Land Sales, Migration and Immigration

The coming of the railroads to western America had a profound impact on land ownership and land value. This Topic examines the effect that railroads, as well as other factors such as nationality and ethnicity, had on land sales, migration, and immigration in the West.

Documents related to this topic

Land Speculators:

  • Letters of John McConihe (25):

    McConihe arrived in Nebraska Territory in December 1856 and immediately began investing in lands. He kept his partner, John B. Kellogg in Troy, New York, abreast of developments regarding the Colorado gold rush, politics in the territory, land values, and the growth of railroads. In debt and without prospects in 1861, he decided to volunteer for service and was commissioned a Captain in the 1st Nebraska. Wounded at the Battle of Shiloh, McConihe later served as the Lieutenant-Colonel of the 169th New York. He was killed in action at the Battle of Cold Harbor on June 1, 1864.


  • Letters of Sarah Sim and Family (13):

    Sarah Sim and her husband, Francis, moved from Connecticut to Nebraska Territory in 1856 to set up a homestead. Sarah and Francis wrote to family back in Connecticut about the Nebraska landscape, the devastating death of their son Willis, the growth of towns and railroads in Nebraska, and politics. Sarah died of breast cancer in 1880.

Railroad Land Agents:

  • Letters and Documents of G. P. Cather (15):

    In the 1870s G. P. Cather served as the land agent in Webster County, Nebraska, for the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad Company. Interested buyers from all over the nation and world wrote Cather to inquire about the railroad's lands, the Nebraska landscape, the growth of railroads in the state, and the prospects for agriculture.

  • Selected Letters from the Burlington and Missouri River General Emigration Office, London (7):

    The Burlington and Missouri River Railroad employed agents in London and Europe to recruit settlers and immigrants to the Iowa and Nebraska lands. The London office coordinated the publication of brochures and marketing of the lands.

  • Land Sale Contracts (14):

    The Burlington and Missouri Railroad executed tens of thousands of contracts as it sold its land grant in Nebraska. The terms of the contract detailed information about the buyers and specific rights the railroad company reserved.