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Book Review - America's Westward Expansion Series - Pioneer Life in the American West by Christy Steele



America's Westward Expansion Series - Pioneer Life in the American West by Christy Steele - ISBN#0-8368-5790-9

Description:
Learn how the U.S. government once gave away millions of acres of free land under the Homestead Act. In many cases, the "free" land wound up costing many pioneers much more than they had bargained for, causing some financial ruin and even death. This volume explains the hazardous challenges of daily pioneer life, such as finding food, water and fuel that people needed to survive.

Highlights:

1820 - The Land Law of 1820 offered public lands for sale in 80-acre lots at $1.25 per acre (or $100 per parcel). Land speculators bought up lots and re-sold them at higher prices or split them into smaller units and sold them for a profit.
1830 - President Andrew Jackson enforces a Native American removal policy to obtain their land (in today's Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Montana, and the Dakotas) to eventually give to settlers. This land was known as the "Great American Desert".
1840's - Settlers bypassed the "sea of grass" to settle in California and the Pacific Northwest.
1841 - Pre-Emption Act of 1841 helped squatters to buy legal title to the land they occupied.
1862 - Homestead Act gave title of 160 acres to settlers after improving the land within 5 years (building a house, farming, etc).
The government gave acres of free land grants to the railroad companies who then sold choice land tracks to settlers to finance the railroad construction. They often lured European immigrants to purchase the land (since Americans could get free land already). The railroad even offered transportation to the land for them to buy.
1890 - Open-range ranching was over due to the invention of barbed wire (in 1873).
Sod houses: the homesteader would stack slabs of sod (grass-side down) to form the walls, formed a roof with cottonwood branches and covered that with more sod (grass-side up). This settled for several weeks, then they coated the inside walls with plaster or whitewash paste. The dirt floor had to be raked often to keep it even. Withstood fire and wind well, but insects, snakes, and mice lived within the walls. If it rained too much, the roof (and probably the walls) collapsed. Eventually, successful homesteaders imported timber to build wood-framed homes.
1837 - John Deere invented the steel plot
1845 - Texas becomes a state
1848 - James Marshall finds gold at Sutter's Mill
1850 - California becomes a state
1860 - The Pony Express starts delivering mail
1864 - Nevada becomes a state
1869 - The Transcontinental Railroad is completed
1900 - Hawaii becomes a state
1907 - Oklahoma becomes a state
1912 - New Mexico and Arizona become states

Check your local library for a copy or you can find one here:

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