Submitted By sk1nh3ad
Words: 2826
Pages: 12


With the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869 the United States was stitched together from east to west, this drove down travel costs and brought an end to the dangerous era of traveling by covered wagons along the old trails. The railroads increased the rate at which the west could be settled and by connecting markets increased the size of the nation’s economy, for the first time in American history freight could be shipped from the eastern seaboard all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

The construction of the railroads in the west created large numbers of jobs for former Confederate and Union soldiers as well as many newly freed African Americans, but in many cases the job proved too hard for the average worker who would not work long hours for increasing dwindling pay this led to Chinese immigrants being brought in to work the harder stretches of the railroad where sometimes they would only clear a foot a day. Railroad work was never easy typically the workers would work all day in a hostile environment including both freezing weather in the mountains and the heat of the desert as well as having to use black powder explosives in order to clear the obstacles in their way.

The railroad created both new towns and whole new markets by itself. Besides the obvious creation of tent cities full of workers to maintain and build the railroad there was the ability to move resources into the plains where before there were no trees with which to build towns. Now lumber could be cheaply moved to new sites for cities and towns allowing them to build new communities and supply the farmers and other people that lived in them with goods from outside in a reliable quick fashion. It also allowed the opposite to happen those farmers with excess crops could sell them across the whole country.

Mining also revolutionized the west, as early as 1849 with the discovery of gold in California prospectors came into the region searching for gold and precious metals. Thousands of people left their jobs to go search for gold this led to a decline in many local economies and growth in the ones closest to the mines. It wasn’t only gold that created fortunes in the west if anything it was the discovery of silver that generated the most wealth. In 1857 with the discovery that the clay in Comstock Lode was actually silver of an incredibly high purity, The Comstock lode silver would become the ore to bring wealth in the west. The town of Virginia City was founded on top of the lode, although the town didn’t have the Cartwright family to keep things interesting, the town of Virginia City exploded from 4,000 people in 1862 to 25,000 in 1874 as well as sporting 110 saloons, multiple businesses for opium, and roughly 20 entertainment centers. It was also where the famous writer Mark Twain would create his pen name.

Farming became a staple of the western plains, after John Deere invented a new smooth sided steel plow that allowed farmers to go deeper and faster in the western soil the farming there took off. With the Homestead Act of 1862 any family that wanted land in the west could have 162 acres as long as they made improvements within 5 years. Improvements in farming led to an overabundance of crops and caused food prices to plummet which although good for the retail customer, was not good for the supplying farmer who then had to produce many times their normal amount in order to make it through winter.

Ranching in the west was an enterprise that seemed almost obvious to those involved, with the large swathes of land that made up the great plains cattle had plenty of grazing area to feed and herds could be raised with ease. The cattle trade led to towns such as Abilene Kansas being founded, where cattle could be brought in herds and shipped east or north to where the beef markets were. With the invention of wind pumps for water and barbed wire for fencing cattle could be kept on large organized