What are some of the most important ways in which the Trans-Mississippi West changed from 1860 to 1900?

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The Trans-Mississippi American West went through many changes between 1860 and 1900. Some of the most significant changes involved transportation, communications, settling, mining, ranching, farming, and the treatment of Native Americans.

One of the greatest contributors to change in the American west was the railroad. Before the railroad, people had to travel west by wagon and by boat. After the passage of the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862, a transcontinental railway line was initiated from Omaha, Nebraska, to Sacramento, California. The railroad compressed a months-long journey into days. The railroad brought many settlers west. Towns sprang up along the way, and goods could be shipped back and forth quickly and much less expensively.

For the increased population, new lines of communication had to be opened. In 1860, the Pony Express began to transport mail between Missouri and California. However, this was arduous and dangerous, and it was soon supplanted by telegraph lines, which were established in 1861.

The Homestead Act of 1862 attracted millions of settlers, also known as homesteaders, to the American West. According to this law, the US government awarded homesteads, or plots of land of about 160 acres in size, to any adult American citizens who would farm the land for at least five years. After the end of the Civil War and the passing of the Fourteenth Amendment, this included African Americans. Many of them moved from the Deep South to settle in Colorado, Oklahoma, and Kansas. They became known as exodusters, after the Biblical exodus and the dusty conditions of the Midwestern plains.

The discovery of gold and other valuable minerals transformed the Trans-Mississippi west. The Comstock Lode was discovered in Nevada in 1859, the Big Bonanza of gold and silver in Nevada in 1873, and also in the mid-1870s, a rush on gold began in the Black Hills of South Dakota. This brought riches but also lawlessness and decadence to these areas.

After the Civil War, cattle ranching became a huge business, especially in Texas. Cattle drives took millions of cattle up to 1,000 miles from Texas to Kansas, from where the cattle would be sent farther east. Hostilities often broke out between ranchers and farmers vying for land.

As settlers moved westward, farming expanded throughout the American west from the Great Plains to the West Coast. Homesteaders settled on many small farms. For many of them, it was a rough, harsh existence. In the late nineteenth century, small farmers had to contend with competition from farming monopolies with access to advanced equipment such as combines and tractors. By the end of the century, many of the small farmers found it difficult to compete and faced debt and bankruptcy.

Native Americans suffered as increasing numbers of settlers moved west. Most white people saw Native Americans as hindrances. Native Americans were forced out of their homelands and made to settle in the Indian Territory and other designated reservations. There were several massacres of Native Americans, and their numbers and influence drastically declined.

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