RobO2 COHIST Late 19th Century Colorado Essay

Submitted By RobO2
Words: 1063
Pages: 5

Late 19th Century Colorado:
On the Dangers of Unchecked Immigration and Industrialization

The near simultaneous introductions of mining, farming, ranching, and the railroad in late 19th century Colorado would forever alter the landscape of a once wild region. With each industry playing a significant role in the others initial success, the mutual benefit was obvious and symbiotic. Both the prospect of striking it rich with gold, along with the continued westward expansion of the railroad, meant an unprecedented boom in the population density of Colorado was all but unavoidable. However, this boom could only be sustained if the production and availability of sustenance and other required materials increased accordingly.

The production of animal products, grains, fruit, and vegetables provided an opportunity to earn a living for those wishing to move to the region, but who were not also inclined to participate in the mining boom. The railroad indeed provided a convenient means of getting the food and goods they produced to increasingly faraway markets. Arguably, the introduction of farming, ranching, mining, and the railroad were a positive and necessary experience in order for Colorado to eventually prosper. But there is one group for whom the overall effect of these new ways of living and traveling would prove to be an overwhelmingly negative, if not fatal, experience—Native-Americans.

While the introduction of the railroad made it easier for farmers and ranchers in general to distribute their marketable products to increasingly distant locations, it was likely the cattle ranchers that appreciated the development more than most. While the average farmer may have been able to load up a wagon with their produce and take it to market or a nearby town, such was obviously not the case with large herds of cattle. Before the introduction of the railroad, moving large herds of cattle required the somewhat costly and risky proposition of a long distance cattle drive. The ability to transport cattle by rail made it substantially easier and likely cheaper to move herds great distances and thereby opened up new markets to the east for Colorado-raised beef. The railroad also made it easier for farmers and ranchers to receive needed supplies.

In addition to the benefits provided to farmers and ranchers, the introduction of the railroad benefited the region by also triggering an influx of visitors to the state that likely would not have made the journey in a wagon or otherwise. This influx of people from the East likely included some who were just passing through or who were there on holiday, and some that hoped to make a new life for themselves out in the Wild West and were looking for work and land. This influx of railroad passengers of both types likely caused a significant spike in demand for food and other resources produced by early farmers and ranchers of the region. Essentially it worked both ways. The railroad not only made life easier for the early farmers and ranchers in Colorado while ensuring their continued prosperity, but also enabled even more people to head West and pursue the dream of an independent and nearly self-sufficient way of life, or to at least visit and see the sights.

While the Euro-American immigrants likely rationalized all of the destruction, forced removals & re-locations, and outright genocide with their affinity for the exceptionally convenient concept of Manifest Destiny, presumably, Native-Americans viewed the overall impact of increased ranching and farming as not only overwhelmingly negative, but indeed as a direct (and nearly fatal) attack on their long-standing traditions and ways of living in relation to the land. A shining example of the superiority complex of Euro-Americans can e found on pages 178-179 of A Colorado History:

“Trouble was sure to come as the whites crowded into the San Juans. It culminated in the Meeker Massacre. However, even before this event the…