The Great Wave
This was all preparatory to the great influx of settlers to the western prairie, which occurred after the Civil War. A succession of factors spurred the region's growth. The Homestead Act of 1862 made free land, in tracts of 160 acres, available to thousands of would-be farmers---including immigrants. The railroads finally crossed the Mississippi and inched out onto the prairie, extending the reach of the market. Technological advances in farming in the form of heavy-duty plows to break the thick tangle of prairie sod, and Cyrus McCormick's famed reaper, helped make farming the prairie economically feasible.
When Minnesota achieved territorial status in 1849, about 6,000 white people lived in the state. 50 years later the population was close to 2 million, and the great bulk of that increase occurred after 1865.
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