The New Mexico Territory first came to prominence in the debates concerning slavery. The territory allowed slavery for a short time, which appeased the Southern slave states before the outbreak of the Civil War. Part of the area was deemed important when it was discovered that it was
... a much easier route for a proposed transcontinental railroad... located slightly south of the Gila river.
The Santa Fe and Southern Pacific Railroads eventually provided a southern route that connected California with the East. The New Mexico Territory became important to the northern states and territories for its cattle. The first cattle trail was created in 1866, providing residents of Colorado and Wyoming with a new source of beef. Cattle and sheep ranchers eventually settled long-standing disputes and learned to coexist with one another. Irrigation projects and the discovery of artesian wells helped the flourishing ranching, farming and mining economies. The threat of Native American uprisings were finally eliminated after the surrender of the Apache Geronimo in 1886. Laws concerning education were finally established, and the first colleges emerged in 1889. The mining of gold and silver became important during the 1890s, and oil was discovered in 1909.