The most popular and influential incentive given to early American settlers was the promise of free land in the Homestead Act of 1862. Another important incentive was the excitement of the unknown and the freedom offered to anyone willing to accept a fresh start.
With the offer of free land and the chance to make a life for their own, early American settlers were drawn to the excitement of the new territories of the West. The discovery of gold and silver in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada and Rockies lured people from all over the world to take their chance at riches. After the Civil War, many from the South were simply looking for work and it was to be found by moving west. Many began to work on the thousands of railroads spreading across the nation, or became cowboys driving cattle from Texas north to the railroads of the central United States.
The need for specifically skilled workers brought certain ethnic groups in droves. For instance, large quantities of lumber were needed for the expansion of the Western Plains, where trees are sparse. Over one third of the population of Norway migrated to Wisconsin and Minnesota to work as loggers, sending the lumber down the rivers to the Plains.