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Following the Civil War, the westward movement of settlers intensified in the vast region between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean.
The years immediately before and after the Civil War were the era of the American cowboy, marked by long cattle drives for hundreds of miles over unfenced open land in the West, which was the only way to get cattle to market.
Many Americans had to rebuild their lives after the Civil War. They responded to the incentive of free public land and moved west to take advantage of the Homestead Act of 1862, which gave free public land in the western territories to settlers who would live on and farm the land.
Southerners, including African Americans in particular, moved west to seek new opportunities after the Civil War.
New technologies such as the railroads, telegraph, telephone, and mechanical reaper opened new lands in the West for settlement and made farming profitable by increasing the efficiency of production and linking resources and markets. By the turn of the century, the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains regions of the American West were no longer a mostly unsettled frontier, but were fast becoming regions of farms, ranches, and towns.