1837 Financial Crisis in the Eastern USA. In 1837 the economy of the Eastern USA collapsed. Factories closed and people lost their jobs. Banks collapsed and people lost their savings. Crime rose and the East no longer seemed like an attractive place to live. Land in the East was hard to come by at this time as the region was filling up with Americans. This all acted as a major PUSH factor for people moving out of the East to go to the West. The West appeared as the promised land with lots of cheap land for settlers able to make the journey there. Click here to go to the next date
1844 The death of Joseph Smith Joseph Smith founded the Mormon Church and became its first leader. He attracted thousands of followers and led them in a desperate search for a place where they could build Zion in the East. Smith would not take the Mormons to the West as he believed it was unsafe and that they could find a place to live in the East. Smith was shot in 1845 whilst escaping from jail. He was replaced as leader by Brigham Young. Young made the decision to take the Mormons to the Great Salt Lake. This date is a turning point in the history of the Mormons. Click here to go to the next date
1848 The discovery of gold in California. Before 1848 the flow of migrants to the West (California and Oregon) was slow with less than 5,000 a year crossing the Plains. In January 1848 gold was discovered in California and the settlement of the West speeded up. 50,000 miners flooded across the Plains into California in search of gold in 1849. They established definite trails for families of settlers to use after them. The ’49ers proved it was possible for huge numbers to go to the West. By 1850 California was a state in the USA. The Goldrush of 1848 acted as a massive boost to the settlement of the West by the USA. Click here to go to the next date
1851 The 1 st Fort Laramie Treaty. In 1831 the USA had set up the Permanent Indian Frontier. This gave the Native American Indians control of the Great Plains ‘forever’. However with the discovery of gold in California and the flood of migrants on the Wagon Trails across the Great Plains in the 1840s, the Frontier was soon broken. In 1851 a new treaty was signed, the 1 st Fort Laramie Treaty. Under this treaty the Plains Indians agreed to keep away from the wagon trails in return for annual payments. This made travel to the West easier for white Americans, as well as establishing the idea of limiting the Plains Indians to certain parts of the Great Plains. Click here to go to the next date
1862 The Homestead Act. By the early 1860s the only area of the USA not settled by white Americans was the Great Plains. These had been ignored by settlers going west. The fertile lands in California and Oregon were more attractive than the so called ‘Great American Desert’. However to truly control the whole of the USA and fulfil Manifest Destiny the government needed settlers to move on to the Plains. The act gave each American 160 acres of land for a small registration fee. This encouraged Homesteaders to move to the Plains and started the settlement of the last bit of the USA. Click here to go to the next date
1864 The Sand Creek Massacre. By the early 1860s the Cheyenne lands in Colorado were being occupied by miners, ranchers and Homesteaders. The presence of the Cheyenne was viewed as a threat by the settlers and miners of the region. Led by Colonel Chivington, a local regiment of volunteer soldiers massacred hundreds of men, women and children camped at Sand Creek near Denver, Colorado. This was the first of the Indian massacres. It shows the lengths that the USA was prepared to go to assert its control over the Great Plains, and how the Plains Indians would find it impossible to live in peace with the American settlers. Click here to go to the next date
1866 Goodnight and Loving establish the first Cattle trail. At the end of the Civil War in 1865, cattle ranchers returned to their Texan herds to discover that their numbers had increased to over 5 million cows. Cut off from markets in the East and North by the war, the cattle had bred. Goodnight and Loving took 5,000 cows from Texas on a drive up to Colorado where they sold them to railroad workers and the US Army to feed the Indians on reservations. This was the start of the cattle industry boom. Soon trails were established to the new cowtowns of Abilene and Dodge City. The cows were transported on the railroads to the cities of the East such as New York and Chicago. Click here to go to the next date
1868 The 2 nd Fort Laramie Treaty. By 1868 white settlers were pouring on to the Great Plains. The treaties signed with the Plains Indians in the 1850s and early 1860s were increasingly worthless as miners, Homesteaders and cattle ranchers ignored the rights of the Plains Indians to their lands. Following the defeat of the USA in Red Cloud’s War, the 2 nd Fort Laramie Treaty was signed. This treaty gave the Sioux control of the sacred Black Hills area ‘forever’. It also gave them rights to hunt buffalo in the Powder River country. The treaty also marked the formal start of the government’s Indian Reservation policy, putting Plains Indians into small areas where they would be dependent on government money and food to survive. Click here to go to the next date
1869 Completion of the Transcontinental Railroad
1869 The completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. Before the railroad was built it took six months for a family to travel from the East to California or Oregon. Settlement of the Plains was also limited as Homesteaders were cut off from civilisation and access to markets for their crops or supplies of machinery and seeds. In 1869 the first railroad connecting the East and West was completed with the Golden Spike Ceremony. The railroad cut journey times to just one week from East to West. It also encouraged trade across the USA, brought government and law and order to the Plains, carried cattle to market, and led to the first towns on the Great Plains giving Homesteaders access to civilisation and markets. Click here to go to the next date
1876 The Battle of the Little Bighorn. By 1874 the USA was building a railroad through the Black Hills. This broke the 2 nd Fort Laramie Treaty. Custer and the 7 th Cavalry were sent to protect the railroad from Indian attacks. They also discovered gold, and set off a goldrush in the area. Led by Sitting Bull, Sioux Indians left the Black Hills Reservation to hunt buffalo in the Powder River country. This led to a US Army campaign to force the Sioux back on to the reservation. The Battle of the Little Bighorn resulted, and Custer’s 7 th Cavalry were destroyed by the Indian forces. After this however the US Army poured in reinforcements and within 12 months the Indians were either dead or back on reservations. The Sioux lost the Black Hills and all treaties were cancelled by the US Government. Click here to go to the next date
1887 The end of the Open range. By the 1880s there were millions of cows on the Great Plains. They were left unfenced to roam around. The profits to be made were enormous and this encouraged ever more cows to be placed on the Open Range. By 1887 however the Open Range was over due to a combination of factors. The overgrazing of limited grass supplies and scarce water was one reason. To protect their grass and water supplies cattle ranchers put up barbed wire fences. To pay for these they sold cattle which flooded the market and led to low prices by 1885. This was followed by cold winters in 1885-86 and 1886-87. The summer of 1886 was marked by a severe drought. With falling demand and the need to protect new weaker breeds of meatier cows, the Open Range had come to an end by 1887. Click here to go to the next date
1890 The Battle of Wounded Knee. By the late 1880s the Plains Indians were almost all on reservations. The buffalo were exterminated, and the Plains were controlled by the USA as Homesteaders and cattle ranches covered the land. In desperation the Plains Indians adopted the Ghost Dance. They sang, prayed and danced in the belief that the Great Spirit would come to their aid. They believed that the whites and their civilisation would be swallowed by the Earth and that the buffalo would return with the Indians killed by the whites. However this was all shattered when in December 1890, Sitting Bull was killed by another Indian, and Big Foot’s Sioux were massacred in the snow at Wounded Knee Creek. This marked the end of the resistance of the Plains Indians to US control of the Great Plains. Click here to go to the end.
Make sure you know all of these dates if you want to pass!!!