Monday, November 18

We Were There at the Driving of the Golden Spike

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How did famine in Ireland and China affect America's Manifest Destiny?

Abraham Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Bill, back in 1862, to connect the Atlantic to the Pacific by railroad.  While there were railroads at the time, they were small and regional, and people were still traveling by foot, wagon train, and stagecoach across the country.  Ships were having to go around the tip of South America, because the Panama Canal did not exist yet.  No matter how you cut it, getting from the east coast to the west coast was expensive, dangerous, and exhausting!

Thousands of men came to work for the railroad.  Some were former Civil War soldiers.  Some were Irish seeking a better life, away from the potato famine.  Some were Chinese, including slaves.  The work was dangerous, with many dying from snake bites, exhaustion, avalanches, heat stroke, freezing weather, fever, disease, Indian attacks, and fights.

Chinese labor was crucial to the railroad.  These men (and sometimes women) were hard workers who were willing to work for low wages.  They were discriminated again, paid about 60% of the average railroad worker salary, and often given the most dangerous jobs (such as working with explosives and digging tunnels).

Six years, and fifty million dollars later, the two railroads met up at Promontory Summit, Utah, where they laid the final spike.  Once the Transcontinental Railroad was complete, it took about one week to get from coast to coast.  This opened up a whole new chapter in American history, as people, goods, and news could travel faster than ever!

Our spine novel is We Were There at the Driving of the Golden Spike

Access the complete unit in the 'We Were There' Novel Studies Bundle!

Includes THIRTY-SIX unit studies covering World & American History. Each unit addresses a new topic, spanning the the ancient world through post-WW2.  Each unit has introductory text, which will give the student basic background information about the topic at hand.

  • There are photographs and illustrations, and we have also included primary documents when available.
  • After this text, there are featured videos, which augment the background information and help make the topic more accessible for more visual students.
  • You will also find a short list of reading books, including a featured novel that the unit builds upon.
  • There are vocabulary words, places, and people to identify.
  • Reading comprehension, critical thinking questions, and writing assignments are included.
  • We add fun with hands-on activities and extra videos to watch that will bring the era to life.

These studies are directed toward upper grades students, but some have resources for younger students so that the whole family can work together. Our family has used unit studies as curriculum for many years, and we hope that your family will enjoy these, too!

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  1. This is fantastic!! A fascinating, but often overlooked, part of American history.

  2. We watched a documentary a while back called "The Men Who Built America", and it went into great detail about the building of the transcontinental railroad. It was super interesting!


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