Thursday, November 27, 2014

Chapter 11: The Great Plains

In this post, I will focus on the next door neighbor to the Corn Belt region and Chicago, The Great Plains due to both regions blending in together. This will be a compare and contrast post of the Great Plains and Chicago, in terms of historical settlement.

Map of the Great Plains

Like Chicago, European settlements arose near rivers, stream or other bodies of water within the Great Plains in the 16th century. Most of the region was acquired through the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. By the 1880s, the region was mostly settled by Euro Americans. In Chicago, however, it wasn't until 1781 when someone officially settled within the area.

In 1862, the Homestead Act went into effect stating that a quarter of federal land will be given to those settlers who chose to live on, cultivate, and improve the property. This was an effort to get more people into the regions since it was acquired in 1803. In 1869, with the transcontinental railroad and the discoveries of silver and gold, more settlers showed in the region. A similar story happened in Chicago as the population boomed when railroads developed somewhere near the 1840s.

A family settling into the Great Plains after the Homestead Act went into effect.

Communities began appearing across the Great Plains with most people being of European descent. One could find Norwegians, Swedish, Belgians, and Icelanders throughout. However, within Chicago, one could find Irish Catholics as they have flocked from Ireland to the United States due to the Great Famine.

Raising cattle became important in this region and the cattle industry boomed. So much so, that the slaughterhouses in Chicago felt its effect.

Cattle Industry in the Great Plains

Since 1920, the rural region of the Great Plains have lost a third of their population with 6000 ghost towns in Kansas alone. Farms/farming and difficulty in finding employment were the main causes of this decline, however, modern developments were rarely seen as well so less people were attracted to the region. However, in Chicago, one could see that the population has risen to 3 million. It was until 1950 that population shrank marginally for other reasons such as people wanting to move within suburbs. The arrival of Latino and Asian-American settlers has helped the population in the Great Plains region in recent years, but the population still manages to shrink.


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