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Kennedy and Cohen claim that, “probably never before in human experience had so huge an area been transformed so rapidly,” referring to the transformation of the West between 1865 to 1896. This dynamic period after the Civil War brought forth migration of people who hoped for self-sufficiency and independence to rural and boomtown areas of the West for opportunities such as railroads, mining, farming, and ranching. The transformation of the Great West changed the American landscape symbolizing progress and the promise of the future.
The most remarkable change was the railroad which grew to 31,000 miles of track by 1860. In 1869, the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads met in Promontory Point of Utah Territory where the first transcontinental line was completed. The railroads to the West opened up vast areas of the region to settlement and economic development. Mississippi was populated by white settlers from the East to mine, farm, and ranch. African-American settlers also came West from the Deep South, convinced that prosperity could be found there. The cattle industry flourished as the railroad provided a means for getting the cattle to market. 
The West’s rich deposits of gold, silver, and copper brought the settlers to the mountain states, Colorado in the 1850s, Idaho and Montana in the 1860s, and the Dakotas in the 1870s. Miners settled on the land without regard for the rights of the people already living on that land, the American Indians. The mining frontier created urban settlements throughout the West as miners clustered in camps, creating Boomtowns. After the California Gold Rush, people settled interior regions in the West. Chinese immigrants also followed the trails to mining camps. 
The Homestead Act of 1862 made lands in the West available to a wide variety of settlers, especially those who could not afford to buy land outright or buy land under the Preemption Act of 1841, which established a lowered land price for squatters who had occupied the land for a minimum of 14 months. Much of the 160 acres was in rain-scarce Great Plains, the prairies were mostly treeless, and the touch sod had been packed in; however, once the soil was cultivated, the earth proved to be fruitful. Irrigation projects financed federally caused the Great American Desert to flourish.
The huge herds of American bison that roamed the plains were slain for hides, choice cuts, or for amusement that they were nearly wiped out. The loss of the bison and growth of white settlement drastically affected the lives of the Native Americans living in the West. In the conflicts that resulted, the American Indians, despite occasional victories, seemed doomed to defeat by the greater numbers of settlers and the military force of the U.S. government. By the 1880s, most American Indians had been confined to reservations, often in areas of the West that appeared least desirable to white settlers.
The United States expanded from sixteen states in 1800 to forty-five by 1896, with new western states joining the Union; CO, ND, SD, MT, WA, ID, WY, and UT. The spirit of “Manifest Destiny” convinced many Americans that the nation’s God-given mission was to stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific, so that from 1870s to the 1890s, the Great West showed a remarkable growth in population. In 1889, people poured into central Oklahoma to stake their claims to nearly 2 million acres opened for settlement by the U.S. government. Oklahoma boasted 60,000 inhabitants in one year and became the Sooner State in 1907. In 1890, the census declared that a frontier line was no longer recognizable in America. The radical transformation of the Great West transpired quite rapidly and profoundly that it thoroughly changed the American landscape.