Chapter 19: Section 1 (Miners, Ranchers and Cowhands)

  • Learning Goal:
    The student will learn…
    1. …why miners, ranchers and cowhands settled in the west.

  • CHAPTER 19: GROWTH IN THE WEST 1860-1900

    wagon train

    Section 1: Miners, Ranchers and Cowhands
       (Listen to 0:00-2:41)

    THE MAIN IDEA: Miners, Ranchers and Cowhands settled in the west seeking economic opportunities.

    The Great Plains: The grasslands were home to more than 300,000 Native Americans. Gradually white people began to settle there. In 1859 gold and silver discoveries brought many settlers to Colorado and Nevada. Settlements near the more prosperous towns grew into boomtowns, towns that grew quickly, The Mining lasted until the 1890s.

    Before the Civil War, cattle herds on the frontier were small. However, with the coming of railroads, ranchers could ship their cattle by rail to eastern cities. Cattle ranching became a profitable business. The first cowhands came from Mexico with the Spaniards in the 1500s. Known as vaqueros, they taught the American cowhands how to rope and ride. Many cowhands were former Union or Confederate soldiers. One in three were either Mexican or African-American.

    Law and Order
    At first, rapidly growing towns in the west had no local governments or law officers. Sometimes groups took the law into their own hands and punished suspects in crimes without trials.  As towns became more settled, citizens elected local sheriffs.

    End of the Long Drives
    By the late 1880s, the cattle boom had ended. The price of beef had dropped sharply as the price had increased. The invention of barbed wire allowed sheep farmers to fence in their lands so cattle could not pass freely over trails. During the harsh winter of 1886-1887 thousands of cattle froze to death. Many ranchers went out of business.

    Click below to see an online illustration of Cattle Drive Trails:

    Cattle Drive Trails