Domestication of the last frontier Essay

This essay has a total of 988 words and 5 pages.

domestication of the last frontier

The Domestication of the Last Frontier
In 1865 the frontier line generally followed the western limits of the states bordering
the Mississippi River, bulging outward to include the eastern sections of Kansas and
Nebraska. Beyond this thin edge of pioneer farms, lay the prairie and sagebrush lands that
stretched to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Then, for nearly 1,600 kilometers,
loomed the huge bulk of mountain ranges, many rich in silver, gold and other metals. On
the far side, plains and deserts were part of this region; here laid the “Last
Frontier”--- the “Great Plains”. “For a long time, the region had
been called the Great American Dessert, a barrier to cross on the way to the Pacific,
unfit for human habitation and therefore, to white Americans, the perfect refuge for
Indians.” (Tindall 857) Apart from the settled districts in California and scattered
outposts, the vast inland region was populated by Native Americans: among them the Great
Plains tribes -- Sioux and Blackfoot, Pawnee and Cheyenne -- and the Indian cultures of
the Southwest, including Apache, Navajo, and Hopi. Soon these Indians were pushed away
from their “safe haven”. “They lost an estimated 86 million acres of
their 130 million acres.”(Tindall 873) The reason to this is because the white man
went westward to expand.

A mere quarter-century later, virtually all this country had been carved into states and
territories. Miners had ranged over the whole of the mountain country, tunneling into the
earth, establishing little communities in Nevada, Montana and Colorado. Cattle ranchers,
taking advantage of the enormous grasslands, had laid claim to the huge expanse stretching
from Texas to the upper Missouri River. Sheepherders had found their way to the valleys
and mountain slopes. Farmers sank their plows into the plains and valleys and closed the
gap between the East and West. By 1890 the frontier had disappeared.

Settlement was spurred by the Homestead Act of 1862, which granted free farms of 64
hectares to citizens who would occupy and improve the land. “Under the homestead
Act of 1862 a farmer could either realize the old dream of free land and simply by staking
out a claim and living on it for years, or by buying the land at $1.25 an acre after six
months.” (Tindall 878) Unfortunately for the would-be farmers, the land itself was
suited more for cattle ranching than farming, and by 1880 nearly 22,400,000 hectares of
"free" land was in the hands of cattlemen or the railroads.

In 1862 Congress also voted a charter to the Union Pacific Railroad, which pushed westward
from Council Bluffs, Iowa, using mostly the labor of ex-soldiers and Irish immigrants. At
the same time, the Central Pacific Railroad began to build eastward from Sacramento,
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