Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Homestead Act of 1862


On January 1, 1863, Daniel Freeman, a Union Army scout, was scheduled to leave Gage County, Nebraska Territory, to report for duty in St. Louis. At a New Year's Eve party the night before, Freeman met some local Land Office officials and convinced a clerk to open the office shortly after midnight in order to file a land claim. In doing so, Freeman became one of the first to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the Homestead Act, a law signed by President Abraham Lincoln on May 20, 1862. At the time of the signing, 11 states had left the Union, and this piece of legislation would continue to have regional and political overtones.

15 comments:

  1. Gintaras, thanks very much. Interesting context that I hadn't given much if any thought to.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh, and it's our day in history, too. Good timing.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The Day in History piqued my interest.

    ReplyDelete
  4. That's an interesting photo they chose to illustrate the Homestead Act:

    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bison_skull_pile,_ca1870.png

    ReplyDelete
  5. Gintaras:

    Thank you for the recent comments list. That's fantastic!

    It has disappeared as I type this, but will surely help me keep track of multiple conversations.

    I feel otherwise like I'm wandering through a long-winding library peeking into rooms.

    ReplyDelete
  6. It is inconsistent, as I had to import it, but I think it will get more durable with time.

    These blogs are not really set up to handle a large number of comments. As NYT noted, it would be nice if they were in inverse order.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Yes, it does seem to come and go, but I think it will a great addition to keeping track of multiple conversations.

    We'll never be able to entirely replicate the discussion format at the Times, but this works just fine for me. I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to get together with everyone again.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Not sure about anyone else, but whenever I click on Comments I get an operation aborted message.

    ReplyDelete
  9. And with that post, my problem has stopped. Weird.

    ReplyDelete
  10. It is a bit wierd, rick. I think it just takes time for the "recent comments" widget to adjust to your computer, since it was an imported device and not one that came with the blog template.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Did you know there is a National Park site devoted to telling the story of the Homestead Act of 1862? To learn more about what may be the most influential piece of legislation this country has ever created go to www.nps.gov/home or visit Homestead National Monument of America. Located in Nebraska, the Monument includes one of the first 160 acres homestead claims but tells the story of homesteading throughout the United States. Nearly 4 million claims in 30 states were made under the Homestead Act and 1.6 million or 40 percent were successful. The Homestead Act was not repealed until 1976 and extended in Alaska until 1986. Homesteads could be claimed by “head of households” that were citizens or eligible for citizenship. New immigrants, African-Americans, women who were single, widowed or divorced all took advantage of the Homestead Act. It is estimated that as many as 93 million Americans are descendents of these homesteaders today. This is a story as big, fascinating, conflicted and contradictory as the United States itself. Learn more!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks Ranger Doris.

    As a life-long fan of and visitor to the national parks, this is one that had escaped my attention.

    You might be interested in chiming in on why "this day in history" chose a pile of buffalo skulls to illustrate the signing of the bill, and what may have motivated the timing of the bill to coincide with the Civil War. We're all history buffs and interested in questions like these.

    And you never know, we may some day explore the history of the national parks themselves. You should check back from time to time.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thanks for the information, Doris! Let me know if you would like to be a contributor. You can reach me at Dzimas61@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  14. I think Doris was stopping by to promote her park -- I love the national parks and the people who work there! In fact, I actually have an application in to work for the park service at the moment. I have no chance because people think of me as an academic (which is very weird) but I'm trying!

    ReplyDelete