9.1 The Frontier Era (1850-1900)


 

 

1860

(33 states)

1880

(37 states)

1900

(45 states)

Colorado

34,277

 

194,327

35th

539,700

31st

Montana

 

 

39,159

 

243,329

41st

Idaho

 

 

32,610

 

161,772

43rd

Wyoming

 

 

20,789

 

92,531

44th

Utah

40,273

 

143,963

 

276,749

40th

Nevada

6,857

 

62,266

37th

42,355

45th

 % of U.S.

population

< 0.1%

 

1.0%

 

1.8%

 

 

Key events that shaped law and society:

 

  • The Rocky Mountains and the plains and deserts on either side were the last portions of the United States to be settled.  Except for explorers and early settlers headed for the Pacific coast, few whites entered the region before the 1840s; apart from Mormon settlement of Utah’s Salt Lake Valley in 1847, no substantial settlement took place until discoveries of gold and silver throughout the region triggered a less spectacular but more sustained version of California’s 1849 gold rush.  Settlers also followed the Union Pacific and Northern Pacific railroads as they constructed transcontinental lines through the region from the late 1860s through the 1880s.
  • The Rocky Mountain frontier era was a time of commercial and political experimentation.  Physically, the region was unlike any other American region.  Settlers had to adjust to a rugged landscape, much of which could only be farmed by irrigation, and to a scarcity of easily-accessible wood and water.  These deficits were counterbalanced by an abundance of coal and minerals, and the new territories had to balance the temptations of quick exploitation against the possibility of using these resources to support a more sustained economy.  Some territories succeeded in achieving a measure of balance and in laying the foundations for a mixed agricultural, mining and industrial economy by the end of the era; others – such as Nevada, which lost population after its mining boom ended in the early 1880s – did not. 

 

 

Colorado

Montana

Idaho

Wyoming

Utah

Nevada

1850-

1880

1861 – Territory formed

Mid -1870s – Indian wars largely end

1876 – Statehood

1878 – Silver mining begins on large scale

Early 1860s – Gold mining begins

1875 – Silver mining begins

Early 1860s – gold mining begins; Mormon settlements in southern Idaho

1879 – Nez Perce War ends

Early 1880s – silver mining begins on large scale

1868 – Territory formed

1868-1870 – First white settlement; construction of Union Pacific Railroad across territory

1850 - Territory formed

1862 – Morrill Act:  Congress ends Mormon control of territory, outlaws polygamy

1869 – Federal land office opened; mining industry begins

 

1850s – Mormons and non-Mormons compete for control of region

1860 – Mining industry begins

1861 – Territory formed

1864 – Statehood

1870s – Peak of gold and silver mining

1880-

1900

Early 1880s – Front Range, eastern Colorado settled

1890-1893 – Silver boom; gold mining starts

 

1880 – Indian wars largely end

1880s – Eastern Montana settled

1889 – Statehood

1892 – Great Northern Railroad completed through state

1890 – Statehood

Early 1890s – collapse silver boom; labor unrest and violence in mining industry

1886-88 – Comprehensive irrigation system created; state engineer (Elwood Mead) appointed to oversee system

1890 – Statehood

1891 – “Johnson County War” between cattlemen and sheep raisers

1882 – Edmunds Act:  Congress reinforces federal control of territory and illegality of polygamy

1888-90 – Mormon Church renounces and Utah legislature prohibits polygamy

1896 - Statehood

1880s – Mining boom ends; state’s population declines

1887 – Mormons disenfranchised

 

 

 

 

New territories:

Utah - 1850

Nevada - 1861

Colorado – 1861

Idaho – 1863

Montana – 1864

Wyoming - 1868

 

New states:

Nevada – 1864

Colorado – 1876

Montana – 1889

Idaho - 1890

Wyoming – 1890

Utah – 1896