The Plains States: World's Breadbasket

Archive Report

The People and their Land

The pioneers who first settled the western plains confronted conditions quite unlike those their ancestors had contended with in the East. When the first colonists came to North America from England and central Europe, they found a wilderness which, if not inviting, was in some respects familiar. Aside from New England winters, the climate was temperate. The native tribes cultivated the soil, and wildlife was abundant. The lush forests, which the settlers cleared as they pushed methodically inland, provided building material and fuel, and the stockade afforded protection against Indian attack.

But when the settlers began to cross the Mississippi River in the early 19th century, they found vast, flat grasslands, resistant to the plow, barren to the eye, and above ...

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