Three ways in which the national government helped settle the West?

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boomer-sooner | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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The American government encouraged migration west through a variety of initiatives mainly centered around advertisements. One of the first major efforts the federal government undertook to help settle the west actually occurred long before many people moved west. In 1804 Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, along with about fifty others, headed west on the first expedition sent to survey the western territories.  The expedition returned to St. Louis in 1806 and the explorers were regarded as heroes for reaching the Pacific coast. This excursion into the frontier would simmer on the American consciousness for the next sixty years and provided an endless amount of hope to immigrants and those down on their luck.

     In 1862 Congress passed the Homestead Act which promised sixty-five hectares to any person willing to claim the land if they built a home and farmed it for five years. The only cost was ten dollars to register the claim. This brought many migrants looking for better land for crops. Eastern farmlands had been overworked for years leading to low crop yields and poor quality soil. The stability of their own land and promises of rich, fertile ground encouraged thousands to head west for their future.

     The first transcontinental railroad, originally known as the Pacific Railroad and Overland Route was completed in 1869 at Promontory Summit. This allowed the average American to venture west with a lack of money or supplies. It also allowed people to settle lands further from established towns because the railroad gave them access to resources. The railroad also encouraged entrepreneurs to create rail stops to service the trains and passengers. The first settlers were farmers, but the railroad allowed for other skilled workers to find reliable work out west.

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