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Western Expansion Dbq

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Western Expansion DBQ

Throughout the first half of the nineteenth century, many Americans considered the lands west of the Mississippi as the "Great American Desert" and unfit for civilization. However, by the mid-1840s, migrants from the eastern United States transformed this vast desert into a fruitful land awaiting settlement and civilization known as the frontier. The development of the frontier was the result of the mass population of the many different regions of the far West. These regions were diverse in climate as well as in natural resources and, as a result, attracted different types of settlers (Doc I). The wide-ranging natural landscape of the far West offered promising lifestyles to those who chose the occupations of farmers, cattle ranchers, and miners. These groups helped to develop the western United States into a thriving, economic metropolis (Doc D).

Farming quickly became a popular occupation for migrants from the eastern United States. Farming originally became an attractive occupation because of the successful cultivation of the Great Plains. Settlers were attracted by the short grass pastures for cattle and sheep, the sod of the plains, and by the meadowlands of the mountains that could be found in this region. An influx in rainfall after the 1870s turned the formerly barren plains into workable farmland. The initial journey westward for farmers was by wagon or cart. These journeys were often very difficult and dangerous (Doc E). Climate and the threat of territorial Native Americans in the West made the journeys last for long, grueling months (Doc H). Also, the idea of the farmer's lifestyle was that of the sturdy, independent farmer. However, as drought and debt plagued the farmlands of the Great Plains in the late nineteenth century, fewer farmers sought to be independent and more sought to be commercial (Doc C). The lifestyle of the commercial farmer was reasonably better and less self-sufficient than that of the independent farmer; however, they were still plagued by overproduction and economic distress. The settlement of farmers also contributed to the development of the west in different ways. Farmers helped to create new markets and new outposts of commercial agriculture in the Great Plains for the nation's growing economy. The independent farmer began by cultivating the land and selling to national markets while the commercial farmers expanded farming and sold cash crops in national and world markets.

Cattle ranching also became very prominent in this region. Initially, the vast grasslands of the Great Plains were attractive to cattle ranchers. The open range was a huge domain wherein cattle raisers could graze their herds free of charge and unrestricted by the boundaries of public farms. The map in Document A exhibits the vast open ranges of the Great Plains on which cattle ranchers would roam. This occupation was particularly appealing to veterans of the Confederate army and African Americans who had been dislocated after the Civil War. Another aspect to consider is the cattle ranchers who enjoyed a life of solitary adventure among the vast plains. Every cattle rancher operated from a permanent ranch. These ranches started out small but grew and became more defined as the cattle ranchers were forced to compete with

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