4.2 the rise of farming in the westPresentation Transcript
The Rise of the American Heartland: Farming and Survival in the Great Plains
Major Stephen Long -- 1819 The US government hired Long to lead an expedition into the west Chief Big Elk: "Here I am, my Father; all these young people you see around here are yours; although they are poor and little, yet they are your children. All my nation loves the whites and always have loved them. Some think, my Father, that you have brought all these soldiers here to take our land from us but I do not believe it. For although I am a poor simple Indian, I know that this land will not suit your farmers. If I even thought your hearts bad enough to take this land, I would not fear it, as I know there is not wood enough on it for the use of the white."
The Great American Desert In his report of the 1820 expedition, Long wrote that the Plains from Nebraska to Oklahoma were "unfit for cultivation and of course uninhabitable by a people depending upon agriculture." On the map he made of his explorations, he called the area a "Great Desert." Long felt the area labeled the "Great Desert" would be better suited as a buffer against the Spanish, British, and Russians, who shared the continent with the Americans. He also commented that the eastern wooded portion of the country should be filled up before the republic attempted any further extension westward. He commented that sending settlers to that area was out of the question. Given the technology of the 1820s, Long was right. There was little timber for houses or fuel, minimal surface water, sandy soil, hard winters, vast herds of bison (buffalo), hostile Indians, and no easy means of communication
What to Do? The US government wants its people to move out West, spread out, conquer and control all of the land from “sea to shining sea.” But the people in the East have heard the rumors of the “great desert.” You and a partner pretend you are the government. You own all of the open range of the Great Plains, and you can do anything you want with the land. Create a incentive to encourage people to move out west.
What does the government do?
Homestead Act (1862) This was started in 1862 by the government to increase settlement of the Great Plains. For $10 a person could file for a homestead or a piece of land ready for settlement. A person could get up to 160 acres of land. After living on the land for 5 years, one would receive the title of the land. This Act proved a good way for people to settle the Plains area.
Specific Homestead Act Requirements 21 Years Old Settler had to be head of the household Had to pay $10 filing fee and $ commission to the land agent Had to live on the property for 5 years, and make improvements to the land After 6 months, buy land for $1.25 an acre
Land is a Big Deal for Europeans because it was very difficult to own land in Europe. Not anymore.
Daniel Freeman – 1st Homestead Recipient
On January 1, 1863, Daniel Freeman, a Union Army scout, was scheduled to leave Gage County, Nebraska Territory, to report for duty in St. Louis. At a New Year's Eve party the night before, Freeman met some local Land Office officials and convinced a clerk to open the office shortly after midnight in order to file a land claim. In doing so, Freeman became one of the first to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the Homestead Act, a law signed by President Abraham Lincoln on May 20, 1862.
Daniel Freeman Homestead
1.6 million homesteads 270,000,000 acres (420,000 sq mi) 10% US land
Farming Revolution Many new machines allowed for easier farming: 1. Steel plow 2. Mechanical reaper 3. Wind Mill (used to pump water)
Mechanical Reaper Cyrus McCormick
2 men cut as much as 12 could before with a scythe
The Wheat Belt Some of the Great Plains area is called the Wheat Belt. Bonanza Farmscovered up to 50,000 acres and yielded big profits. 1880’s – US was the worlds leading wheat exporter
Many Homesteaders didn’t make it Summer temperatures over 100 Winter blizzards and extreme cold Prairie fires GRASSHOPPERS!!! Native Americans Loneliness 1890’s – Too much wheat drop prices AND THEN DROUGHT Around 80% of homestead farms failed