the Homestead Act
- Most people thought the West would be poor farmland, with extreme
temperatures and little rain. They imagined the land had few trees.
- The West included California, Oregon, and Washington, and the
6 great plains states.
- Only 4% of Americans lived in the West in 1840.
Getting people to move West
- Under the Donation Land Law, an American married couple could
get 160 acres if they moved there before the end of 1850 and agreed
to four years of farming.
- Under the Homestead
Act, people could have 160 acres if they farmed and settled
on the land. If they farmed the land for 5 years, they could have
the land for free. They could have the land right away if they payed
$1.25 for each acre.
- The Desert Land Act and the Timber and Stone Act were other cheap
ways for people to get land in the West.
Problems with cheap land
- Some thought the 160 acres were too big for a farm, and too small
for raising cattle.
- Some people illegally tried to get large amounts of land. For
example, a Southwest rancher might buy lots of land using different
- The Chinese made up the largest group of immigrants to the West.
- San Francisco was the largest Western City until World War I.
Western population growth:
- 17 million American citizens lived in the West in the 1900s, and
most of the Western territory was divided into states.
- Most Westerners lived in California.
- Most people lived in the urban Midwest and East.
- The government developed the transcontinental railroad to make
Western travel easier and faster.