(Hispanic ranch hands)
Who were the Cowboys?
- Stampedes (when cattle ran in a panic)
- Violent Storms
- “Rustlers” (men who tried to steal cattle)
- Discrimination based on race or origin
End of the Cattle Boom
- More people in the west started breeding cattle, which drove the price down
- Overgrazing developed and the land suffered
- Unprecedented cold winters in 1885-1886 killed large numbers of cattle
- The price of cattle bottomed out and many people in the west took up different occupations
- Farming at first was considered impossible in the plains area.
- In the late 1860’s farmers began settling there and planting crops.
- Railroads made the journey west easier and cheaper.
- The Homestead Act gave 160 free acres of land who was willing to pay a filing fee and lived on the land for five years.
- Homesteadmeans to earn ownership of land by settling on it.
- Homesteading brought thousands of new settlers, including immigrants and single women (married women could not own land).
Ten percent of the land in the United States was settled under this law. The red on the map below shows all the homesteading states. The red portion of the map represents the 30 states that homesteaded.
- Many African Americans now unprotected when reconstruction ended in 1877 moved to Kansas and claimed land.
- They called themselves Exodusters which was a term used by the Jews who escaped slavery in Egypt.
- By 1881 more than 40,000 African Americans had migrated to Kansas
- The weather varied from drought which dried crops and sometimes caused wildfire, to severe rain, which would cause flooding.
- Grasshoppers and other insects became so fierce they would swarm to crops and devour the entire plant.
- Snow in winter was so severe it could bury animals and trap families in their home.
- Sodbusters were plains farmers who tried new approaches to farming.
- Dry Farming buried seeds far in the ground where there was moisture. This was possible when steel plows replaced wooden plows in the late 1870’s.
- Dry farming didn’t produce large amounts of crops, which meant low profits for farmers. Many went into debt and lost their land.
- Men worked the fields most of the day.
- Women did the same, and also cared for the children, sometimes acting as doctor and teacher, because there weren’t any in the plains.
- Children did chores around the farm, and the work usually kept them from attending school.
- Schools and churches developed as the population slowly grew.
Oklahoma Land Rush
- Oklahoma was designated Indian Territory by the Govt in the 1830’s.
- In 1889, the Govt backed out of there treaty and opened the land to Homesteaders.
- Boomers were homesteaders that ventured into Oklahoma.
America Has Expanded
- In 1890, the govt announced the frontier was closed, and the land was taken.
Section 3: Native American Struggles
"Where the Indian killed one buffalo, the hide and tongue hunters killed fifty." Chief Red Cloud
Native American Struggles
- Most of the plains Indians, including the Sioux, the Comanche, and the Blackfeet, lived a Nomadiclife. This means they traveled great distances following their source of food (Buffalo).
- American hunters hired by railroad companies after the Civil War slaughtered the buffalo to feed workers and clear the path so buffalo would not block the trains.
No interest at first
- White people regarded the Plains as the “Great American Desert,” therefore for most of time left the Native Americans alone.
- When whites began settling the plains, they tried a new policy
- In 1867 the Indian Peace Commission developed a policy toward Native Americans.
- The commission recommended moving the Native Americans to a few large Reservations- tracts of land set aside for them. This was not a new policy, but a higher effort was made in that direction.
Move Your Life
- One reservation was in Oklahoma, where Native Americans from the South-east were relocated in the 1830’s
- Another was in the Dakota territory, where the Sioux people lived
- The govt tricked Native Americans to move and live on the worst land possible. They also failed to deliver needed food and supplies.
Conflict on the Plains
- Many bands of Native Americans throughout the country responded with violent tactics, attacking miners, ranchers, and farmers while stealing their money, food, and other supplies that were taken from them.
- Americans responded with planned massacres of Native American Villages.
- In the Black Hills of the Dakotas, the Sioux were promised that no American would set foot in their territory.
- However, a rumor started that gold was in that territory. Colonel George Custer led an expedition to the Dakotas.
- Instead of respecting the rights of the Sioux, the govt tried to buy the hills. Chief Sitting Bull, the leader of the Sioux refused.
Little Bighorn Ctd
- Custer dreamed of a major victory for himself. He was ordered to scout the Sioux encampment. He divided his troops and attacked on July 25, 1876.
- Custer greatly underestimated the Sioux. His 250 troops went against a combined Sioux and Cheyenne force of over a thousand. The entire army was killed, only Custer’s horse was left standing.
- News of defeat shocked the nation
A shallow victory
- The victory was short lived
- Reinforcements from the government came, crushed the uprising and sent everyone to reservations.
- The Sioux escaped to Canada, however after years of starvation, they too were forced to reservations. Sitting Bull was the last chief to surrender
The Dawes Act
- The Dawes Act in 1887 proposed to break up tribes and give them land. It was meant to encourage Native Americans to eventually become American citizens.
- The government proposed to sell land to the Sioux, although the land was poor.
- The government stated that the land could be used for farming, however the Sioux were hunters
- In 1890 the Sioux tried to preserve their culture by performing a ritual called the Ghost Dance. It was a way to preserve their culture that the Dawes Act was trying to destroy.
- Word spread throughout the reservation and police went to arrest Sitting Bull. During an argument, they shot and killed Sitting Bull
- After the first shot was fired, the crowd that gathered panicked and fled, while the soldiers killed of Sitting Bulls wife and their son.
“Bury my heart at Wounded Knee”
- Hundreds of Sioux fled after Sitting Bulls death and met at a creek called Wounded Knee. The army went there to collect their weapons.
- Know one knows how fighting started, but when a pistol shot was heard the army opened fire.
- There was speculation a soldier tried to take a gun away from a deaf Sioux
- More than 200 Sioux were killed. Only 25 soldiers died since most of the weapons were collected previously Wounded knee was the end of armed conflict, and the Native Americans had lost
- Over the next 50 years, the govt divided up Native Americans into reservations. Homesteaders acquired most of the valuable land. Native Americans received dry plots of land that were not suitable for farming.
- Within decades, 90 million acres of land Native Americans acquired from the Dawes Acts were taken and sold to whites
The Supreme Court
- In 1980, The U.S. Supreme court ruled that the 1876 seizure of the Black Hills violated treaty with the Sioux
- Justice Blackman wrote, “A more ripe and rank case of dishonorable dealings will never, in all probability be found in our history”
- The court did not return the land to the Sioux, and offered money instead
- The award, which is now worth $600 million, remains unclaimed
- To date, the Sioux will not agree to surrender their claim to the Black Hills, a place they feel is sacred
Section 4: Farmers in Protest
The average age of a Kansas farmer is 58 ½ years old, and in many communities no young people are returning to farming because no money can be made. Jerry Moran
Farmers in Protest
- 1866: A bushel of wheat cost sold for $1.45
- Mid 1880’s: Price dropped to 80 cents
- Mid 1890’s: Price was 49 cents
- This means farmers were not making as much money for the same amount of work
- Farmers blamed the railroad companies, eastern manufacturers, and bankers
A Farmers Union
- Farmers organized what was called the National Grange. The grange offered farmers education, fellowship, and support.
- The grange set up “cash only” cooperatives, stores where farmers bought products from each other. This way they didn’t use credit buying, which was a problem for farmers.
I have to pay to ship my Goods?
- The Grange asked railroads to limit shipping rates. This worked temporarily, but eventually the industry convinced the states to repeal the rate regulations.
- Many farmers were so in debt that the cooperatives failed as well.
- The Farmers Alliancesprang up in the West and South in the 1880’s.
- Had the same effects as the grange, only were able to have the govt store crops in warehouses and lend money to desperate farmers. This plan would reduce the power that banks, merchants, and railroads had over farmers.
- Regional differences and personality clashes drove the alliance apart.
The Populist Party
- Members of the alliance formed the Populist Party. Populism is an appeal to the common people.
- Populists wanted the govt to own railroads and telegraph lines, not businesses.
- They wanted Free Silver, or the unlimited production of silver coins. This would make more money available for poor farmers.
Impact of Populists
- James Weaver of Iowa ran for president in 1892 and got 8% of the vote. Populists made strong showing in 1894 and 1896 too.
- Free silver scared many people away from the party for fear putting more silver into the market would ruin the economy.
A Populist for President
- In 1896 the populists supported William Jennings Bryan for president. He was a democratic candidate who supported many populist ideas. He passionately believed in the cause of the farmers.
- With the economy recovering however, he lost the election to republican William McKinley.