The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 45, July 1941 - April, 1942 Page: 328
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
in other words, mobility of population was retarded-the bold
statement implies that it was stopped; urbanization increased;
private industry became unable to provide jobs for all; hence
the necessity for WPA and other forms of government relief.
The explanation is too simple. It ignores the fact that there
remained in the hands of the government in 1890 more than a
hundred million acres of land subject to homestead settlement;
that the transcontinental railroads owned vast areas that they
offered at a moderate price; that much land is still available
on conditions that the average pioneer would have thought
alluring if not irresistible. It ignores also the fact that the
policy of our present government favors reduction rather than
expansion of tilled acres; that it prefers idleness and relief to
subsistence farming, which is the sort of farming that the "dis-
appearance of the frontier" might have affected. It ignores,
finally, the fact that few people would be willing now to subject
themselves, even relatively, to the hardships and privations that
the pioneer welcomed as milestones on the road to comfort and
contentment, if not to affluence and wealth.
Few of us now have any conception of what those hardships
were, and even contemporary descriptions are hardly adequate
to quicken our imagination to a vivid reconstruction of the
picture. I read a revealing document the other day, part of
the United States Treasury Report for 1832. The writer was
describing with enthusiastic approval the ease with which gov-
ernment land, sold then for $1.25 an acre, could be acquired
in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. A laborer could earn 75 cents
a day, board himself for 25 cents a day, and buy eighty acres
in 200 days. Wages of mechanics were higher, and a skilled
workman might save $100 and buy a farm in six months. School
teachers with thirty pupils paying $3.00 a quarter could collect
$90 every three months, could board for a dollar a week, and
buy eighty acres in a year.
Many of the colonists who settled Texas started with little
more equipment than their bare hands. Jesse Burnham, one of
Austin's first colonists, tells of his experiences, which must have
been typical of no small number. He married in Tennessee at
the age of twenty. He had three knives and forks made by a
local blacksmith, paying for them by splitting rails, and putting
handles on them himself. His wife sold her wedding stockings
for plates-stockings which she herself had knit. She spun and
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 45, July 1941 - April, 1942, periodical, 1942; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth146053/m1/370/: accessed July 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.