The Conquest of the Far West EQ: How was the West transformed after the Civil War?
The Conquest of the Far West- The Railroads • In 1869, the final spike placed on transcontinental track at Promontory Point, Utah, joining Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroad company tracks • Once the railroad was completed, Chinese workers were expected to return to China • Instead, they flocked to West Coast cities, establishing many “Chinatowns”
The Conquest of the Far West • Chinese contract labor was often the solution to these worker shortages • Mining companies and railroad companies advertised heavily in China (most of which was at that time under colonial control by Britain) • Working prospects in China were poor, so many workers came to the US in search of the high wages advertised
The Conquest of the Far West • Anti-immigrant feeling towards the Chinese grew as strong in California as anti-Irish feeling had in the northeast, and anti-Black feeling had in the South • Newspapers began to speak of the “Yellow Peril” – the large population of Chinese in California’s bigger cities. • Often erupted into outright violence against Chinese
The Conquest of the Far West • In 1882 Congress accepted this race fear and passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which banned any Chinese immigration from 1882 until 1892 • It also kept any non-naturalized Chinese person already in the US from applying for citizenship • Congress extended the Act for another ten years in 1892, and made it permanent in 1902.
The Conquest of the Far West • White immigration from poor areas in the eastern United States continued during these years also. • This immigration was encouraged by the US government, in part to counter the rise of Asian populations and in part to “fill up” the new territories • Some thought this would reduce the (negligible) risk of any attempted takeover from a foreign country
The Conquest of the Far West • This increasing population would bring about conflict between these new populations and the many Native American tribes who had called California home for many centuries. • Settlers were innovative in adapting to harsh prairie conditions
The Conquest of the Far West • The Homestead Act of 1862 gave 160 acres of land very cheaply (usually, 4 acres for $1) to any person who would live and farm there for at least 5 years. • Some land in California was not suitable for farming, and many homesteads were abandoned – more were abandoned than were settled.
The Conquest of the Far West • USA thus settled its new lands from the edges into the center • By 1890 only Oklahoma (once called merely “Indian Territory in the early 19th century) was the only unorganized territory from the original Louisiana Purchase
The Conquest of the Far West • The Homestead Act made the west by far the most culturally diverse section of the United States or its territories, and it was for a long time the most socially integrated. • But the social equality was most obvious among the poor and landless than among land owners • Between these two classes, the differences resembled life in the East.
The Conquest of the Far West • The gold rushes brought a mining boom to western territories. The 1848 California gold rush was followed by an 1858 gold rush in Colorado, by a Nevada silver rush in the 1870s, and by an Alaska gold rush in the 1880s. • Each rush saw the overnight rise of “boom towns,” places where miners took care of the necessities (social and legal) of their lives and businesses.
The Conquest of the Far West • Prairie land was also excellent for grazing cattle • New industry sprang up, aided by the transcontinental railroad: cattle ranching • Ranchers established large spreads on remote prairie areas, herded cattle to nearest rail connection (“railhead”) in late summer each year to sell for beef markets and shipment East
The Conquest of the Far West • Aside from gold, the next-biggest factor in the economy of the New West was cattle farming • The plains (formerly called “The Great American Desert”) were found to be very well-suited for cattle ranching. • Farmers did not develop suitable plows for the tough grass of the prairies until the 1880s, and ranchers’ cattle roamed free and grew fat on the rich prairie grass.
The Conquest of the Far West • Once yearly, ranch hands known as “cowboys” would round up their owners’ cattle – distinguished from each other by distinctive brands burned into the cows’ flesh, and herd them to the nearest railroad outpost (or “railhead.”) • Herders known as “cowboys” led the cattle to these railhead towns. • These were known as the “long drives.”
The Conquest of the Far West • Boom towns also sprang up at these railroad outposts. • Rail towns became boom towns because of the cattle markets • Dodge City, Kansas and Omaha, Nebraska are two examples
The Conquest of the Far West • Life in the “cattle country” was more relaxed, much less formal than in the east • Women were vastly outnumbered by men, and gained social acceptance in traditionally male roles that was not available to them elsewhere. • Western states generally granted suffrage to females long before eastern states did.
The Conquest of the Far West • “The West” was highly romanticized in the East • Novels, songs, “Wild West Shows” attracted a wide audience • Popular novels such as Owen Wister’s The Virginian (1902) served to heighten public interest in the west; a popular perception was that people were somehow truer, and more natural living close to the land as westerners did.
The Conquest of the Far West- Native Americans • US policy toward Indian tribes went through 3 phases in the 19th century: • Concentration phase, begun in 1830s: force all Indian tribes to live on land unwanted or unneeded by settlers • Tribes gradually pushed onto the Plains • Satisfactory until new farm methods made the Plains more attractive to white settlers
The Conquest of the Far West • Concentration policies were gradually replaced by the restriction phase by the second half of the 19th century. • All Plains Indians restricted to either the Dakota Territory (north Plains) or “Indian Territory” (Oklahoma) • Tribes were left to fight out tribal boundaries among themselves.
The Conquest of the Far West • As the Plains grew more and more settled, Indians found their newly-limited hunting lands more and more disturbed. • Railroads disturbed their buffalo hunting. • Ill-planned buffalo hunting for sport by white settlers and buffalo hide-hunters was ruining their major food source.
The Conquest of the Far West • It was inevitable that Indian tribes would eventually strike out in warfare against white settlers and the US Government that protected them. • The outcome of these Indian wars was the reservation phase, during which tribes found their land boundaries extremely restricted, not by themselves but by the US government..
The Conquest of the Far West • Important white-Indian conflicts: • The Sand Creek Massacre, 1864: US Cavalry commander J. M. Chivington led a group of troops to murder nearly 160 Cheyenne Indians, to prevent their attack • Most of the Indians killed were women and children, not warriors.
The Conquest of the Far West • Little Big Horn, 1876: US Cavalry commander George Armstrong Custer and a troop of cavalrymen (some of whom had taken part in the Sand Creek episode) were cornered and massacred by Cheyenne and Sioux warriors.
The Conquest of the Far West • Pursuit of the Nez Percé, 1877. The Nez Percé were a relatively peaceful tribe; forced onto a reservation by the US government, several young warriors rebelled and killed four whites • The tribe was pursued nearly to Canada in retribution, and Chief Joseph pledged on the tribe’s behalf to “fight no more, forever” after many were killed.
Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead. Toohulhulsote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led the young men is dead. It is cold and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are--perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children and see how many I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs. I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.