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Events of the West (1880 - 1890)

   
1880 President Benjamin Hayes signs the Chinese Exclusion Treaty, which reverses the open-door policy set in 1868 and places strict limits both on the number of Chinese immigrants allowed to enter the United States and on the number allowed to become naturalized citizens.
1880 Backed by the National Women's Christian Temperance Union, Kansas Governor John St. John forces through prohibition legislation, making Kansas -- the site of towns like Dodge City where the saloon has been almost a symbol of civic life -- the first state in the nation to "go dry."
1881 Chief Sitting BullSitting Bull returns from Canada with a small band of followers to surrend er to General Alfred Terry, the man who five years before had directed the campaign that ended in the Lakota Chief’s victory at Little Bighorn. After insulting his old adversary and the United States, Sitting Bull has his young son hand over his rifle, saying, "I wish it to be remembered that I was the last man of my tribe to surrender my rifle. This boy has given it to you, and he now wants to know how he is going to make a living."
1881 Helen Hunt Jackson publishes A Century of Dishonor, the first detailed examination of the federal government’s treatment of Native Americans in the West. Her findings shock the nation with proof that empty promises, broken treaties and brutality helped pave the way for white pioneers.
1881 Late summer brings the last big cattle drive to Dodge City. With livestock plentiful on the plains, the long trek up the Western Trail is no longer profitable, and most states now prohibit driving out-of-state cattle across their borders. The increasing use of barbed wire to enclose farms and grazing land has ended the era of the open range. In the fifteen years since Texas cowboys first hit the trail, as many as two million longhorns have been driven to market in Dodge.
1881 Legendary outlaw Billy the Kid, charged with more than 21 murders in a brief lifetime of crime, is finally brought to justice by Sheriff Pat Garrett, who trails The Kid for more than six months before killing him with a single shot at Fort Sumner, New Mexico.
1881 Tombstone, Arizona, Deputy Marshall Wyatt Earp and his brothers gun down the Clantons in a showdown at the O.K. Corral.
1882 Chinese miners working in CaliforniaIntensifying its anti-Chinese policies, Congress passes the Chinese Exclusion Act, which completely prohibits both immigration from China and the naturalization of Chinese immigrants already in the United States for a period of ten years. The bill comes amid increasing outbreaks of anti-Chinese violence, stirred up by the belief that low-paid Chinese workers are taking jobs away from Americans. Within the year, immigration from China drops from 40,000 in 1881 to just 23.
1882 Congress passes the Edmunds Law, making polygamy a federal crime punishable by up to five years in prison and denying convicted polygamists the right to vote, to hold office and to serve on juries. The law increases federal pressure on Mormons to renounce their practice of plural marriage and sends many Mormon leaders into hiding.
1882 Jesse James, the notorious outlaw who was a veteran of Quantrill’s Raiders during the Civil War, is shot in the back by Robert Ford, a kinsman who hoped to collect a $5,000 reward. James' death ends the career of an outlaw gang that terrorized the West for more than a decade.
1883

Texas purchases The Alamo from the Catholic Church to preserve it as an historic shrine.

Buffalo Bill"Buffalo Bill" Cody stages his first Wild West Show at the Omaha fairgrounds, featuring a herd of buffalo and a troupe of cowboys, Indians and vaqueros who re-enact a cattle round-up, a stagecoach hold-up and other scenes drawn from Cody's own life on the frontier.

1883 A delegation of U.S. Senators meets with bitter resistance from Sitting Bull when they propose opening part of the Lakota's reservation to white settlers. Despite the old chief's objections, the land transfer proceeds as planned.
1883 The Northern Pacific Railroad, connecting the northwestern states to points east, is finally completed, after a 19-year struggle against treacherous terrain and intermitent financing. Along the line, crews blast a 3,850-foot tunnel through solid granite and construct a 1,800-foot trestle. As a result, the round trip to the Columbia River that took Lewis and Clark two-and-a-half years in 1803 now takes just nine days.
1883 Buffalo hunters gather on the northern Plains for the last large buffalo kill, among them a Harvard-educated New York assemblyman named Theodore Roosevelt, who hopes to bag a trophy before the species disappears. Hunters have already destroyed the southern herd, and by 1884, except for small domestic herds kept by sentimental ranchers, there are only scattered remnants of the animal that more than any other symbolizes the American West.
1883 A group of clergymen, government officials and social reformers calling itself “The Friends of the Indian” meets in upstate New York to develop a strategy for bringing Native Americans into the mainstream of American life. Their decisions set the course for U.S. policy toward Native Americans over the next generation and result in the near destruction of Native American culture.
1884 When his wife and mother die within hours of one another in New York City, Theodore Roosevelt heads west to become a Dakota cattle rancher and escape his grief. He will emerge from the experience with an attachment to the Western landscape and a respect for Western society that help shape his conservation and land development policies as President.
1885 President Grover Cleveland warns so-called "Boomers" to stay off Indian Territory lands in present-day Oklahoma.
1885 Federal troops are called in to restore order in Rock Springs, Wyoming, after British and Swedish miners go on a rampage against the Chinese, killing 28 and driving hundreds more out of town. This "Rock Springs Massacre" follows a similar race riot in Tacoma, Washington, where whites force more than 700 Chinese immigrants to spend the night crowded onto open wagons, then ship them to Portland, Oregon, the next day.
1886 Anti-Chinese mobs in Seattle kill five and destroy parts of the city before forcing 200 Chinese aboard ships bound for San Francisco. Leaders of the race riot vow to sweep the city clean of Chinese within the month.
1886 Geronimo, described by one follower as “the most intelligent and resourceful...most vigorous and farsighted” of the Apache leaders, surrenders to General Nelson A. Miles in Skeleton Canyon, Arizona, after more than a decade of guerilla warfare against American and Mexican settlers in the Southwest. The terms of surrender require Geronimo and his tribe to settle in Florida, where the Army hopes he can be contained.
1887 Missionaries at the Nez Perce ReservationCongress passes the Dawes Severalty Act, imposing a system of private land ownership on Native American tribes for whom communal land ownership has been a centuries-old tradition. Individual Indians become eligible to receive land allotments of up to 160 acres, together with full U.S. citizenship. Tribal lands remaining after all allotments have been made are to be declared surplus and sold. Proponents of the law believe that it will help speed the Indians’ assimilation into mainstream society by giving them an incentive to live as farmers and ranchers, earning a profit from their own personal property and private initiative. Others see in the law an opportunity to buy up surplus tribal lands for white settlers. When the allotment system finally ends, Indian landholdings are reduced from 138 million acres in 1887 to only 48 million acres in 1934. And with their land many Native Americans lose a fundamental structuring principle of tribal life as well.
1887 Increasing pressure on the Mormons, Congress passes the Edmunds-Tucker Act, which disincorporates the Mormon church, confiscates its real estate and other properties, and abolishes women's suffrage in Utah. The law effectively destroys the political, economic and social system by which the leaders of the Mormon church have guided and governed their society, imposing federal authority in its place.
1887 A fare war between competing rail lines and the inducements of eager land speculators bring newcomers to Los Angeles by the trainload; 120,000 arrive in 1887, drawn by the promise of pure air, warm sunshine and prosperity. Within a few years, the city is transformed and the Californios who have lived there for more than a century are suddenly regarded as strangers in their own land.
1888 Herding cattle during winterDeep snows and raging blizzards, following a dry summer, devastate the cattle herds of the northern Plains. When the snows finally melt, hundreds of thousands of carcasses litter the range, leading the ranchers who must gather them up to call the winter of '88 "The Great Die-Up."
1889 Wovoka, a Paiute holy man, awakes from a three-day trance to teach his tribe the Ghost Dance, with which they can restore the earth to the way it was before the whites arrived in the West. His teachings will soon touch many tribes across the West, stirring a spiritual revival that whites nervously misinterpret as a return to hostilities.
1889 The Oklahoma land rushPresident Benjamin Harrison authorizes opening unoccupied lands in the Indian Territory to white settlement, an order put into effect on April 22 at noon, when a gunshot gives settlers the signal to cross the border and stake their claims. Within nine hours, the Oklahoma Land Rush transforms almost two million acres of tribal land into thousands of individual land claims. Many of the most desirable plots are taken by "Sooners," so called because they crossed into the territory sooner than was permitted.
1889 At the urging of the National Farmers' Alliance, Kansas adopts first-of-its-kind legislation regulating trusts, providing an early portent of the agrarian-based progressive movement preparing to sweep through the West.
1889 Farm and labor representatives meet with prohibitionists in Salem, Oregon, to form a progressive Union Party.
1889 Washington, Montana and the Dakotas join the Union.

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