THE WEST. - In 1860 the great West bore little resemblance to its present appearance. The only states wholly or partly west of the Mississippi River were Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas. Louisiana, Texas, California, and Oregon. Kansas territory extended from Missouri to the Rocky Mountains. Nebraska territory included the region from Kansas to the British possessions, and from Minnesota and Iowa to the Rocky Mountains. New Mexico territory stretched from Texas to California, Utah territory from the Rocky Mountains to California, and Washington territory from the mountains to the Pacific.

GOLD AND SILVER MINING. - One decade, however, completely changed the West. In 1858 gold was discovered on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains, near Pikes Peak; gold hunters rushed thither, Denver was founded, and in 1861 Colorado was made a territory. Kansas, reduced to its present limits, was admitted as a state the same year, and the northern part of Nebraska territory was cut off and called Dakota territory (map, p. 352).

In 1859 silver was discovered on Mount Davidson (then in western Utah), and population poured thither. Virginia City sprang into existence, and in 1861 Nevada was made a territory and in 1864, with enlarged boundaries, was admitted into the Union as a state.

Precious metals were found in 1862 in what was then eastern Washington; the old Fort Boise of the Hudson's Bay Company became a thriving town, other settlements were made, and in 1863 the territory of Idaho was organized. In the same year Arizona was cut off from New Mexico.

Hardly had this been done when gold was found on the Jefferson fork of the Missouri River. Bannack City, Virginia City, and Helena were founded, and in 1864 Montana was made a territory. [1]

In 1867 Nebraska became a state, and the next year Wyoming territory was formed.

OVERLAND TRAILS. - When Lincoln was inaugurated in 1861, no railroad crossed the plains. The horse, the stagecoach, the pack train, the prairie schooner, [2] were the means of transportation, and but few routes of travel were well defined. The Great Salt Lake and California trail, starting in Kansas, followed the north branch of the Platte River to the mountains, crossed the South Pass, and went on by way of Salt Lake City to Sacramento. Over this line, once each week, a four-horse Concord coach [3] started from each end of the route.

From Independence in Missouri another line of coaches carried the mail over the old Santa Fe trail to New Mexico.

The great Western mail route began at St. Louis, went across Missouri and Arkansas, curved southward to El Paso in Texas, and then by way of the Gila River to Los Angeles and San Francisco; the distance of 2729 miles was covered in twenty-four days. [4]

PONY EXPRESS. - This was too slow for business men, and in 1860 the stage company started the Pony Express to carry letters on horseback from St. Joseph to San Francisco. Mounted on a swift pony, the rider, a brave, cool-headed, picked man, would gallop at breakneck speed to the first relay station, jump on the back of another pony and speed away to the second, mount a fresh horse and be off for a third. At the third station he would find a fresh rider mounted, who, the moment the mail bags had been fastened to his horse, would ride off to cover his three stations in as short a time as possible. The riders left each end of the route twice a week or oftener. The total distance, about two thousand miles, was passed over in ten days. [5]

In the large cities of the East free delivery of letters by carriers was introduced (1863), the postal money order system was adopted (1864), and trials were made with postal cars in which the mail was sorted while en route.

THE TELEGRAPH. - Meanwhile Congress (in June, 1860) incorporated the Pacific Telegraph Company to build a line across the continent. By November the line reached Fort Kearny, where an operator was installed in a little sod hut. By October, 1861, the two lines, one building eastward from California, and the other westward from Omaha, reached Salt Lake City. The charge for a ten-word message from New York to Salt Lake City was 87.50.

When the telegraph line was finished, the work of the Pony Express ended, and all letters went by the overland stage line, whose coaches entered every large mining center, carrying passengers, express matter, and the mail. [6]

OVERLAND FREIGHT. - The discovery of gold in western Kansas, in 1858, and the founding of Denver, led to a great freight business across the plains. Flour, bacon, sugar, coffee, dry goods, hardware, furniture, clothing, came in immense quantities to Omaha, St. Joseph, Atchison, Leavenworth, there to be hauled to the "diggings." Atchison became a trade center. There, in the spring of 1860, might have been seen hundreds of wagons, and tons of goods piled on the levee, and warehouses full of provisions, boots, shoes, and clothing. From it, day after day, went a score of prairie schooners drawn by horses, mules, or oxen. [7]

THE RAILROAD. - The idea of a railroad over the plains was, as we have seen, an old one; but at last, in 1862, Congress chartered two railroad companies to build across the public domain from the Missouri River to California. One, the Union Pacific, was to start at Omaha and build westward. The other, the Central Pacific, was to start in California and build eastward till the two met. Work was begun in November, 1865, and in May, 1869, the two lines were joined at Promontory Point, near Salt Lake City.

As the railroad progressed, the overland coaches plied between the ends of the two sections, their runs growing shorter and shorter till, when the road was finished, the overland stagecoach was discontinued.

THE HOMESTEAD LAW. - When the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads were chartered, they were given immense land grants; [8] but in the same year (1862) the Homestead Law was enacted. Under the provisions of this law a farm of 80 or 160 acres in the public domain might be secured by any head of a family or person twenty-one years old who was a citizen of our country or had declared an intention to become such, provided he or she would live on the farm and cultivate it for five years. [9] Between 1863 and 1870, 103,000 entries for 12,000,000 acres were made. This showed that the people desired the land, and was one reason why no more should be given to corporations.

NORTHERN PACIFIC RAILROAD. - In 1864 Congress had chartered a railroad for the new Northwest, and had given the company an immense land grant. But building did not begin till 1870. All went well till 1873, when a great panic swept over the country and the road became bankrupt. It then extended from Duluth to Bismarck. Two years later the company was reorganized, and the road was finished in 1883. [10]

WHEAT FIELDS OF DAKOTA. - During the panic certain of the directors of the road bought great tracts of land from the company, paying for them with the railroad bonds. On some of these lands in the valley of the Red River of the North an attempt was made to raise wheat in 1876. It proved successful, and the next year a wave of emigration set strongly toward Dakota. In 1860 there were not 5000 people in Dakota; in 1870 there were but 14,000, mostly miners; in 1880 there were 135,000.

PRAIRIE HOMES. - These newcomers - homesteaders, as they were often called - broke up the prairie, planted wheat, raised sheep and cattle, and lived at first in a dugout, or hole dug in the side of a depression in the prairie. This was roofed (about the level of the prairie) with thick boards covered with sods. After a year or two in such a home the settler would build a sod house. The walls, two feet thick, were made of sods cut like great bricks from the prairie. The roof would be of boards covered with shingles or oftener with sods, and the walls inside would sometimes be whitewashed. Near watercourses a few settlers found enough trees to make log cabins.

THE RANCHES. - Stretching across the country from Montana and Dakota to Arizona lay the grass region, the great ranch country, where herds of cattle grazed and were driven to the railroads to be taken to market. In later years this became also the greatest sheep-raising and wool-producing region in the Union.

BUFFALOES AND INDIANS. - With the building of the railroads and the coming of the settlers the reckless slaughter of the buffalo and the crowding of the Indians began. [11] To-day the buffalo is as rare an animal in the West as in the East; and after many wars and treaties with the Indians, they now hold less than one hundredth of the land west of the Mississippi.

MECHANICAL PROGRESS. - The period 1860 to 1880 was one of great mechanical and industrial progress. During this time dynamite and the barbed-wire fence were introduced; the compressed-air rock drill, the typewriter, the Westinghouse air brake, the Janney car coupler, the cable car, the trolley systems, the electric light, the search light, electric motors, the Bell telephone, the phonograph, the gas engine, and a host of other inventions and mechanical devices were invented. To satisfy the demands of trade and commerce, great works of engineering were undertaken, such as twenty years before could not have been attempted. The jetties constructed by James B. Eads in the South Pass at the mouth of the Mississippi, to force that river to keep open its own channel; the steel-arch railroad bridge built by Eads across the Mississippi at St. Louis; the Roebling suspension bridges over the Ohio at Cincinnati and over the East River at New York; and the successful laying of the Atlantic cable (1866) by Cyrus W. Field, are a few of the great mechanical triumphs of this period.

INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT. - Industries once carried on in the household or in small factories were conducted on a large scale by great corporations. The machine for making tin cans made possible the canning industry. The self- binding harvester and reaper made possible the immense grain fields of the West. The production and refining of petroleum became an industry of great importance. The great flour mills of Minneapolis, the iron and steel mills of Pennsylvania, the packing houses of Chicago and Kansas City, and many other enterprises were the direct result of the use of machinery.

RISE OF GREAT CORPORATIONS. - Trades and occupations, industries of all sorts, began to concentrate and combine, and large corporations took the place of individuals and small companies. In place of many little railroads there were now trunk lines. [12] In place of many little telegraph companies, express companies, and oil companies there were now a few large ones.

IMMIGRATION. - This industrial development, in spite of machinery, could not have been so great were it not for the increase in population, wealth, the facilities of transportation, and the great number of workingmen. These were largely immigrants, who came by hundreds of thousands year after year. From about 90,000 in 1862, the number who came each year rose to more than 450,000 in 1873; and then fell to less than 150,000 in 1878. The population of the whole country in 1880 was 50,000,000, of whom more than 6,500,000 were of foreign birth.


1. The discovery of gold and silver near the Rocky Mountains in 1858 and later brought to that region many thousand miners.

2. Their presence in that wild region made local government necessary, and by 1868 seven new territories were formed (Colorado, Dakota, Nevada, Idaho, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming), and one of them (Nevada, 1864) was admitted into the Union as a state.

3. Means of communication with California and the far West were improved. First came the Pony Express, then the telegraph, and finally the railroad.

4. The construction of the railroad across the middle of the country was followed by the building of another near the northern border.

5. Railroad building, the Homestead Law, and the success of the Dakota wheat farms, led to the rapid development of the new Northwest.

6. Quite as noticeable is the mechanical and industrial progress of the country, the rise of great corporations, and the flood of immigrants that came to our shores each year.


[1] For descriptions of the wild life in the new Northwest in the pioneer days read Langford's Vigilante Days and Ways.

[2] A large wagon with a white canvas top.

[3] A kind of heavy coach, so called because first manufactured at Concord, New Hampshire.

[4] When the war opened and Texas seceded, this route was abandoned, and after April, 1861, letters and passengers went from St. Joseph by way of Salt Lake City to California.

[5] All letters had to be written on the thinnest paper, and no more than twenty pounds' weight was allowed in each of the two pouches. The trail was infested with "road agents" (robbers), and roving bands of Indians were ever ready to murder and scalp; but in summer and winter, by day and night, over the plains and over the mountains, these brave men made their dangerous rides, carrying no arms save a revolver and a knife. Each letter had to be inclosed in a ten-cent stamped envelope and have on it in addition for each half ounce five one-dollar stamps of the Pony Express Company. The story of the Pony Express is told in Henry Inman's Great Salt Lake Trail, Chap. viii.

[6] As the government had no post offices in the mining camps, the stage company became the postmasters, delivered the letters, and charged twenty- five cents for each. Sometimes the owner of a little store in a remote mountain camp would act as postmaster, and charge a high price for sending letters to or bringing them from the nearest stage station. One such used a barrel for the letter box, and sent the mail once a month. A hole was cut in the head of the barrel, and beside it was posted a notice which read: "This is a Post Office. Shove a quarter through the hole with your letter. We have no use for stamps as I carry the mail."

[7] The lighter articles went in wagons drawn by four or six horses or mules, the heavier in great wagons drawn by six and eight yoke of oxen, which made the trip to Denver in five weeks. The cost of provisions brought in this way was very great. Thus in 1865, in Helena, Montana, flour sold for $85 a sack of one hundred pounds. Potatoes cost fifty cents in gold a pound, and coal oil, at Virginia City, $10 in gold a gallon. Board and lodgings rose in proportion, and it was not uncommon to see posted in the boarding houses such notices as this: "Board with bread at meals, $32; board without bread, $22." Read Hough's The Way to the West, pp. 200-221.

[8] Every other section in a strip of land twenty miles wide along the entire length of the railroad. The government had always been liberal in granting land to aid in the construction of roads, canals, and railroads, and between 1827 and 1860 had given away for such purposes 215,000,000 acres. Had these acres been in one great tract it would have been seven times as large as Pennsylvania. In 1862 Congress also added to its grants for educational purposes (p. 301) by giving to each state from 90,000 to 990,000 acres of public land in aid of a college for teaching agriculture and the mechanical arts.

[9] For conditions on which land could be secured before this, see p. 302.

[10] The history of the railroads across the continent is told in Cy. Warman's Story of the Railroad; for the Northern Pacific, read pp. 179-196.

[11] White men eager for land invaded the Indian reservations; acts of violence were frequent, and shameful frauds were perpetrated by the agents of the government. The Indians, in retaliation, killed settlers and ran off horses, mules, and cattle. There were uprisings of the Sioux in Minnesota (1862) and in Montana (1866); but the worst offenders were the Apaches of Arizona, and against them General Crook waged war in 1872. Toward the close of 1872 the Modocs left their reservation in Oregon, took refuge in the Lava Beds in northern California, and defied the troops sent to drive them back. General Canby and several others were treacherously murdered at a conference (1873), and a war of several months' duration followed before the Modocs were forced to surrender. In 1874 the Cheyennes (she-enz'), enraged at the slaughter of the buffaloes by the whites, made cattle raids, and more fighting ensued. An attempt to remove the Sioux to a new reservation led to yet another war in 1876, in which Lieutenant-Colonel Custer and his force of 262 men were massacred in Montana. Read Longfellow's poem The Revenge of Rain-in-the-Face.

[12] Thus (1869) the New York Central (from Albany to Buffalo) and the Hudson River (from New York to Albany) were combined and formed one railroad under one management from New York to Buffalo.