The great west and the rise of the debtor study guide




The great west and the rise of the debtor study guide


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The great west and the rise of the debtor study guide


4.01 - Compare and contrast the different groups of people who migrated to the West and describe the problems they experienced.

• Who migrated West and what problems did they experience?
• How did the experiences of the settlers impact their successes or failures?
• Why did different groups of people have such varied experiences as they migrated?

  • Comstock Lode/Gold Rush – People rushed west starting in 1849 (the 49ers) in hopes of becoming rich off of gold and other ores. The Comstock Lode, a huge silver-mining area in Nevada, yielded about $300 million in silver and gold ore, starting in 1859.
  • Homestead Act – created in 1862, it was signed into effect by President Lincoln, selling land in the west to people for little money. Settlers had to live on their land for 5 years, build a house, and farm on the land at least 6 months out of the year.
  • Morrill Land Grant Act (1862) – gave millions of acres of land to states. They were to sell this land and use the money to create colleges. (land-grant colleges)
  • Oklahoma Land Rush - in 1889, The Oklahoma Land Rush opened the Oklahoma Territory to occupation by white settlers, displacing the natives. The nickname “Sooners” came from the land rush, as everyone tried to get there sooner than everyone else.
  • Settlers in the west would often times build sod houses, or soddies, which were houses built of mud and grass, sometimes right into the side of a hill.


  • Unique Experiences of:
    • Women – were given more freedoms in the west, including voting.
    • Cowboys – led a harsh, outdoor life. 1/5 of cowboys were African American or Mexican.
    • Farmers – had a difficult time adjusting to the climate of the west and were often forced to move back east if their farms were not successful.
    • African Americans who moved west called themselves Exodusters, after the book of Exodus in which the Jews fled Egypt.
    • Chinese Immigrants – came in through the west coast (Angel Island) and were involved with the building of the Pacific side of the transcontinental railroad.

• Irish Immigrants – came into the United States through the east coast (Ellis Island) and were involved with the building of the Atlantic side of the transcontinental railroad.


4.02 - Impact that settlement in the West had upon different groups of people and upon the environment.

• How did the environment of the West impact the success of the settlers?
• How did the migration of people bring about change in the West?
• What cause individuals or groups to migrate?
• Was the impact of settlement in the West positive or negative?
• How do individuals adapt to their surroundings?

Transcontinental Railroad

  • Built by primarily Irish and Chinese immigrants, this cross-continental railroad connected the east coast and the west coast, coming together at Promontory Point, Utah.

African Americans

  • Buffalo soldiers  - former slaves, freemen, and black Civil War veterans who formed the first black peacetime regiment in US history

Native Americans

  • Dawes Severalty Act – attempted to “civilize” the Native Americans, forcing dominant white culture on to the Native Americans. The act gave 160 acres of land to each Native American household, hoping that by owning their own land the Native Americans would be come self-sufficient. However, the Native Americans were given bad land and many ended up selling it or having it taken over by the whites.
    •  Assimilation – policies attempted to transform Native Americans into “citizens” by stripping them of their lands, cultures, languages, religions, and other markers of their ethnic identity
    • White settlers often attacked the buffalo, which was essential to the Native American’s livelihood.
  • Reservation System – government assigned land for Native American tribes that they were often forced onto.
  • Conflicts with Native Americans
    • Sand Creek Massacre – the Cheyenne had attacked settlers near Denver. As a result the US army was ordered to set up at Sand Creek. The US army attacked and killed about 500 Cheyenne, mostly women and children.
    • Battle of Little Big Horn – After much conflict between the Sioux and settlers in the west a peace treaty was signed giving land to the Sioux. In 1876 rumors of gold caused the US army to send General Custer to look for it. Fighting ensued and 2000 Sioux warriors killed Custer and his men – this became known as “Custer’s Last Stand.”
    • Wounded Knee – The last of this Indian Wars, this battle occurred as the US Army tried to arrest Sitting Bull. He hesitated and was killed by US soldiers, causing his followers to surrender. Many of Sitting Bull’s followers died as soldiers opened fire.
  • Helen Hunt Jackson’s A Century of Dishonordescribed how Native Americans were mistreated by the US government.


4.03 - Causes and effects of the financial difficulties that plagued the American farmer and trace the rise and decline of Populism.

• How and why was the plight of the American farmer so different from that of other Americans?
• Why did so many farmers support Populism?
• How can economically oppressed groups make their voices heard politically?

  • Gold standard (Goldbugs) – bankers and businessmen who wanted less money in circulation. Loans would be repaid with stable money, deflation would cause prices to fall and the value of money would increase; however, fewer people would have money.


  • Bimetallism – a monetary system in which the government would give citizens either gold or silver in exchange for paper currency or checks. People who supported bimetallism were called silverites. They were farmers/laborers from the south and the west who wanted more money in circulation in order to sell products for higher prices. Inflation would raise prices and the value of money would decrease. More people would have more money.
  • Munn v. Illinois(1877) – stated that the states have the power to regulate Railroads and commerce.
  • Wabash v. Illinois(1886) – stated that the federal government has the power to regulate commerce.
  • Interstate Commerce Act (1887) – enacted to regulate railroad prices.


Populism (Populist Party)

  • The Grange – an organization for farmers to unite voice concern and fight for rights. This gave them more power (power in numbers).
  • Composed of the National Farmers’ Alliances, Southern Alliance, and the Colored Farmers Alliance.
    • Economic Reforms wanted to increase the money supply in order to raise prices and make more money for farmers through bimetallism. They also wanted a federal income tax and a federal loan program.
    • Government Reformswanted the election of US senators to be by popular vote, a secret ballot to end voting fraud, and an 8 hour workday, and restrictions on immigration.

Election of 1896

  • William Jennings Bryan of the Populist Party ran for president on a bimetallism platform.
    • He gave the “Cross of Gold” Speech, stating that ““You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold” the idea being that the gold standard would kill America.
    • William Jennings Bryan lost to President William McKinley who had the support of the businesses and industrial population of the north.

4.04 - Innovations in agricultural technology and business practices and assess their impact on the West.

• How can technological innovations change society?
• Why did the agricultural innovations and technological developments impact groups of people in different ways?
• How did the existence of the frontier impact the technological development of the U.S.?

  • Industrialization – the building up of industries and therefore cities with business and factories.


  • Vertical Integration – taking over an industry by owning every phase of production of a product. (Think: owning all of the phases of production of steel, from the farms the ore is found in, all the way to the ships that send the final product around the world.)
  • Horizontal Integration – taking over an industry by owning all of the businesses on the same level. (Think: owning all of the oil companies in the US.)


  • Barbed wire – helped farmers section off their land and keep out unwanted livestock (or keep in their own livestock). The invention of the barbed wire “close the open range,” making it impossible for wild buffalo to roam.
  • Refrigerator car – allowed for much more cost efficient transfer of goods across the United States. Now cattle could be slaughtered on their ranch and the meat preserved as it traveled to its final destination, instead of sending the entire cow.


  • Windmill – allowed farmers to use the power of the wind to run machines, performing tasks like grinding grain.



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