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oBefore, the U.S. government had sold land for revenue, but now, it was giving it away.oThis act led half a million families to buy land and settle outWest, but it often turned out to be a cruel hoax because in the dryGreat Plains, 160 acres was rarely enough for a family to earn a livingand survive. And often, families were forced to give up theirhomesteads before the five years were up, since droughts, bad land, andlack of necessities forced them out.oHowever, fraud was spawned by the Homestead Act, since almost tentimes as much land ended up in the hands of land-grabbing promotersthan in the hands of real farmers. Sometimes these cheats would noteven live on the land, but say that they’d erected a“twelve by fourteen” dwelling—which later turned outto be twelve by fourteen inches!2.Taming Western Deserts oRailroads such as the Northern Pacific helped develop theagricultural West, a place where, after the tough, horse-trodden landshad been plowed and watered, proved to be surprisingly fertile.oDue to higher wheat prices resulting from crop failures around theworld, more people rashly pushed further westward, past the 100thmeridian (which is also the magic 20-inch per year rainfall line),where it was difficult to grow crops. Here, as warned by geologist John Wesley Powell, so little rainfell that successful farming could only be attained by massiveirrigation.To counteract the lack of water (and a six year drought in the1880s), farmers developed the technique of “dry farming,”or using shallow cultivation methods to plant and farm, but over time,this method created a finely pulverized surface soil that contributedto the notorious “Dust Bowl” several decades later.oA Russian species of wheat—tough and resistant todrought—was brought in and grew all over the Great Plains, whileother plants were chosen in favor of corn.oHuge federally financed irrigation projects soon caused the“Great American Desert” to bloom, and dams that tamed theMissouri and Columbia Rivers helped water the land.
VIII. The Far West Comes of Age1.The Great West experienced a population surge, as many people moved onto the frontier.2.New states like Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Washington, Idaho, and Wyoming were admitted into the Union. oNot until 1896 was Utah allowed into the Union, and by the 20thcentury, only Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona remained as territories.oIn Oklahoma, the U.S. government made available land that hadformerly belonged to the Native Americans, and thousands of“Sooners” jumped the boundary line and illegally went intoOklahoma, often forcing U.S. troops to evict them.oOn April 22, 1889, Oklahoma was legally opened, and 18 years later, in 1907, Oklahoma became the “Sooner State.”3.In 1890, for the first time, the U.S. census announced that a frontier was no longer discernible.