- The government continued to promote the westward expansion after the Civil War.
- In 1890, the Census Bureau broadcasted the close of the frontier, meaning that there was no apparent line in the west with vast lands without settlers.
After the Civil War, the government sought to continue to promote the westward expansion. Texas at the time was sparsely populated and Oklahoma and Kansas mostly reservations and the regions in Nebraska, Dakota and the Rocky Mountains were also primarily idle.
Congress agreed that the transcontinental railroad completed in 1869 would be instrumental in spurring the transportation of folks and goods in the area and thus stimulate settlement. Further, president Lincoln Homestead Act, 1862 was the other tool for promoting westward settlement and people including free slaves were given land for a meagre price, provided they settled and developed the property for 5 years, after which their title was confirmed.
Through the 1870s and the 1880s, there was an extraordinary expansion of the western region and the diversity reflected the settlement opportunities available through the years that drew people from America and all of Europe and even Asia. In New Mexico and California, the Spaniards were the first settlers and the Mexican government invited Americans to settle in the region until the area was ceded to America under the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
San Francisco, initially settled by Spaniard as well, became part of the US in 1846 and was the regional economic hub by 1880. The coast of California to the west of the Rock Mountains, settlements grew, with interest first being on the potential for gold and silver and then to timber, ranching and farming evolving along government policies such as the homestead and the transcontinental railroad.
By 1900, 14 new states emerged from the western territories with Colorado being admitted into the Union in 1876, a hundred years after the US acquired the status of nationhood and was called the Centennial State. North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Washington, Idaho and Wyoming were admitted between the year 1889 to 1890 following the northwest ordinances that provided the criteria for the recognition of states. Utah was admitted in 1896 once the Mormon in the region, who were led initially by Brigham Young, renounced polygamy.
In 1889, lands in Oklahoma that were reserved for the Creeks and the Seminoles were open for settlements and fifty thousand “Boomers” and “89ers” acquired land in the region, enabling its admission into the Union in 1907.
The Close of the Frontier and Impact
In 1890, the Census Bureau broadcasted the close of the frontier, meaning that there was no apparent line in the west with vast lands without settlers. This news was a distinguished event in American history; the frontier represented danger due to the Natives who lived in the region but also freedom and opportunity. The frontier also had a limitless aspect of it, upon which Americans could extend their institutions and democracy through the Manifest Destiny.
The frontier had become a safety valve for the American people, and when tough economic times hit the southern and northern regions, people occupied the frontier to start over. In 1893, Fredrick Turner in his essay “The Significance of the Frontier in American History” regarding America’s westward expansion. In his paper, he argued that the hardship in the early days of the frontier coupled with the American democratic institutions fostered self-reliance and individualism that led to the rise of a society different from the rest of Europe although originating from Europe. However, the historical account has been dismissed as revisionist in failing to acknowledge the impact the westward settlements had on Native Indians who were decimated by diseases introduced by Europeans, massacred in wars and forced to abandon their lifestyle and to live in small land reservations.