Rain fell sporadically on the plains, and the total amount of precipitation varied greatly from season to season.
Even a relatively minor period of drought could devastate a farm.
Few towns in western Nebraska pre-date the railroads.
The limited settlements were largely concentrated around military forts--Fort Sidney, Fort Robinson, and Fort Mitchell--as well as Pony Express stations and trading posts.
Even many of the adequately prepared homesteaders found it necessary to obtain additional income to what their farms provided.
The terms of the Homestead Act allowed claimants to leave their homesteads for up to six months a year in order to procure work, and many early settlers made full use of this clause.
With few permanent homesteads in the area, cattlemen generally had free reign to graze their livestock on the public domain throughout the region.
Because of the limited timber reserves, pioneers turned to auxiliary forms of fuel to warm their soddies or prepare their food.The earliest permanent white settlements in the region were cattle ranches and farms.By the 1870s, the North Platte River Valley was a prominent grazing land for open-range cattle.At that time, the area was most noted for its striking geological features—from the spectacular natural monument of Scotts Bluff, an imposing rock face jutting over 800 feet skyward from the flat terrain of the Nebraska plains, to the remarkable spire of Chimney Rock.For many western travelers, weary from mundane and exhausting overland travel, the change in topography was a welcome respite.
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