1876 Burlington & Missouri Riv. R.R. Co. And 1880 Union Pacific soil grantsDerived native the 2 maps below.

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At the very same time that homesteaders were getting complimentary land indigenous the government, large tracts that land were granted to railroads by both the states and also the commonwealth government. The goal to be to encourage the railroads to develop their monitor where couple of people lived, and to assist settle the country. The federal government was specifically interested in producing a transportation mechanism that would connect the eastern and western coasts. Not only would a transcontinental railroad aid populate the great Plains, but it would certainly tie the country together and also also provide links come the possibly rich asian trade.


Legend indigenous map reflecting Burlington & Missouri Riv. R.R. Co. Lands in Nebraska, 1876
Courtesy Library that Congress, g4191p rr003530

Approximately 16 percent of Nebraska’s total land massive was offered to various railroad companies, either by the federal government or by the state. Along the present of the state’s two major railroads, the Union Pacific and also the Burlington, every other square mile of soil (called a "section") went to the railroads. This checkerboard of land extended back twenty mile on both sides of the track. So, the railroads own a full of twenty sections of land because that each mile of roadway constructed.

Thousands that pioneers travel to and through Nebraska in spanned wagons. But after the an initial railroad was completed across the state in 1867, thousands an ext took the train to Nebraska. Once the transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, human being could take trip from shore to coast quite comfortably. The Oregon follow was progressively abandoned. Railroads urged settlers to move to Nebraska and also had a tremendous impact on settlement.


Cochran’s Railroad construction (Burlington & Missouri flow Railroad) Camp, West of Sargent, Custer County, 1889
Courtesy Nebraska State historical Society, RG2608-708-a

Why purchase Land when It’s Free?

Through the settlement years, there to be four major laws that made land easily accessible to inhabitants for cost-free — the Preemption act of 1841, the Homestead plot of 1862 , the Timber culture Act of 1873, and the Kinkaid act of 1904. Some settlers paid $15 in filing fees for a house with free land. But, various other settlers bought and also paid because that land from the railroads the were charging about $800 for 160-acre farm. Why walk they perform that as soon as they might have had actually land for free?


For one thing, the railroads had more to gain, therefore they advertised. As soon as the railroads had actually located and also patented your land, they were an extremely anxious to offer the land next to the tracks together quickly and also profitably as possible. They want paying customers that would ship items to markets and buy points from those markets. The closer a farmer to be to the railroad, the less complicated it to be to delivery crops and livestock to market. Land agents were hired by the railroads and sent to significant cities in the East and to many northern and main European countries. They submarine those places with advertisements about the valuable land in the West and especially in Nebraska. If you were interested, the rail would placed you on a distinct land-seeking train. If you determined to buy, the price the the train ticket would be used to the price the the land.


1876 Burlington & Missouri Riv. R.R. Co. Land sponsor in NebraskaCourtesy Library that Congress, g4191p rr003530

Together, the Burlington and also Union Pacific Railroads had actually sold an ext than 7 million acres to personal purchasers. Over 9.6 million acre was obtained complimentary of charge under the house Act. The railroads did not abandon settlers after they marketed them the land. They supported agricultural development programs that would aid make farmers much more successful. This would certainly create an ext need for their transport services. The more the farmer succeeded, the much more the railroads succeeded. And as the railroads grew, they play a huge duty in the politics, economic climate and background of Nebraska.

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Railroad employees laying track, possibly in Bennington, NE area, ca. 1889
Courtesy Bennington historic Society

The railroads played a crucial role in the negotiation of Nebraska. An ext than 11 railroads in Nebraska obtained money or complimentary land indigenous both the federal and state governments. However in 1915 there were much more miles of rail in Nebraska than there are today. What happened?There are a range of reasons for the dramatic readjust in the fortunes that the railroads. The biggest factor is the transportation an innovation overtook the trains. In 1915 there to be no paved highways and few cars and trucks. Virtually everyone traveled by train. Today most human being travel by car or airplane. Trucks this particular day haul much an ext freight than railroads. There has actually been a the majority of consolidation of smaller railroad suppliers into large companies prefer the Union Pacific. The railroad still plays crucial role in hauling coal, grain, and also other freight, however it walk not have actually the syndicate it enjoyed throughout the homestead era when civilization had no an option when it involved transporting themselves or your products.

Discussion Questions:

Why go the Federal federal government want to produce a transportation mechanism that would certainly connect

the east coast with the west coast?

What was the effect of this transportation system on the Oregon and also Mormon trails?

Why walk the settlers favor to purchase their land near the railroads?

How walk the rail promote the negotiation of Nebraska?

What railroads received complimentary land in Nebraska native the U.S. Government?

Why would the U.S. Federal government grant totally free land come the railroads?

What walk railroads do with the land they did not use for railroad construction?

Why would Nebraska inhabitants pay for land sold by a railroad once they might obtain cost-free land with the house Act?

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