History help?if you could be a miner, a cowboy or a farmer after the civil war which one would you pick? it's 15 years after the war in the late 1800's and you decide to press your luck in the...

History help?if you could be a miner, a cowboy or a farmer after the civil war which one would you pick?

it's 15 years after the war in the late 1800's and you decide to press your luck in the west. which one of the choices would you pick? what are the pros and cons?

what are the pros and cons of being a miner out west?

Expert Answers
Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree that being a farmer would work best to your advantage. Under the Homestead Act of 1862, you could claim 160 acres of land, live on it for five years, then become the owner of your land by paying a very small fee. That was a very good deal and a great opportunity to make a new life in the West without having to be wealthy. Also, if you were in a hurry to be a land owner, you could claim your land, live on it for six months, and then buy it for $1.25 an acre. Being a farmer certainly wasn't an easy life, but a farmer owned his own land and worked it as he chose to support himself and his family. Farming offered a lot of personal freedom.

Farm accidents were a reality, of course, but being a miner or a cowboy was a much more dangerous endeavor. Mines were very unsafe workplaces, and the average lifespan of an American cowboy was only 23 years.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Not that I would at any time in any place want to be any of those occupations, but let’s play the devil’s advocate for a minute. Assuming I didn’t have a family, and I didn’t mind relocating, being a miner might have some benefits. A miner could be his or her own boss. S/he could work whenever the mood struck. S/he could follow the trend in when and where to mine, or s/he could strike out alone. Success or failure would not be determined by weather or other people. Success would be determined by hard work, and while the gods of fortune might never smile on the miner, the capriciousness of nature would not be a big threat to success.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If it's 15 years after the Civil War (1880), I think your best bet is being a farmer.

By 1880, mining wouldn't have been much fun.  This is no longer the days of the prospector independently panning for gold.  By 1880 it's all big companies running the mines.  So being a miner would have been dirty and dangerous and not well paid.

Not that being a farmer would have been great either -- it was really hard to make it as a family farmer.  But at least it wasn't physically dangerous (relative to mining and cowboying).  And it was the best of the three options for trying to have a family.


brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Great question.  I think if I had to choose between those three, I would pick a cowboy.  At least in that way I would be largely independent, and could ride on my own most of the time, be my own boss, so to speak.  I'd be poor, sure, but I would also be poor with the other two choices.  Most miners were broke, or worked in deplorable conditions so that others could get rich, so no thanks on that one.  As a farmer, I would have been at the mercy of low prices and a railroad monopoly, usually buried in crushing debt.

dbello eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Homestead Act of 1862 without a doubt gave both Americans as well as new immigrants to the country the opportunity of a life time as an American farmer. (unfortunately the law said nothing in the defense of the Native Americans) Although life on the open prairie was probably extremely difficult, it was the vision of a better life through farming that enabled all those who sought a better way of life the chance to succeed.  In 1862 I'd be a farmer !!!!!!!!

lynn30k eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Agree with lrwilliams. In no scenario does becoming a miner in that time sound like a good thing. Working conditions were dangerous, unhealthy, and frequently fatal. Workers frequently had to work in areas where the only option was to live in company-owned housing and buy supplies from the company store. Instead of getting ahead, a lot of workers fell further behind in debt to the company.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ouch! I'd hate to be any of those occupations--before, during or after the Civil War. However, being a farmer would not only be most fulfilling to me but would also be most profitable. After all, many of the South's richest men were planters (farmers and plantation owners) before the war. Mining was truly a hit and miss business, while cowboying meant long hours, hard work and little pay.

lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think it would also depend upon whether you had a family or not. I think if I had a family I would say that being a farmer would be the way to go. If I were a single man I think I would have to go with cowboy.

epollock | Student

As a farmer, it would depend on whether or not you owned the land, but as an owner you would reap additional benefits of expansion and progress. Mining would be profitable only if you were the one exploring the vast resources of the West.