|Female and child
workers in a vegetable cannery
- Southwest farmers had trouble irrigating
because they needed to cooperate with their neighbors, and it was
hard to rally all the people
- The Mormons in Utah had many neighborly bonds, making cooperation
while irrigating easier.
- Immigrants worked in
a variety of trades, such as mining, railroad working, small businesses,
farming and ranching.
- People found that the Plains area was excellent for farming wheat
and grazing cattle.
- Gold and silver miners often came to the West first.
- Copper was used in electric wiring, so it became valuable after
electricity became widely used.
- Lead became more valuable because it was used in plumbing.
- Growing industries, especially the railroad, made coal and iron
Equipment and Tools
- The new steel plow, reaper,
and other new farm equipment helped simplify farming in the Great
- With mechanical well drilling, farmers were able to dig more wells.
They could also make them deeper.
- Dry land farming: some land remains unfarmed for a year so that
it can store water for the next round of crops.
- The first North Americans to have large amounts of cattle were
- Once barbed wire was created, people could keep livestock out
of other farmer's crops.
- The Union Pacific railroad, which began in Omaha, Nebraska, was
mostly laid down by ex-soldiers and Irish immigrants.
- The Central Pacific, which started in Sacramento, California,
was worked largely by Chinese immigrants.
- The government paid the railroad for each mile of track, so companies
got more money for longer, less direct routes.
- In addition, longer, winding routes reached more towns.
- The railroad company received even more money from the towns it
- The Union and Central Pacific railroads both ended in Promontory
- The railroads helped Western Industry. They brought them farming
supplies, coal, and other important materials. They also took the
farmers's products to the East.
- Cattle - A new business.
- The West, especially Texas, had lots of cattle. In the east, the
cattle were over ten times more expensive. Ranchers realized that
they could make money if they drove the cattle East.
- Some Native Americans were angry because the cattle drives went
through their lands. Sometimes, the Native Americans attacked the
ranchers and the first drives lost money.
- Cattle drives went through many cities, starting with St. Louis,
Kansas City, and Sedalia, Missouri. Next, they included Abilene,
Kansas; Cheyenne, Wyoming; and Dodge City, Kansas.
- Once the ranchers started using the railroad for cattle, they
were more successful.
- As more of the open Western land was developed, cattle drives
could not move as easily over the land. Bad weather also killed
much of the cattle. As new railroads came, cattle drives were less
Demand for Product
- Western grain became increasingly needed by union soldiers during
the Civil War.
- The growing population of urban
cities also led to demand for grain.
- In Europe, famine and war
also led t o increased grain exports.
- In a regional economy, products are made to supply a limited area.
- In Minneapolis, wheat from the Plains states was milled by factories
and made into cereal, flour, etc.
Money and Credit
- Banks charged high interest to farmers and ranchers because they
knew that farms and ranches often failed. Bankers preferred to lend
money to big mining corporations and the railroads, because they
were more likely to be able to pay back.
- The large corporations enjoyed the most profit in the West.
- Farmers, ranch and railroad workers, and miners made much less
money. Farmers had a hard time making money because they had to
pay fees to the railroads for product shipment. They also had to
pay high interest rates. Sometimes, the demand for their products
would decrease, and the farmers could not charge as much for their
- In the late 1800's, many Mexicans started to work on railroads,
industries, and big ranches instead of small farming and ranching.
The Farmers' Situation
|The Farmers' Advantages
||The Farmers' Struggles
1) Laws: Donation Land Law, Homestead Act, Desert Act and
Timber Stone Act: All helped people purchase cheap land
2) Natural Resources:
Dakota territory and Montana - good for wheat. Wyoming, Colorado
and New Mexico - good for cattle
3) Valuable mineral deposits throughout the West, oil. Good
for growing automobile industry
4) New Equipment: steel plow, reaper,
disc harrow, mechanical
well drilling, barbed
5) Transcontinental Railroad: important for bringing
supplies, moving products to the East.
6) Demand for products great because of the Civil War, the
growth of U.S. cities, and European need for crops.
1) Weather was harsh in the Great Plains
2)160 acres not big enough for a large cattle ranch, but
too big for a farm
3) Irrigation difficulties
in the Southwest
4) Farming profits mostly made by a few large companies
5) Farmers had to pay high interest rates and railroad rates.
6) Unpredictable demand for crops
7) Fights with neighboring Native Americans over land