• Visitors hike along the base of the Gila Cliff Dwellings.

    Gila Cliff Dwellings

    National Monument New Mexico

Feast or Famine? Document C

Document: C

Title: Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument: An Administrative History

Author: peter Russell

Source: Book

… the Homestead Act, passed in 1862, was designed to encourage settlement in the remote reaches of the newly-acquired West. The lure of 160 acres of free land was tempting… the settlers soon developed ways to capitalize on the local natural resources. Homesteaders tried their hands at a variety of occupations including cattle ranching, farming, trapping, prospecting and selling wild game to minors. Despite the natural beauty and abundance of land, it was not an easy place to make a living.

To easterners who were accustomed to well-watered, fertile land, 160 acres sounded like a dream come true and a sure avenue to success. The reality was different. The terrain, soil and climate in this part of New Mexico were not nearly as conductive to farming.

… this period also saw the development of several large cattle ranches. Settlers' failing homesteads became new opportunities for wealthy ranchers…

… in some cases it was simply a matter of moneyed ranchers buying land from failing farmers.

Russell, Peter. Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument:. Santa Fe: 1992. Print.

Did You Know?