Lesson One: Railroads and the Great Dakota Boom

Focus Questions:

• Why did the railroads decide to come to Dakota Territory?

• Why did the rail lines stop at the Missouri River?

• What made land in Dakota Territory attractive to settlers?

• How did railroad companies encourage immigrants to come to Dakota?

Imbedded Information in the Student Lesson:

Chicago & North Western Railway; Chicago, Milwaukee & Saint Paul Railroad; Hutterite colonies


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Homesteading and Town Building Word Scramble

Classroom Activities:

     To learn more about how a rail system operates, take a field trip and visit a railroad depot or a museum with a railroad exhibit. Have the children prepare a list of questions about railroads. For example: (1) What do the initials printed on the sides of cars and engines stand for? (2) Does South Dakota still have passenger trains? (3) What do the train whistles mean? (4) What comes into South Dakota on trains, and what goes out? (5) What kinds of things does a person need to know to work for a railroad? If a field trip is not possible, ask a railroad employee or train enthusiast to visit the classroom.

     To help students visualize the distances that foreign immigrants traveled to reach South Dakota, give them an outline political map of the world. Have them locate and color in the countries mentioned in this lesson. As an extended lesson, have the children ask their parents about the immigration of their ancestors. (Remember: all peoples have immigrated here from elsewhere—either recently or long ago in the case of American Indians.  You might want to review Unit 1 briefly as you set up this exercise.  A review could also reinforce how much transportation has changed and how it changed the pace of immigration.)  Share the collected information with the class. Then have them locate the countries or regions of their ancestors on their world maps.