Expansion In The West From 1840 1890

1416 words - 6 pages

When an area is settled for the first time, there are certain things that shape the development of the land and the people who settle it. From the 1840's to the 1890's, the natural environment, among other things, shaped the development of the West beyond the Mississippi River and the lives of those who lived and settled there. Some examples of places that were shaped and/or affected by the natural environment are Texas, the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains, and the California/West Coast area. Texas was one of the first areas past the Mississippi to be settled. Ever since the Republic of Texas accepted annexation in 1845, it was a truly "frontier" land in many senses of the word. There was always a certain myth about Texas, even before it became a state. There were rumors of it being nothing more than one enormous desert. The people living there, ever since being recruited by the empresarios, knew that Texas was more than just a large chunk of dry land. Those settlers knew that it was useful farmland with much potential to attract many American settlers. As far as natural environment goes, Texas was a large chunk of dry land that proved to be surprisingly more than adequate for the farmers who lived there. As stated above, this property of the land helped make it attractive to farmers. Texas was also a fairly flat land, which was the perfect environment for longhorn cattle to flourish in. This came to help Texas very much as the formation of the cattle frontier arrived. When the age of the cowboys and long cattle drives from Texas to Abilene, Kansas began, it was the people on the "ground-floor" of this frontier who truly struck it rich, adding further to Texas's mystique. In addition to the natural environment, the history of Texas prior to being an American state also was a large and important factor in shaping the lives of the people who settled there. This fact can be perfectly illustrated in Document D. In that picture, it is clear that San Antonio, even as early as 1849, was a thriving place with a heavy Mexican-Spanish influence. If it weren't for the American flag waving in the background, one would think that the city was Mexico City, Vera Cruz, or any other thriving Mexican city. A second area that was settled west of the Mississippi that was affected by its natural environment is the Great Plains. Probably more than any other region of the West, the natural environment played havoc with those living there. As a result of the Homestead Act of 1862, a huge number of people moved West planning on making a living by farming on 160 acres of essentially free land. When they finally arrived on their homesteads, they must have been surprised to discover that their land was very, very difficult to farm on and there were, for the most part, no trees around. As a result of this, the families of farmers had to do what Americans had been doing for at least 150 years- they adapted to their new circumstances. To counter the...

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