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

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Trans-Mississippi West saw significant changes during the latter half of the nineteenth century, such as that the population of settlers rose significantly as more land was cultivated and mined and new cities were established. Better and more railroads and the invention of the telegraph connected the region to other parts of the continent like never before.

With the proliferation of railroads in the region, more settlers, mostly from the eastern states, found their way to the Trans-Mississippi West. Goods and supplies from the coasts were able to more quickly reach customers in the West. At the same time, these railroads opened up more markets for people in the region to sell their goods. As a result, there was a higher demand for crops, meat, and raw materials from the area. The telegraph, which was invented in 1861, also helped connect the region with other parts of the country by allowing news to travel at light speed across the Great Plains and beyond.

The Homestead Act of 1862 essentially gave most settlers around 160 acres of land for free in exchange for a commitment to settle it. Over 600,000 families took part in this, which vastly increased the population of the region.

Many of these new farmers soon found themselves at odds with ranchers. Before the mid-1870s, much of the prairie land in the Trans-Mississippi West was open range. As farmers came to the area, they began fencing off their properties to keep out grazing cattle. This led to conflicts between the two groups that sometimes turned violent.

To make way for these settlers, many Native Americans were forcibly removed from their land. This sometimes resulted in ruthless fighting and warfare. The policy of the government was to integrate native peoples into the general society. Those who resisted and survived were forced onto reservations (many in Oklahoma). Overall, the indigenous population of the region declined significantly.

Also, after the Civil War and the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865, chattel slavery was definitively ended throughout the region. Although they were no longer enslaved, the Black population in much of the Trans-Mississippi West still experienced discrimination as Black Codes and Jim Crow laws became the norm.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on