Part 16: The Last West and the New South (1865-1900)
This chapter details the goings on in the South and the West following the Civil War, including the Jackson Frontier Thesis.
A.The West: Settlement of the Last Frontier. Following the War, many Americans now turned to settling the West, as the land between the Mississippi and the pacific had been referred to as the “Great American Desert.” Why? Gold in California, fishing and farming in Oregon, etc. Although there was light yearly rainfall west of the 100th meridian, there were 15 million buffalo, which provided food, clothing, shelter, and tools to the natives who lived there. By 1900 these buffalo herds were all but wiped out and the frontier was virtually gone. Homesteaders had fenced in the land, the railroad had created cities and towns, and states had been carved out. (Only AZ, OK, and NM remained as territories by 1900.) The rush for minerals in the west had caused this destruction and the natives who stood in the way of the onslaught paid the price in culture and lives. Settlement of the frontier was achieved by 3 groups: miners, cattleman and cowboys, and farmers.
a.The Mining Frontier: California gold rush in 1848 started the beginning of a quest for gold and silver that extended into the 20th century. Gold and silver strikes in Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Arizona, and South Dakota kept people coming West. 100,000 miners came to Colorado in 1859 when gold was discovered near Pike’s Peak. The Comstock Lode (over $340 million in gold and silver in Nevada by 1890) brought Nevada into the Union in 1864. i.The method: Individual prospectors would look for traces of gold and silver in the streams by placer mining (panning.) Deep-shaft mining took its place, which required wealthy investors and corporations. A strike meant a rush, boom town. Lawless towns sprang up all over the West, including Virginia City, NV, where Mark Twain started his writing career on the local paper. Many boom towns became ghost towns just as quickly as miners moved on to the next strike. ii.As mines developed, professional miners from Asia and Europe arrived, as it was not unusual for half the population of a mining town to be foreign born. By the 1860s, 1/3 of the miners in Nevada were Chinese immigrants. In California, anti-immigrant feeling led to a $20 miner’s tax on all foreign miners as well as the infamous Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which prohibited further immigration from China. This was the first major Congressional Act to restrict immigration on the basis of race and nationality. iii.Negative Effects: These strikes not only affected the population shifts in America, but they also brought about discussion of gold and silver backed currency to the forefront, which would become a leading political issue in the 1880s and 90s. Also, the mining left scars on the land that can still be seen today, as well as a disastrous effect on the Natives. b.The Cattle Frontier: Following the War, many saw the vast open grasslands of Texas as another source for economic boom: Cattle. We basically stole the idea of the cowboy from Mexico, as well as the cattle themselves (Texas Longhorns were originally from Mexico.) During the War, after the Union cut Texas off from the rest of the Confederacy, over 5 million head of cattle roamed freely throughout Texas. When the War ended, the Texas cattle business was easy to get into because both the cattle and the land were free. i.Railroads Impact on Cattle: The construction of RR into Kansas after the war gave Texan cattlemen a destination. If you could get the cattle to Kansas, they could be placed on the trains and sent to Chicago for slaughter and hamburger. Joseph McCoy realized the huge profitability to be made by sending beef to Chicago. Cows were sold for $30-$50 a head in Chicago. McCoy built the first stockyards in Abilene, Kansas. Dodge City, Sedalia, Kansas City and other cow towns followed...