Wayne's books at Amazon.com

Wayne's books at Amazon.com
Click for Wayne's books at Amazon.com

b. The Great Plains and the Homestead Act

b. The Great Plains 

Character never exists in a vacuum. It emerges in a struggle with the surrounding world. In the case of north-central Kansas, the physical environment was the harshest and most extreme of any encountered so far in the family’s journey west from Virginia. Illinois forms part of the Great Plains, but it’s a part with adequate rainfall. Moving west now into Kansas, they were crossing the 98th meridian where the average annual rainfall drops below twenty inches. From the 100th meridian, the two-thirds mark on an east-west axis, there is generally not enough rain to support agriculture. “The Homestead Act of 1862, with all its promise,” writes John McPhee, “did not take into account ineluctable fact. East of the hundredth meridian, homesteaders on their hundred and sixty acres of land were usually able to fulfill the dream that had been legislated for them. To the west, the odds against them were high.”

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