Farming, Ranching, and Mining During the Westward Movement (page 2)

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By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Feb 4, 2012


The California Gold Rush of 1849 ushered in an era of mining in the West. After the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill, the next strike was at Pike’s Peak in 1858. In 1859, a rich silver vein was tapped in the Carson River Valley in present-day Nevada. The Comstock Lode turned out to be worth more than $500 million. Miners also found gold in the Klondike district on the border of Alaska Territory, which had been acquired by Secretary of State William Seward in 1867. Seward had been roundly criticized for the purchase—people called Alaska “Seward’s Folly” or “Johnson’s Polar-Bear Garden.” The critics were effectively silenced when the miners struck gold. The United States paid Russia $7.2 million for Alaska; by 1900, Americans had mined hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of gold from the new territory.

Mining communities were largely male, and only the strongest could survive in one. Immigrant miners from all nations found themselves forced out by those who had been born in the United States or the territories. Violence abounded, partly because there was no law enforcement authority. Miners had to settle their own differences, and vigilante “justice” was swift and merciless.

Practice questions for these concepts can be found at:

Westward Movement Practice Test

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