Who settled on the Great Plains?

Before 1860, few people moved west to try to settle on the Great Plains. The poor soil and harsh climate discouraged them - along with the fact that the Plains were officially Indian territory - land was expensive to buy, and anybody wanting to go west faced a long, dangerous and uncomfortable journey.

After 1865, thousands of settlers moved onto the Plains.

  • Freed slaves went there to start a new life as freemen, or to escape economic problems after the Civil War.
  • European immigrants flooded onto the Great Plains, seeking political or religious freedom, or simply to escape poverty in their own country.
  • Younger sons from the eastern seaboard - where the population was growing and land was becoming more expensive - went because it was a chance to own their own land.
  • They were followed by other Americans - such as tradesmen and government officials - who hoped to make their living from the farmers who had moved onto the Plains.