Westward Expansion Facts

Westward Expansion Facts
Former U.S. president Thomas Jefferson believed that the nation's future depended on its westward expansion. In 1803 the Louisiana Purchase took place, doubling the size of the country. By 1840 almost 7 million Americans had migrated westward in hopes of securing land and being prosperous. The belief that settlers were destined to expand to the west is often referred to as Manifest Destiny. Manifest Destiny was used to justify the war with Mexico in the 1840s which resulted in the acquisition of one million square miles of land previously owned by Mexico, enlarging the U.S. even more. Many of the pioneers who settled the west became cash croppers and grew marketable products.
Interesting Westward Expansion Facts:
The Louisiana Purchase cost the U.S. $15 million. It included the land west of the Mississippi.
The Native Americans were removed from their lands during westward expansion, and were forced onto reserves.
The Homestead Act provided free land to many people who wanted to move westward.
The Homestead Act became law in 1862. Abraham Lincoln signed it into law. The act provided 160 acres of unoccupied land to settlers if they improved the land and lived there for five years.
Land rushes, similar to races, often occurred when land was opened up for settlement. People would race off to stake their land claim, sometimes as many as 50,000 people at a time.
Some of the people trying to stake land claims would sneak ahead and hide until the land rush began. Then they would stake their land. These people were nicknamed 'Sooners'.
The Gold Rush in California brought even more people to the west.
There was little law enforcement and government in the 'wild west'. It was during this time that many gunslingers made names for themselves including Jesse James and Wild Bill Hickok.
By 1890 the U.S. announced that westward expansion had been achieved and the west had been explored. Only 4 more states had yet to join the United States lower 48.
From 1800 to 1900, during westward expansion, the population of the United States increased from approximately 5 million to 76 million.
The Transcontinental Telegraph was instrumental in keeping the lines of communication open between the east and west during westward expansion.
The Transcontinental Railroad was an important method of transporting supplies and people across the country during westward expansion.
The South wanted to expand slavery into the North during westward expansion but the North did not want slavery to be legal.
The battle over slavery helped to spark the Civil War. Many did not want slavery in the North over fears that plantation owners would soon own too much land and have too much control in general over the North like they did in the South.
One of the most famous book series and eventual TV series Little House on the Prairie was about a family of homesteaders - the Ingalls. The author's name was Laura Ingalls Wilder. In the book her father claimed land in Kansas.
The Homesteading Act still existed in the U.S. in the lower 48 until 1976, and in Alaska until 1986.


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