Chapter 19 Transforming the West 1865–1890
MAP 19–1 Indian Land Cessions, 1860–1894 As white people pushed into the West to exploit its resources, Indians were steadily forced to cede their lands. By 1900 they held only scattered parcels, often in areas considered worthless by white people. Restricted to these reservations, tribes endured official efforts to suppress Indian customs and values.
MAP 19–2 Economic Development of the West: Railroads, Mining, and Cattle, 1860–1900 The spread of the railroad network across the West promoted economic development by providing access to outside markets for its resources. The discovery of precious metals often attracted the railroads, but stockraisers had to open cattle trails to reach the railheads.
MAP 19–3 Population Density and Agricultural Land Use in the Late Nineteenth Century Economic integration of the West promoted regional agricultural specialization. Stockraising and grain production dominated the more sparsely settled West, while the South grew the labor-intensive crops of cotton, tobacco, and sugar cane, and other areas concentrated on dairy products, fruit, and other crops for nearby urban markets.
This idealized 1875 engraving presents a harmonious image of western expansion and railroad construction that belies a more complex and disruptive reality, particularly for Native Americans. Railroad building on the Great Plains, colored engraving, 1875 (Granger Collection 4E239.36).
This photograph, taken by A. J. Russell, records the celebration at the joining of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads on May 10, 1869, at Promontory Summit, Utah. Railroads transformed the American West, linking the region to outside markets, spurring rapid settlement, and threatening Indian survival.
This engraving, showing passengers shooting buffalo from a train crossing the plains, suggests the often casual approach Americans took toward the western environment. The destruction of the buffalo herds, for both profit and “sport,” also destroyed the basis of the Plains Indians’ economy and culture.
Red Cloud, Oglala Lakota chief in the 1880s. In the 1860s, he led the Sioux to military victory over the United States, forcing the government, in the Treaty of Fort Laramie, to abandon army posts and withdraw from Sioux territory.
Dressed in their school uniforms, Indian children sit under the U.S. flag. Government and missionary schools sought to promote “Americanization” and suppress native cultures. Such education, said one member of Congress, “is the solution of the vexed Indian problem.” Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma Library, “Phillips #436.”
One Methodist missionary expressed his horror of early mining town saloons and their patrons: “The utter recklessness, the perfect ‘Abandon’ with which they drink, gamble, and swear is altogether astounding.” By the 1890s, when a photographer took this carefully posed picture of Crapper Jack’s Saloon in Cripple Creek, Colorado, saloon society was still popular but seemed more restrained.
Chinese miners in Idaho operate the destructive water cannons used in hydraulic mining. Technological changes made most miners wage workers for companies. Idaho State Historical Society
Employees of the Prairie Cattle Company at the ranch headquarters in Dry Cimarron, New Mexico, in 1888. The company, a British corporation, held 8,000 square miles of land.
Prospective settlers crowd the U.S. Land Office in Garden City, Kansas, in 1885. The rush of people into the West from throughout the world contributed to the diversity of the region’s population.
FIGURE 19–1 The Growth of Western Farming, 1860–1900 Indian removal, railroad expansion, and liberal land policies drew farm families into the West from much of Europe as well as the East. Technological innovations like barbed wire and farm machinery soon enabled them to build farms, but economic, social, and environmental challenges remained. Data Source: Historical Statistics of the United States (1975).
Many Mexican Americans turned to mining as the Southwest was developed. But they suffered from a dual wage system that discriminated in favor of Anglos and were often restricted to segregated housing areas. Division of Cultural Resources, Wyoming Department of Commerce.
Sunday school meeting in Custer County, Nebraska, in 1888. Sunday schools were important social as well as religious institutions on the Great Plains, where, as one newspaper reported, rural families often felt like “strangers in a strange land.”
Jimmy Smith, and Loretta Store stand in front of their dilapidated wooded shack that sits in a small conyon east of Tuba Cit Ariz.
Three young dancers perform the Buffalo Dance at San Juan Pueblo, New Mexico.
Key Questions: • What characterized the subjugation of Native Americans in the West, their confinement to reservations, and the attempted destruction of their culture? • What characterized the integration of the West into the national economy through the construction of the transcontinental railroads? • What characterized the flood of migrants to the West in the late 19th century seeking work as railroad workers, miners, cowboys, and farmers? • How was mining, ranching, and farming in the West transformed from individual pursuits to corporate enterprises?
Subjugating Native Americans • Tribes and cultures • Throughout the West, Native Americans had adapted their lifestyles and cultures to the environment. The most numerous groups lived on the Great Plains and the Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Comanches were the largest. • All tribes stressed community welfare over individual interest. • White and Native American values were incompatible.
Subjugating Native Americans, cont’d. • Federal Indian policy • In the 1830s, the federal government policy was to separate whites and Indians, moving Native Americans west of the Mississippi River. • Expanding white settlement devastated the Native Americans who already were competing with each other for limited resources on the Plains. • By the early 1850s, white settlers sought to occupy Indian territory and the land for the railroad further cut into Indian land. • The federal government implemented the reservation system to relocate tribes, promising annual provisions in return.
Subjugating Native Americans, cont’d. • Warfare and dispossession • Larger tribes resisted the U.S. government plan and warfare swept the West from the 1850s to the 1880s. • White aggression sometimes led to the massacres. • The Treaty of Laramie in 1868 was one of the few times Native Americans forced whites to retreat. • The coming of the railroad triggered another war and the destruction of the buffalo laid waste to the food supply of many Native American tribes. • The defeat of the Sioux and the Nez Perce in the 1870s and the Apaches in the 1880s largely ended Indian resistance in the West. • Map: Indian Land Cessions, 1860–1894
Subjugating Native Americans, cont’d. • Life on the reservation: Americanization • Taking Native American land was considered the first step in requiring Native Americans to adopt white ways. Education and religion were the vehicle for this change often supplemented by military force. • In 1884, a criminal code made it illegal for Native Americans to practice their tribal religion. • Off-reservation boarding schools isolated Indian children as they were taught white ways. • The Dawes Act of 1887 divided tribal lands among individuals with disastrous results.
Exploiting the Mountains: The Mining Bonanza • Rushes and mining camps • Migrants to the West sought wealth by exploiting the region’s natural resources. Mining was the first stage of development and often was characterized by rushes. • As prospectors flocked to areas where gold or silver had been found, ramshackle mining camps emerged with an overwhelmingly male population. • The few women in the camps had limited employment options with prostitution being the largest source of jobs. • Saloons were prevalent in mining camps. Violence was frequent and often associated with ethnic and racial differences.
Exploiting the Mountains: The Mining Bonanza, cont’d. • Labor and capital • New technology made mining a complex, expensive operation. • Corporate mining devastated the environment and transformed miners into wage workers who worked under hazardous conditions for low pay. • Miners organized unions for protection. The unions functioned as benevolent societies, helped establish hospitals, set up union halls that served as social and education centers, and lobbied for mine safety laws. • Mining companies tried to crush unions and labor relations often turned violent as strikes and union busting occurred.
Exploiting the Grass: The Cattle Kingdom • Cattle drives and cow towns • After the Civil War, industrial expansion and the railroad enlarged the market for Texas beef. Texans drove their cattle up the Chisholm Trail to Abilene, Kansas. Between 1867 and 1870, one and one-half million cattle reached Abilene. • The cattle trade simulated urban development in cow towns, but not all thrived.
Exploiting the Grass: The Cattle Kingdom, cont’d. • Rise and fall of open-range ranching • Indian removal and the extension of the railroad expanded cattle ranching to much of the West. Ranchers used open range for grazing but high profits attracted corporate ranchers. • Large companies quickly dominated the cattle industry. • Overgrazing causing environmental damage, droughts, and blizzards destroyed the open-range cattle industry.
Exploiting the Grass: The Cattle Kingdom, cont’d. • Cowhands and capitalists • The work of the cowboy was hard, dirty, seasonal, tedious, often dangerous, and paid low wages. • Many early cowboys were white Southerners who did not return to the South. About 25 percent of the cowboys were African Americans. Mexicans developed most of the tools, trapping, and techniques of the cowboy trade. • The rise of corporate ranching led to permanent employment, but traditional cowboy rights often disappeared. • Cowboys responded to change by forming unions and striking.
Exploiting the Earth: Homesteaders and Agricultural Expansion • Settling the land • The Homestead Act of 1862 stimulated agricultural settlement. But restrictions limited access to public land and most settlers in the Great Plains purchased their land. • Western settlement was promoted by newspapers, land companies, steamship companies, and, most importantly, railroad advertising and promotional campaigns. • Migrants flooded into every area of the West. Various ethnic groups established ethnic communities in specific areas. • In the Southwest, the large infusion of Anglos undermined traditional Hispanic society.
Exploiting the Earth: Homesteaders and Agricultural Expansion, cont’d. • Home on the range • The environment of the Great Plains presented challenges to settlers. • Women’s work included transporting water, often over long distances. Some women farmed the land themselves. Married women operated the family farm when their husbands worked elsewhere. • Plains settlers, especially women, experienced isolation and loneliness. As the local population grew, women worked to form communities by organizing social activities and institutions.
Exploiting the Earth: Homesteaders and Agricultural Expansion, cont’d. • Farming the land • To develop the agricultural potential of their land, farmers had to make substantial adjustments that required using scientific, technological, and industry advances. • Barbed wire shielded crops from livestock. • Dry farming helped alleviate the aridity of the West, while mechanization and technological innovation allowed large-scale farming practices to develop. • Western commercial farmers depended on the high demand of the outside markets. But conditions varied making farming problematic and led to foreclosures and farmer protests.
Conclusion • In a few decades, millions of people migrated to the West, transforming the region at the expanse of Native Americans. • The new conditions stimulated discontent and reflected the fact that western developments connected to national urban and industrial processes.
INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION • Elements of Growth • Worker’s Plight • Life in Urban Areas • Prevailing Attitudes • Labor Organizes
I. Elements of Growth • Beneficent Government • Capital Accumulation: Carnegie, Rockefeller • Transportation Improvements • Natural Resources • Age of Great Inventors • Telephone 1876 • Electric Lights 1879
II. Worker’s Plight • Conditions • Competition • Own well-being • Impersonalization
III. Life in Urban Areas • Tenements • Pressure on family • Fewer children • Political Bossism • Vast differences between wealth and poverty
IV. Prevailing Attitudes • Social Darwinism – H. Spencer • Laissez-faire • Proponents • Russell Conwell, Acres of Diamonds • Andrew Carnegie, Gospel of Wealth
V. Labor Organizes • First Organizations secret • Labor Violence • Great R.R. Strike (1877) • Homestead Strike (1892) • Pullman Strike (1894) • Samuel Gompers and A.F.L. (1886)