Boomtowns During and After the Civil War

What are they?

Dictionary Definition: a town undergoing rapid growth due to sudden prosperity.

Basically, boomtowns are small mining towns that would pop up overnight, and last for a few days, but sometimes would stay long enough to become actual towns. They were located throughout America. Boomtowns were not homesteads or land claimed by a settler.

Boomtowns were not just in the Wild West. There were boomtowns all over the country, in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, even Florida. People came to these other locations looking for many other ores and minerals that they could use or make money from. The way people came to California for gold, people came to other locations for oil, coal, and silver.

There were many shops, businesses, tools for mining, mostly anything miners needed.

Who went there and what was it like?

All types of people would go to boom towns, to start a new life, or maybe to find gold. During the California gold rush in 1849, many people came west to find gold. Because there were so many people coming to these towns, businesses decided to go to boomtown to make money. As a smart business move, there wasn't much competition from other companies because there was barely any resources to start with.

Immigrants: Immigrants flooded boomtowns. There were Italians, Germans, Chineses, Spanish, Irish and many more. They wanted their own culture preserved while staying in America. So going west(to the unknown) was the best option for these immigrants.

All people, many would ride the Transcontinental Railroad to the towns, work all day, and then ride home. Men would mine for many minerals while women worked in businesses.

Boomtowns were business central so it wasn't easy. Many entrepreneurs came to start new businesses. The work hours for most men was from dawn to dusk, while women would be running their businesses all day long. *Fun fact, the ratio of men to women in boomtowns was 9:1* Women would end up making more money than the men because mining was a bit of a luck game. However the folks here were some of the most optimistic.

Problems and what happened to boomtowns:

It was hard to thrive in a pop-up town, and businesses didn't last long enough there to make a living.

Boomtowns were often left abandoned because the mines were exhausted with no more valuable ore to mine, so people left to find new work elsewhere. Once they were abandoned, they would become ghost towns. Now, many ghost towns are now historical sites for many tourists.

Real Boomtovwn examples:

•Animas Forks, Colorado. This town was built in the 1870’s with much success and business for about 50 years until it was suddenly left abandoned.

•Bannack, Montana. Established in 1862, this town was chaotic and very violent with the sheriff (Henry Plummer) himself being a criminal until he was captured and hung for his crimes.

Bodie, California. (This is a big one) In 1859, William Bodie found a large amount of gold in a place where(now called) Bodie Bluff. A town started to develop by 1861, when a mill was established. By 1880, the population was about 10,000. The environment wasn't so clean in the sense that life was surrounded by money, gold, and alcohol. People would go to saloons or pubs after a long day of work. In fact there were 65 saloons in Bodie. The environment was badly influenced with gamblers and robbers, and death was a daily thing. A common morning phrase was, "Have a man for breakfast?" Aka: who died last night? It has been said that in the diary of a girl moving from San Francisco to Bodie, she wrote, "Goodbye God, I'm going to Bodie."

The violent environment in Bodie was mostly the same in most boomtowns. Violence was prominent mostly because most boomtowns didn't have order, and lacked a public safety department.

San Francisco was a boomtown established in 1849–1851 during the gold rush and is now a huge city in the United States.

Let's wrap it up with a game quiz!

What did you learn? This game is called Panning for Gold. *Fun fact: panning is a processs where gravel is picked up in a pan and shaken so that the heavy gold will sink to the bottom while the lighter dirt will remain above.* In this game, there will be three envelopes with slips of paper "ore" in them. There will be three groups, with about 6-8 students per group (a group per pan). The papers will have questions on them that are worth 10 points if answered correctly. Each group has a minute to answer as many questions possible to try to get the most points. If your group gets it wrong, you can either keep working on the question, or put it back in the pan without receiving any points. Alexa and Nithika will be walking around with the answer key so raise your hand and tell one of us the answer you have for each question and we will tell you if it is right or wrong. Also, there a papers with the word gold on them, and if you find one, you get an extra 50 points! Who ever has the most points in the end wins a prize!


Created with images by werner22brigitte - "ghost town goldfield arizona" • ptra - "barkerville gold rush historically" • markwainwright - "Bodie" • derwiki - "san francisco skyline urban"

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