American History, Western Expansion for Kids
Western Expansion for Kids
By 1850, America had acquired land all the way from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Many Americans decided to leave their homes in the east, and go west, in search of new opportunities and new adventures. There were many reasons people decided to move. People were moving into the eastern states from Europe. Some Americans had trouble finding a good job. Developing cities created crowding that was becoming a problem in the east. People wanted to escape from the cities. Some were escaping creditors or the law. Some received letters from family or friends who had moved west, talking about how wonderful life was on the frontier. Some wanted a better life for themselves and their families. Some, convinced that God wanted them to spread the ideals of the American people, and feeling superior to Mexicans, British, and Native Americans, packed up, joined a wagon train, and headed west.
Still others, and probably the biggest reason people moved west, was the opportunity to buy land. Land had become expensive in the east. But land could be purchased in the west for much less. By the mid 1860s, land could be obtained nearly for free by using the Homestead Act, and filing for ownership of 160 acres of unoccupied and surveyed Federal Land. All you had to do was build a house, plant crops, and live on the land for five consecutive years. After five years, you could file with the government and show you had satisfied the rules, and the land would become your property.
So, for many different reasons, people began to move west.