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To encourage road building, large grants of land were made to the railroad companies. As the tracks were extended, these lands were offered for sale and the companies engaged in extensive advertising to speed up purchase. Pamphlets and circulars were broadcast in the East and in Europe, enticing colonists from England, Germany, Russia, Bohemia, and the Scandinavian Peninsula as well as additional emigrants from the eastern States. Distinguished Europeans were invited to come as visitors. One of these was Grand Duke Alexis of Russia who, with his entourage, was entertained at Topeka by Governor James M. Harvey and the State legislature. Twenty years after the passage of the Homestead Law, lines of barbed wire fence enclosed the range. 

Life for the early Plains settlers was filled with hardships. Buffalo chips were the only fuel, and they had to be gathered from wide areas. Money was scarce and crop failures were frequent. Even the possession of dugouts and sod houses often had to be disputed with rattlesnakes and gophers. In lean times the settlers turned, as had the Indians before them, to the buffalo. Thousands were shot for their hides and other thousands for sport from train windows, leaving carcasses to wolves and bones to the weather. This proved fortunate, for the bones could be sold for fertilizer at from six to ten dollars per ton; when crops failed, gathering buffalo bones became a regular occupation. Another source of revenue was provided by the wild horses. Large herds, descended from horses left by the Spanish, roamed the grasslands and needed only to be caught and tamed. This was an arduous task, but the "bronco busting" settler was undaunted. 

In 1874 a partial drought was experienced and following it came the visitation known to Kansans simply as "the grasshoppers." In 1866 and 1867 these insects had appeared in sections of the State, but in 1874 they came in hordes, filling the air and devouring every particle of vegetation. In the eastern counties sufficient headway had been made to weather the devastation; but in the west, where settlements were new and no surplus had been accumulated, aid again had to come from the East. 

In the same year a colony of Mennonite immigrants from Russia arrived, with enough money to buy land and withstand the grasshoppers. Of far greater importance was the bushel or so of handpicked hard "Turkey Red" wheat carefully stowed away in the baggage of each family. Up to that time attempts to grow wheat on the Plains had not been successful, but the Russian grain was perfectly adapted to these conditions. From this beginning developed the vast wheat fields, which now give Kansas ranking place among the wheat growing States. Ten years later it was able to reciprocate the aid given in 1874 by shipping carloads of corn to flood victims in Ohio. At the same time, a trainload of grain went to Virginia to help in raising a fund for a home for ex-Confederate soldiers. 

The State legislature voted $30,000 in 1876 for the exhibit of native products at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia; this created so favorable an impression that it directed new interest to Kansas and resulted in further increase in emigration.