Western Historical Events in the 1870’s

This is a general timeline of important events that occurred in the 1870’s related to the western frontier of a young America.

Though the RP of our SIM is not directly related to any historical events, this is a good way to be informed, allowing yourself to immerse yourself more in the time.

1870

Buffalo hunters begin moving into the plains as the railroads continued to expand West and demand for meat and hides back east continued to rise. The buffalo population, which was once numberless, was reduced significantly from over-hunting, become an endangered species in a little over a decade. Railroad companies begin massive advertising campaigns to attract settlers to their land grants in the West.

1870

A California court rules in White vs. Flood that a black child may not attend a white school, setting the legal precedent for school segregation.

1870

After the Civil War, education in the Cherokee Nation was made compulsory through the eighth grade. This ensured that most Cherokees had at least an eighth grade education in the late 1800s. As a result, they were a more literate and educated population than their American counterparts.

1870

Bret Harte publishes The Luck of Roaring Camp and Other Sketches, a collection of stories, which offers a sentimental and humorous view of “uncouth” frontier characters, establishing a set of stereotypes that will remain an important part of the myth of the American West.

1871

More than 100 Apaches, most of them women and children, are murdered outside Camp Grant, Arizona, where they had been given asylum, when members of the Tucson Committee of Public Safety arrive with a force of Papago Indians, the Apaches’ long-time enemies. Public opinion, particularly in the East, links the event to the recently investigated Sand Creek Massacre of 1864 as further evidence of Westerners’ deep-seated hatred for Indians.

1871

Congress approves the Indian Appropriations Act, which ends the practice of treating Indian tribes as sovereign nations by directing that all Indians be treated as individuals and legally designated “wards” of the federal government.

1872

Mark Twain publishes Roughing It, a humorous account of his adventures as a budding journalist in the West, which adds a self-conscious depth to the entertaining Western myth pioneered by Twain’s one-time mentor, Bret Harte.

1872

The Yellowstone Act sets aside more than 2 million acres in northwest Wyoming as a public “pleasuring-ground” for the “preservation… of all timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities or wonders… and their retention in their natural condition.” It marks the first time any national government has set aside public lands to preserve their natural beauties and sets a precedent later followed in countries around the world.

1873

Cable cars are introduced in San Francisco.

1873

Although federal authorities estimate that hunters are killing buffalo at a rate of three million per year, President Grant vetoes a law protecting the herd from extermination.

1874

Mennonite immigrants from Russia arrive in Kansas with drought-resistant “Turkey Red” wheat, which will help turn the one-time “Great American Desert” into the nation’s breadbasket.

1874

George Armstrong Custer announces the discovery of gold in the Black Hills of Dakota, setting off a stampede of fortune-hunters into this most sacred part of Lakota territory.

1875

Pinkerton agents fire-bomb the James family farm in Missouri in an unsuccessful attempt to kill the notorious outlaws. The incident stirs widespread sympathy for the James Gang, who are seen as populist enemies of the banks and railroads who “rob” the common man.

1875

Deadwood, soon to be one of the wildest towns in the West, springs into existence when Black Hills miners find gold on Deadwood Creek. Within a year, the legendary gunfighter “Wild Bill” Hickock will be murdered here while holding aces and eights — the dead man’s hand — in a game of poker.

1875

The Lakota War — the Lakota refuse to alter the terms of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, and declare they will protect their lands from intruders if the government won’t.

1876

Federal authorities order the Lakota chiefs to report to their reservations by January 31. Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and others defiant of the American government refuse. On June 25, George Armstrong Custer, part of General Terry’s force, discovers Sitting Bull’s encampment on the Little Bighorn River, but when he charges the village Custer discovers that he is outnumbered four-to-one. Hundreds of Lakota warriors overwhelm his troops, killing them to the last man, in a battle later called Custer’s Last Stand. News of the massacre shocks the nation.

1876

Colorado enters the Union.

1877

Congress votes to repeal the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty and take back the Black Hills, along with 40 million more acres of Lakota land.

1877

With the threat of Indian attack removed, mining camps and boom towns crowd the Black Hills.

1877

On August 29, Brigham Young, the Mormon leader who built a prosperous community and a vigorous church in a seeming wasteland, dies at age 76.

1877

John Wesley Hardin, a Texas gunfighter who claims to have killed more than 40 men, is sentenced to 25 years in the Texas State Prison for the murder of a deputy sheriff. “I take no sass but sasparilla,” he once said, explaining his deadly disposition.

1877

The last Federal troops withdraw from the South, bringing the Reconstruction era to an end.

1878

With racial discrimination on the rise in the post-Reconstruction South, an estimated 40,000 African Americans begin to migrate from the former slave states into Kansas. Many of these so-called Exodusters answer the call of Benjamin “Pap” Singleton, a land speculator with a vision of establishing independent black communities across the state.

1879

The Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of anti-polygamy laws, denying Mormon arguments that plural marriage is protected under the First Amendent guarantee of religious freedom and giving federal authorities the weapon they have hoped for in their efforts to break the alliance between church and state in Utah.

1879

To complete its consolidation of federally-funded scientific exploration in the West, Congress creates the United States Bureau of Ethnology to coordinate study of the region’s native peoples and complete a record of their cultures before they vanish under the pressure of expanding white settlement. Directed by John Wesley Powell, the Bureau of Ethnology launches an ambitious program to document the culture and society of Native Americans.

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