In the eastern and south central parts of the state most of the settlers raised livestock, corn, wheat, and other grains. In the west, particularly in the Sand Hills, which constitute about one-quarter of the state’s area, ranching became the dominant economic activity. Nebraska’s ranches originally were stocked with cattle driven up from Texas in the years following the Civil War, and Ogallala, for a time the northern terminus of the trail from Texas, later gained some fame as one of a number of so-called cow towns.
Nebraska settlers found life difficult. Wood and water were scarce in most of the state; as a result, settlers often had to cut bricks of sod out of the ground to build houses. These sod houses ranged from simple dugouts built into the side of a hill to elaborate two-story buildings. On the High Plains, away from the streams, it was frequently necessary to drill wells more than 100 m (330 ft) into the ground to find water.
The lack of water made agriculture, which had quickly become the state’s principal economic activity, especially difficult. Periodic droughts, particularly in the 1870s and 1890s, drastically reduced crop yields. In 1874 and 1875, crops in many areas were destroyed by huge swarms of grasshoppers.
In addition, the expansion of farm production around the world had lowered crop prices after the Civil War, often making it impossible for Nebraska’s farmers to make ends meet even when harvests were good. These problems were worsened by the fact that most farmers had little money and often found it necessary to mortgage their land to purchase the machinery needed to cultivate it. Low crop prices often made it impossible for farmers to repay the loans, and many lost their land. "Nebraska" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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