Chapter 17

Section 4 Farming in the West


-By 1900, half a million farmers had settled on the Great Plains.

-During the Civil War, Congress passed the Homestead Act of 1862. This offered 160-acre plot to anyone who lived on the land for five years.

-Homesteaders are settlers who acquired free land from the government.

-Railroads promoted more farming than did the Homestead Act.

-The railroads gave away some of the 180 million acres they got from the government.

A Hard Life on the Plains

-Life on the Great Plains was not easy.

-The first farmers on the eastern Plains staked out sites near water and trees.

-Later arrivals continued on the treeless prairie.

-The Great Plains had fertile land, but they were covered by a thick layer of sod.

-Sod is a surface layer of earth in which the roots of grasses tangle with soil.

A Last Rush for Land

-By the 1880s, few areas on the Plains remained free to settlers. The federal government agreed to open Oklahoma to homesteaders.

-On April 1889, nearly 100,000 people gathered at a line near present day Oklahoma City. They had come to claim 2 million acres of free homesteads in what was once Indian Territory.

-At noon, a volley of gunfire signaled the start of the Oklahoma Land Rush.

-In 1890, the national census reported that the United Sates no longer had land available for homesteading.

Farmers Organize

-Wheat and grain from Plains farms fed the growing cities of America and Europe.

-Small farmers were hit the hardest by low grain prices.

-Many farmers lived in poverty and isolation.

-In 1867, local granges joined to form the National Grange.

-Granges are groups of farmers who met for lectures, sewing bees, and other events