Do you have family that claimed land under the Homestead Act?

| 6/10/2009 3:12:55 PM

Tags: homesteading, Homestead Act,

President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the Homestead Act of 1862, opening up 270 million acres of public domain land for settlers to “prove up.” A filing fee of $10 and a $2 commission to the land agent were the only fees necessary to file a claim on 160 acres of homestead land. Settlers then had five years to build a home and farm on the land before they could receive a patent for the land.

Between 1871 and 1950, more than 1,465,346 people received a final patent on their homestead land. The Homestead Act was repealed in the lower 48 states in 1976 and in Alaska in 1986. You can learn more about the Homestead Act and the pioneers who settled the land at the Homestead National Monument of America just outside of Beatrice, Neb. Their website reports, “On March 19, 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the law and Homestead National Monument of America ‘as an appropriate monument to retain for posterity a proper memorial emblematical of the hardships and the pioneer life through which the early settlers passed in the settlement, cultivation and civilization of the Great West.'"

Do you have ancestors who filed a claim or received a patent on their homestead land? If so, share your family story in the comments below.

linda kimrey
6/27/2009 10:30:29 AM

My ancestors made "The Run" on September 16, 1893 when the Cherokee Strip was opened for settlement. (This is a portion of the land that later became the state of Oklahoma in 1907.) My grandfather and two of his brothers were on horseback while my great-grandfather drove a buckboard. They raced from the state line at Caldwell, Kansas, beginning at high noon when the US Army fired the starting shots, and all four were successful in staking claims to homesteads before the day ended. They were very fortunate because more than 100,000 determined settlers raced that day for the 42,000 available claims.

rj black
6/25/2009 9:31:36 AM

Although all of my ancestors came to the U.S. from Germany, my g.grandmother's stories are the most interesting. They first came to New York state, then progressed to Wisconsin, and after g.grandfather served in the civil war, finally homesteaded in central Nebraska, living in a sod house for some time. Indians came by and asked for food, a prairie fire swept over the region, and the sod house had to be moved when a road came through the property. G.grand was a small, but strong woman who lived until age 96 - a true pioneer. My first-cousin's son now lives on and farms the land.

gary g. way
6/24/2009 1:44:47 PM

My grandfather homesteaded just North of what is now the town of Suprise, NE. He was a veteran of the Civil War and was 57 years old when my father, the youngest of 13 children was born. The farm remained in the family until my Uncle, who was the last Way to farm it, died. I remember going to visit the farm where our family reunions were held until my uncle died and the farm passed from our family. The original sod house where my father was born was added on to and still remained as the utility room of what became a large, two-story farm house. I remember the farm well as I was in highschool the last time we attended a reunion there.

lucy _1
6/24/2009 1:05:51 PM

My grandfather told us stories of how my great grandfather homesteaded to South Dakota, from a Virginia farm. He told me of lines of wagons racing out onto the plains after a gunshot start, and people scambling to find the best land - land with water on it. He told me of being the 7th or 8th born of the family, and being 2 weeks shy of being born in a shod shanty. His mother had insisted on her husband building a board house. The sod shanties were cold and damp, and no place to raise children. He milked 20 cows before school, and road a horse some miles to the one room school house. So many stories: of his father falling into the pig pen and almost being eaten alive by the hogs; he was saved by the dog who defended him. Of one of the hogs dying on the hillside, and indians passing by on their way to a pow-wow asking if they could have it. They cut it up, and took every last part. Apparently my great grandfather knew some secret to farming, because when the dust-bowl hit in the 30's, his was one of the only farms that was still productive. I'm not sure what his secret was. My grandfather left in the 30's, came to Washington DC to work for the government, at his mother's urging. He was bright in school, and she must have seen his potential, and urged him to move on to where he could make a better living. They described the prairie life as rough, cold and difficult. I wish my grandfather was still alive to share more, but I still have a tape of him singing old Folk Songs and playing the banjo. Its really a treasure I cherish.

6/24/2009 12:44:13 PM

My grandparents moved from the Ozarks of Missouri to New Mexico just about the time New Mexico became a state. The story my great aunt use to tell me was that my grandmother's father was none to happy about his daughter being taking away to such an uncivilized place. They raised nine children there and a large number of my cousins are still in the area. I can't imagine the hardships they faced, but by all accounts they lived a happy and content life on the High Plains. The last time I was out there, the dugout they first lived in was still there. It has been almost 100 years. Wow.

elizabeth peryam
6/24/2009 11:07:43 AM

Our great-grandparents came in a covered wagon to homestead in Wyoming on a rich and fulsome river that Great-Grandmother taught all her sons to irrigate, so the water would flow into their ranches. It's a whole long story. Watch for my book to some out in about oh-say-20 years.

6/11/2009 4:59:33 PM

My grandparents came from Germany in the late 1800's and settled in eastern Washington state. The first of 11 children was born in 1899 in a one room house next to the current house we live in that they built in 1901 and added on to in 1914. My great grandparents also came with them and lived in a soddy nearby. I still have the certificate they got from the Homestead Act.

brenda cummings_1
6/11/2009 1:39:42 PM

My great grandfather was the first Icelandic settler in North Dakota. After first earning his way as an indentured servant in the east, he headed west to north eastern North Dakota where he lived for 6 months in a sod hut until other Icelanders arrived and began claiming land in the area too. Eventually his farm thrived, and he fathered 8 children to 2 Icelandic wives. The area is still populated with many people of Icelandic descent, and area towns have names like Valhalla and Mountain.

corey carlson
6/10/2009 5:06:19 PM

My great-grandfather came to the US from Sweden in 1880 and settled in Minnesota. In 1909, my grandfather, 2 of his brothers and a brother-in-law moved to NE Montana to homestead. They 'squatted' until the tract of land they wanted was up for homestead, and filed their claims in 1911. This July 4th, my 82 year old father is hosting a 100 year celebration of our farm. The house that he lives in, in part, was the original homestead shack built by my grandfather. My father owns the original 320 acres, plus parts of 2 other homesteads, for a total of 720 acres. The farm lies about 19 miles from Canada, and 100 miles from the ND border. I have always told my friends that my grandfather traveled for months on a boat, and weeks by train to find some place as cold, desolate and miserable as where he had left! :-)

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