Farming the Land and Mining the Land


Farming in these days was a way of survival. Early European settlers often had difficulty making a living from the soil. The most important great plains crop was wheat. The great plain region is too dry on average for production of a number of crops. Wheat was grown as a cash crop. Before crops could be planted the land had to be cultivated. Farming the great plains area was a risk. Farmers battled drought and early frost. Early farmers did not rely on there crops to live off of. They hunted bison and other meat to supplement there diet.


The richest silver deposit in American history was discovered in Nevada in 1857. The discovery triggered a rush of thousands to the area. A railroad was quickly built and the area quickly became one of the most industrialized areas in the west. Virginia city a town built on top of the mother lode was the most important town between Chicago and the Pacific in the 1870s. The towns population soared from 4,000 in 1862 to 25,000 in 1874. The towns six story hotel had the only elevator west of Chicago. Downtown had 110 saloons and 20 theaters and music halls. Largely because of Virginia Cities population boom, Nevada territory was created in 1861 and Statehood came just 3 short years later. By the 1870s over 270 million had been produced by the mines. These mines helped finance the Civil War and Unions paper green backs.

Closing of the Plains

In 1860 most Americans considered the great plains the great American desert. Settlement In the West averaged just 1person per square mile, The only places far West that were greatly settled were Texas and California. The expansion of the railroad and invention of barbed wire fencing/ improvements of the wind mill attracted ranchers and farmers to the great plains in the 1860s and 1870s. The development of the railroad made in profitable to raise cattle on the great plains, The closing of the plains started the cowboy era. The frontier cowboy lifestyle as his horse and satle. Pay on most ranches ranged from 20-45 dollars a month. We also got the term cattle baron from this time period. A cattle baron is local business man who owned land and also assumed wealth through the cattke buissness.