In this chapter students have studied the rush to settle the western half of the United States. As farmers and ranchers moved into new areas they brought their cultures and dreams with them. Some families lived at great distances from others and endured loneliness as well as the hardships of farm life. In other areas newly settled land quickly grew into towns and cities. In this activity students will take a closer look at the lives of average farm families during the late 1800s.
Students will visit the Library of Congress American Memory Web site feature about rural life in the late 1800s. They will read an introduction explaining factors that drew families to western lands, and will read excerpts about the lives of average families during this time period. After answering several questions they will imagine that they are new settlers in western lands and write a letter to a friend describing the location of their new home and the activities of their new life.
- The learner will be able to identify factors that influenced settlement of the Great Plains.
- The learner will be able to recognize ways in which rural life today differs from rural life in the late 1800s.
- The learner will be able to describe farming life in the late 1800s.
Student Web Activity Answers
- Abundant rainfall and the promise of free land under the Homestead Act brought many easterners to the Great Plains in the 1880s.
- Students' answers will vary, but may include eating the first three violets of the spring to avoid fever, swallowing nine gulps of water while standing on one foot to cure hiccoughs, swallowing a tablespoon of clean white sand to cure stomachache, rubbing turpentine and lard on the chest to cure a cold, etc.
- Farmers would purchase goods on credit and usually "settle up" once a year, after they had harvested and sold their grain. Their purchases and prices were recorded in "pass books."
- Since she could not speak their language and politely refuse the gifts, she had to give them some cherished trinket of her own in exchange; otherwise it would have been like accepting charity.
- Students' letters will vary.
Go To Student Web Activity