<< Back to Lessons Index

Discover_our_World_Yellow / Lesson 9: Settlers in the Great Plains

Settlers in the Great Plains


The Great Plains

Starting in 1862---The U.S. Government sold or gave away almost 200 million acres of land in the Great Plains Area


The Government placed ads in newspapers across the country that said "cheap, fertile land at low prices!"


The Homestead Act

 In 1862 President Lincoln signed the Homestead Act
The Homestead Act---This act gave 160 acres or one quarter square mile of public land in the Great Plains area to adult men 21 years of age, widows, or heads of family.
All the settlers had to do was pay a small fee of $1.25 an acre, farm the land and live on it for five years.
People who claimed the land under this act were called homesteaders.
 


Homesteaders

The homesteaders arrived on the prairie lands of the Great Plains by several ways: stagecoaches, railroads, covered wagons or horses.


The Great Plains was difficult terrain to live in: as there were few trees - it was just grass and sky


Sod Houses

 Those who settled in the Great Plains area needed houses - but what did they have to built houses out of - Sod or mud


The settlers made their houses out of sod so they were called sod houses


The people who lived in the sod houses were called Sodbusters because they had to "bust" through the thick sod to get it to build their houses and plant crops for food

 


Sod Houses

 To build a sod house: the settlers cut brick shaped slabs of sod and they piled it in layers to make the walls and roofs of their homes


Sod Houses were nicknamed - Soddies


Sod Houses were dark and uncomfortable

 


James Oliver

 In 1877 - James Oliver invented a new type of steel plow in South Bend, Indiana---this plow could cleanly slice through sod without getting stuck - he called it the chilled-steel plow  


A Wheat for the Plains

 In 1874--- The Russian Settlers introduced a new kind of wheat that could survive  on the Plains  


Joseph Glidden

 In 1874 ----invented barbed wire


Barbed wire was used to fences to keep cattle penned in

 


1874

 The year of 1874 was also called the "Great Grasshopper year"----in this year - millions of grasshoppers swarmed over the plains


The hungry insects piled 6 inches deep and they could eat 100 acres of corn in a few hours


This caused many settlers to either starve because their food was gone or to give up their farms and move back to the east

 


The Hardships of the Plains

The Great Plains was subject to these difficulties:


1. Insects
2. Tornados
3. Dust Storms
4. Winter Blizzards
5. Prairie Fires


The exodusters

The exodusters were African Americans who moved north west into the Great Plains area after the Civil War


There were over 20,000 exodusters that moved into the Great Plains in just 1879


The exodusters took their name from the freed Jewish people who left Egypt to go to the promised land - their journey was called the Exodus

 


Nicodemus, Kansas

 A town that was primarily settled by exoduster people  in the late 1800s was Nicodemus, Kansas


Nicodemus, Kansas became a place where the exodusters could establish farming communities and find freedom

 


The Native Americans in the Plains

 Native Americans viewed land as a free gift


They did not believe people should sell land


One Lakota Native American Chief - "Crazy Horse" said "One does not sell the earth upon which the people walk!"


Crazy Horse led his people to fight in the Plains Wars


The Plains Wars were wars that were fought over the Plains area between the settlers & the U.S. army versus the Native Americans

 


Other Native Americans who fought in the Plains Wars

 Chief Joseph was a Chief of the Nez Perce people - he helped his people fight to save their lands - and when they could not fight anymore he decided to lead his people to Canada to escape the White settlers and the American army


He was about 40 miles from Canada when the white men caught them and he was forced to surrender

 


Sitting Bull

 Sitting Bull was a Chief of a Lakota tribe


He helped organize one of the last battles on the Great Plains that was won by Native Americans


He organized the Battle of Little Bighorn


This Battle is also known as Custer's Last Stand


Colonel George Custer was the part of an American cavalry - or soldiers on horseback

 


The Battle of Little Bighorn

 Custer did not know that his soldiers were outnumbered in this battle


June 17, 1876---Custer attacked a Native American camp with his 600 soldiers - but 1000 Native Americans quickly defended themselves by killing all of the white cavalry including Custer


This Battle caused the U.S. Army to send more soldiers out to the Plains area to round up the Native Americans and to force them onto reservations