Homesteads Act

Homesteads Act


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In 1862 Congress passed the Homesteads Act. This legislation stated that a head of a family could acquire land consisting of 160 acres, settle it, and cultivate it for five years. At the end of the five year period the head of the family was granted the land. The Homesteads Act had a dramatic impact on persuading people to migrate to California and Oregon. By 1890 all available federal land had been settled by these pioneers.

Be it enacted by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States in Congress assembled. That any person who is the head of a family, or who has arrived at the age of twenty-one years, and is a citizen of the United States, or who shall have filed his declaration of intention to become such, as required by the naturalization laws of the United States, and who has never borne arms against the United States government or given aid and comfort to its enemies, shall, from and after the first January, eighteen hundred and sixty-three, be entitled to enter one quarter sections or a less quantity of unappropriated public lands.

Section two; And be it further enacted That the person applying for the benefit of this act shall, upon application to the register of the Land office in which he or she is about to make such entry, make affidavit before the said register or receiver that he or she is the head of a family, or is twenty-one or more of age, or shall have performed service in the army or navy of the United States . and that such application is made for his or her exclusive use and benefit, and that said entry is made for the purpose of actual settlement and cultivation, and not either directly or indirectly for the use or benefit of any other person or persons whomsoever; and upon filing the said affidavit with the register or receiver, and on payment of ten dollars, he or she shall... be permitted to enter the quantity of land specified: Provided, however, That no certificate shall be given or patent issued therefor until the expiration of five years from the date of such entry; and if, at the expiration of such time, or at any time within two years thereafter, the person making such entry; or if he be dead, his widow, or in case of her death, his heirs or devisee... shall prove by two credible witnesses that he, she, or they have resided upon or cultivated the same for the term of five years immediately succeeding the time of filing the affidavit aforesaid... shall be entitled to a patent.

There is probably nowhere else in the world such a curious collection of settlements as are now stretched along the border lines of the new Territory waiting for the 22nd of April to arrive. They have regular names, like Beaver City and Purcell, with hotels and stores. Some of them have a population of 1,500, and at one store the gross receipts in a single day are said to have reached $500. Yet there is scarcely a permanent building in any of them. One town is famous for having a plastered house in which the railway agent lives. For the most part the boomers are living in dug-outs, or sod houses, with some rough wooden shanties and many tents. Yet business is carried on regularly, and there is a scale of rentals ranging from $5 to $25 a year. Clothing is the most difficult thing to obtain, and the 10,000 boomers who are thus waiting on the threshold of the promised land are clad more like Indians than civilized people. In addition to these 10,000, there are said to be many thousands more in the regular towns and settlements near the border, and it is estimated that the new Territory may have a population of 100,000 a few months after it is thrown open for settlement. The rush is ominous for the remainder of the Indian Territory, for the same greedy eyes are upon that as have been fastened so eagerly upon the portion about to be gained.

"No matter what people tell you to the contrary, there is not a man in this town who would stay if he could get out." This was the pessimistic remark of a prominent Oklahoman to a stranger, made in a weary time of waiting for a Government appointment; but, fortunately for the growth of the Territory, there are those within its bounds who do not feel that way. They see in the new country a chance to make a fresh start, unhampered by the competition of crowded districts, and relieved of over-stimulation of haste.

Before the famous "Run" with which Oklahoma opened, the government cleared the decks for action. In the old days the district was supposed to be given over entirely to the Indians; but in reality it contained many white residents of unsettled habits of life and loose morals. Cattle men leased lands for grazing, and led the usual rough, exciting life of the cowboy; matched shrewdness against savagery for the sake of both profit and adventure. Those of this class now living seem to have left from the experience a residuum of romance which forms the foundation of engaging tales. The retired cowboy, now keeping a grocery store or a livery barn with demure respectability in a town's center, seems merely a humdrum, shiftless sort of citizen whose life has always been in crowded districts; but if his confidence be gained, his illiterate tales will be a veracious history of the most interesting period of the region.

Besides the cowboys there were outlaws who fled to the Indian Territory to escape the avenging justice of better-governed states. Once within the Indian borders, there was every facility for the evasion of justice. Here the celebrated James boys had an occasional "dug-out," to which they flew when respite from adventure was desired. The equally notorious Dalton boys, who were cousins to the Jameses, also found here a home so happy, and express trains so profitable, that they were very loath to leave, even after well-meaning folk had flooded the Territory as homesteaders. Immunity from punishment was secured through the absence of local law. Tribal laws prevailed among the Indians, but did not affect the refugees; and, provided a man kept from trouble with the Indians, there was so little difficulty in living that one wonders at the restless spirit which impelled him again into danger. When the land was bought from the Indians, surveyors were sent to mark the entire country off into squares. The plan was, no doubt, neatly drawn at Washington on the smooth surface of a pretty pink map in which topographical inequalities were not represented. The lines were surveyed to run a mile apart, north and south, east and west, each to denote a highway, and each square mile between them to represent a section. The intention was to give each settler a quarter-section of one hundred and sixty acres. The authorities at Washington, in looking at the plain surface of the map, forgot that the country they were thus geometrically dividing was frequently broken by deep ravines and gulches: ... as a consequence the traveller never deviates from the compass, but his horse toils up a hill, reaches the crest, sidles down the farther slope, crosses a rude bridge, and climbs another hill, to repeat the process indefinitely. The uplands are always bare of trees, but the gulches are thickly wooded; and if the roads could have been permitted to follow the line of trees, a grateful shade would have been secured from the relentless sun, and picturesque beauties would have beguiled the farm children on their way to distant schoolhouses.


History and Culture

The Homestead Act of 1862 was one of the most significant and enduring events in the westward expansion of the United States. By granting 160 acres of free land to claimants, it allowed nearly any man or woman a "fair chance."

Millions of Americans including immigrants, women, and formerly enslaved men and women would make the dream of westward expansion a reality for this country. For over a century these settlers would test their grit and endurance in the untamed wilderness and remote frontiers. Homestead National Historical Park, located in Southeast Nebraska, commemorates this Act and the far-reaching effects it had upon the landscape and people.

It is the purpose of our government "to elevate the condition of men, to lift artificial burdens from all shoulders and to give everyone an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life."

- President Abraham Lincoln, July 4, 1861

Homestead Act

Learn why the Homestead Act of 1862 has been called one of the most important pieces of Legislation in the history of the United States.

Park History

Learn about the history of Homestead National Historical Park from 1936 to today.

Research

Research is conducted by Homestead National Historical Park to better understand and share stories of the homesteading experience.

People

Nearly 4 million homesteaders settled our country over 123 years, across 30 states. Learn a bit about their stories.

Places

Learn about places to visit within the park and about the history of homesteads around the country.

Museum Collection

The museum collection includes historical items, archaeological artifacts, biological specimens, and archival records.

Millions of People, Millions of Stories

Discover homesteading stories of migration, risk taking, labor, sacrifice, hardship, and courage in the face of daunting odds.


Homestead Records

Homestead Application Paper

The Homestead Act of 1862 had an immediate and enduring effect on America and the world that is still felt today. Agriculture, industrialization, immigration, American Indian tribes and prairie ecosystems-all were somehow impacted and forever changed by the implementation of this revolutionary land law.


What are the Homestead Records?
Over the course of the Act's 123-year history, over two million individual homestead claims were made. Each and every one of these claims generated a written record known as a case file that was kept by the U.S. General Land Office. Today, these case files exist only as paper originals and are stored in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. The complete collection of case files created under the Homestead Act contains over 30 million individual pieces of paper. These invaluable documents are subject to natural deterioration, fire and water damage. Since 1999, Homestead National Historical Park has been involved in a project that aims to eventually digitize all 30 million documents of the homestead case files collection.

To view an original homestead case file and learn more about the kinds of valuable information that can be found in these records, view the Neve case file.


How can I find Homestead Records?
You can search for Homestead Records at the Heritage Center or at home on the online databases at Fold3.com, Ancestry.com, and the Bureau of Land Managment's General Land Office Records or by requesting records from the National Archives. Learn more details about searching and requesting Homestead Records.


What can I learn from the records?
Homestead case files are treasure troves of historical and genealogical information. Within them can often be found information about a homesteader's date and place of birth the names of children that lived on the homestead naturalization information about immigrant homesteaders notations regarding military service the types of crops planted on the homestead the value and kinds of homes and other buildings on the site and more.


What work is being done with the records?
Homestead National Historical Park, Fold3.com, FamilySearch, & the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have partnered in an effort to digitize all Homestead Land Entry Case Files housed at the National Archives. The Homestead Records Project seeks to digitize the over 800,000 Homestead Records from nearly 200 land offices in all 30 Homesteading States. Nebraska records were the first to be digitized, and they are now complete. Ten states have been completed and the other twenty states are currently only availible in hard copy at the National Archives.

Other Homestead Record Resources:

Homestead Records, Broken Bow, NE Land Office (partnered with University of Nebraska-Lincoln)*
For more records/genealogical information from the National Archives and Records Administration, visit their website.


Homestead Act of 1862

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Homestead Act of 1862, in U.S. history, significant legislative action that promoted the settlement and development of the American West. It was also notable for the opportunity it gave African Americans to own land. Pres. Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act into law on May 20, 1862.

From early colonial days, the desire for “free land” had generated successive waves of westward migrations. By the 1850s, prominent individuals such as New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley and organizations such as the Free-Soil Party and labour unions were urging enactment of homestead legislation. In 1846 Congress was presented with the first homestead bill, which Ohio Sen. Benjamin Wade called a “great question of land to the landless.” In 1860 Congress finally passed a Homestead Act, but Democratic Pres. James Buchanan vetoed it. Southerners opposed the act on the grounds that it would result in antislavery people settling the territories. Employers argued that it would deplete the labour market, thereby increasing wages. The Republican Party platform for the 1860 election promised a new homestead bill, and Lincoln’s victory, along with the secession of the Southern states, ensured its passage.

The act, which took effect January 1, 1863, granted 160 acres (65 hectares) of unappropriated public lands to anyone who paid a small filing fee and agreed to work on the land and improve it, including by building a residence, over a five-year period. The Homestead Act proved one of the most important pieces of legislation in the history of the American West, as hundreds of thousands of people moved to the Great Plains in an effort to take advantage of the free land.

The only personal requirement was that the homesteader be either the head of a family or 21 years of age thus, U.S. citizens, freed slaves, new immigrants intending to become naturalized, single women, and people of all races were eligible. The potential for free land attracted hundreds of thousands of settlers to move to Kansas, Nebraska, the Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma), Dakota Territory, and elsewhere in the West and enticed a migratory wave of thousands of African Americans from the South. Rumors of better race relations in the West served as an added attraction more than 25,000 southern Blacks moved to Kansas during the 1870s and 1880s as a part of the Exoduster Movement—the name given to the migration or “exodus” of African Americans from the South to escape Jim Crow oppression. While the rumors regarding racial attitudes proved to be exaggerations, the Black farmers who took advantage of the Homestead Act found the West more hospitable than the South. While Black access to land never equaled that of whites, the Homestead Act of 1862 gave thousands of ex-slaves the opportunity to own their own land, something that was unattainable in the South.

In all, some 270 million acres (109 million hectares) were distributed under the 1862 Homestead Act. The act remained in effect for more than a century, and the last claim made under it was granted in 1988 for a parcel of land in Alaska.


Teaching Activities

Reasons for Westward Expansion on DocsTeach asks students to examine a variety of documents that reference reasons why Americans living in the East migrated west of the Mississippi immediately before, during, and right after the Civil War. Documents cover the mining industry, new inventions used on the Plains, the growth of the railroad, the Homestead Act, and the Cattle Kingdom.

The Settlement of the American West on DocsTeach asks students to analyze primary sources with an eye for cause-and-effect relationships. They will identify the roles of government policy and technological improvements in the settlement of the West, and explain their impact on Native Americans.

The Impact of Westward Expansion on Native American Communities on DocsTeach asks students to examine the impact of westward expansion and settlement on Native American communities following the Civil War. Students will explore a variety of documents to get a sense of the issues faced by Native Americans due to settlement and U.S. Government Indian policy.


Homesteads Act - History

The Homestead Act of 1862 and later homestead legislation provided the mechanism for transferring federal land to private ownership. The act was applied in Oklahoma after 1889. A popular movement for distributing free land in the West had begun in the 1850s and resulted in the passage of the Homestead Act in May 1862. According to statute, a citizen over twenty-one years of age and head of a family could claim up to 160 acres of surveyed, unclaimed public domain. Title to the land could be established after the homesteader resided on the land for five years, made certain improvements, and paid claim registration fees. The Homestead Act and subsequent laws that amplified it regulated the disposition of millions of acres of unoccupied federal land west of the Mississippi River. Through 1890 more than 1.6 million homesteads were patented in the West, but much of the public domain was granted to railroads or purchased for speculative purposes.

Homestead Act regulations generally governed the process of distributing land by "run" in territorial Oklahoma. After the Civil War ended, treaties between American Indian nations and the U.S. government rearranged tribal holdings in Indian Territory. Later negotiations removed millions of acres from Native control and placed the land in the public domain. Beginning with the opening of the Unassigned Lands of Oklahoma Territory on April 22, 1889, a series of land runs took place in the western portion of the present state through 1895. Other methods of land openings, including distribution by lottery, auction, legislation, allotment, and court order, did not fall under the Homestead Act. By 1905 all surplus Indian holdings in present Oklahoma had been placed in the public domain and opened to settlement.

Bibliography

Berlin B. Chapman, "Federal Management and Disposition of the Lands of Oklahoma Territory, 1866–1907" (Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin, 1931).

Paul W. Gates, History of Public Land Law Development (Rev. ed. Holmes Beach, Fla.: Gaunt, 1987).

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Citation

The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Dianna Everett, &ldquoHomestead Act (1862),&rdquo The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=HO022.

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Free Land: How the Homestead Act Helped America Expand Westward

In America in the latter part of the 19th century, land was everything. Owning land bestowed a certain measure of prestige and respectability. It provided stability. Possible wealth. It meant a future.

For all those reasons, and others, thousands of people tromped westward in the nation's expansion toward the Pacific in the 1860s and many decades that followed, claiming huge parcels of free land in the first steps toward their own American dreams.

For many — even those who had found it difficult, and sometimes impossible, to become landowners before women, former enslaved people and immigrants among them — the Homestead Act of 1862 made it possible.

"I think it's absolutely a representation of the American Dream," says Jonathan Fairchild, the historian at the Homestead National Monument of America in Beatrice, Nebraska, "the thought that, no matter who you are, where you're coming from, that with hard work and a little bit of luck, you can be successful."

What Was the Homestead Act?

The Civil War still was raging when President Abraham Lincoln, in May 1862, signed into law the Homestead Act, which promised 160 acres (64 hectares) of free land, most of it in America's expanding West, for anyone willing to work the land.

Some strings (beyond the inevitable, even then, bureaucratic paperwork) were attached to getting the land in the first place. Among them:

  • Claimants had to be at least 21 years old.
  • They had to be head of a household.
  • They had to fork over about $18 in filing fees.
  • They had to be a U.S. citizen, or be eligible to become a U.S. citizen.
  • They had to swear that they never had fought against the United States.
  • And they had to promise to improve the land that was being given to them.

Anyone who met those criteria would be granted full title to the plot after five years (and some more paperwork and a few more dollars in fees) if they proved that they:

  • lived on the land
  • built a home there
  • farmed it (or raised livestock) and otherwise improved it

From the 1860s through the 1980s, nearly 4 million people took advantage of the offer. In the 123 years the Act was in effect, about 1.6 million of those claimants successfully "proved up" — they met the final criteria for improving the hard, sometimes desolate, often untamable land — to gain deed to the property.

At its height, in the five-year period from 1911-1915, more than 42.5 million acres (17.1 million hectares) of land were awarded under the Homestead Act and its various offshoots. Somewhere around 10 percent of U.S. land — 270 million acres (109 million hectares) — eventually was given away under the Homestead Acts, according to the National Park Service.

These homesteads would become the basis of wealth for countless families for, in many cases, generations to come. It's estimated that some 93 million people today are descendants of homesteaders.

"It is one of the most successful endeavors in American history, causing the great land rush to the Wild West and forming the vision for a new homesteading program in urban America today," President George H.W. Bush said in 1990. "Because Abraham Lincoln's Homestead Act empowered people, it freed people from the burden of poverty. It freed them to control their own destinies, to create their own opportunities, and to live the vision of the American dream."

The Legacy of the Homestead Act

After the 14th Amendment to the Constitution was passed in 1866, slaves and former slaves became eligible to own land under the Homestead Act.

"If you're talking an African American family shortly after the Civil War . talk about what it means to be going from potentially being enslaved, and literally being considered property by the law of the land, to having your freedom, to owning hundreds of acres of land in your own name, to becoming an independent and successful small-family farm owner," Fairchild says. "It's just incredible to talk about."

Even before the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was passed, giving women the right to vote, the Homestead Act granted them the opportunity to own land. Just owning land in many places in the country provided women a de facto right to vote. An estimated 10 percent of all homesteaders were women.

And though the Homestead Act originally excluded some who were not eligible to become citizens — notably, Native Americans whose land was stolen away from them and granted to others eligible under the Act, and those from Asian countries — it provided a pathway to many immigrants to become American landowners.

"It was the first piece of legislation to include all of the necessary components to be considered an accommodating immigration law," Fairchild says. "It didn't exclude on gender or race, and it provided, within the language of the law, everything required of immigrants to become naturalized citizens.

"The Homestead Act of 1862 was, for its time, a remarkably democratic piece of legislation that helped break barriers in the United States."

The Homestead Act was instrumental in the settling of the American West, and especially the plains. Some 45 percent of land in Nebraska, for example, was successfully homesteaded. But homesteading wasn't limited to that area of the country. Some 14 percent of the land in Alabama, 10 percent in Florida, 20 percent in Washington, and 17 percent in Oregon was eventually claimed by homesteaders who successfully "proved up."


The History of Phoenix Homesteads Historic District in Phoenix Arizona

The New Deal Resettlement Program
During the Great Depression, the Roosevelt Administration was making a concerted effort to address long-term land use planning while improving farm production. One of the first steps taken was the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) of 1933, an allotment plan to subsidize prices and reduce the disparity between farming costs and income. However, a conflict arose between the crop adjustment programs, which required limited production, and the tendency of the unemployed urban population to return to the land as a means of survival in times of hardship. It became necessary to control this "return migration" in order to stabilize prices, especially in more rural areas. While the government could not prevent citizens from farming the land to survive, the Roosevelt administration instead acted to reduce the amount of excess production, which could drive prices down, in order to stabilize the agricultural economy. The result was the Subsistence Homestead Program.

Subsistence Homesteads
The National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 established the Subsistence Homestead Program, described as a 11 back-to-the-farm" movement. Existing farmland was purchased and subdivided into one to five acre farming plots. Low-income families were then relocated to the tracts where they could offset the cost of living by producing their own food. In order to keep production to a minimum on these small farm cooperatives, sites were chosen such that adequate non-farm employment was available nearby and the homesteaders included in this program had to be fit for industrial employment. While part-time farming as an income supplement was not a new idea, the American experience with organized, collective, "garden home" developments were very limited. As a result, the Subsistence Homestead Act became a controlled experiment in land planning, economics, housing design and social structure.

Despite critical views that the program's collective nature was "communistic fifty-eight resettlement programs were planned for several areas of the country, ranging from 25 to 300 homesteads per project. Forty-three projects were constructed. Only four of these were in the west: El Monte, California the California San Fernando Valley Longview, Washington and Phoenix, Arizona.

The Baxter Tract
In December 1933, Paul V. Fuller was selected to administer the Subsistence Homesteads Program in Arizona. He conducted extensive studies and in March 1934, announced that Arizona's first homestead site would be in the Salt River Valley, near Phoenix. Four miles northeast of downtown Phoenix, eighty acres known as the Baxter Tract, were purchased and a local corporation, Rural Homes of Arizona, was formed to administer the project and coordinate financing through loans from the federal government. The southern forty acres were developed initially, with forty 3/4-acre plots laid out. Construction began in March 1935, and twenty-five homes were ready for occupancy by October. This first project was typical of the Subsistence Homestead Program. The size of the lots had been carefully analyzed to be capable of producing a large portion of the families' food without producing surplus the average family of five supplemented its income with a garden, orchards, chickens and a cow. Participants in the project also had to secure part-time employment in a non-farm capacity.

The Resettlement Administration
While construction on the Baxter Tract and several similar projects like it across the country was underway, the Roosevelt administration reorganized the various agencies handling the rural resettlement programs into one coordinated program, the Resettlement Administration. The basic tenets of the Subsistence Homestead Project were kept, but modified to emphasize more densely clustered housing and larger blocks of common area farmland. Additionally, a maximum age of 55 was set for participants. By mid1936, the Resettlement Administration had approved 97 projects nationwide. Three resettlement projects were operating in Arizona by July 1936, including the original Baxter Tract. The other two were Casa Grande Valley Farms, Inc., and Arizona Part Time Farms, Inc. As a result of the improving agricultural economy, these projects were now encouraged to both provide subsistence for those living in the project and operate as commercial enterprises. Housing was designed for multi-family groups and the remaining acreage devoted to cash crops such as cotton or alfalfa. Although the size of each individual home lot decreased, the average acreage increased to five acres per family.

Arizona Part Time Farms, Inc. was approved to develop five sites in the Salt River Valley: 210 acres in Chandler, 75 acres at Indian School Road and 28th Street, 80 acres at Northern and 51st Avenue, 60 acres at McDowell Road and 59th Avenue, and the remaining 36 acres of the Baxter Tract.Each site would be made up of "units" consisting of 15 to 25 multi-family grouping of houses, each sharing common barns, poultry houses, milk sheds and community buildings. The Chandler Unit of Arizona Part Time Farms was incorporated separately in July 1937, as Chandler Farms, Inc. However, the project and the structures built for it no longer exist.

Of the other four remaining sites, three were developed with housing units. Twenty houses remain at the Northern and 51st Avenue site. No houses remain at the McDowell Road and 59th Avenue site and no houses were ever built at the Indian School Road and 28th Street location. Instead, this area was used as pasture land for the dairy herd of the Baxter Tract operation. The fourth site, the remainder of the Baxter Tract, was designated Arizona Part Time Farms Tract #2 and constructed between October, 1936 and March, 1937 thirty-five homes were built on small lots clustered in a T-shaped subdivision focusing on a common area and community building. Together with the first development, these two subdivisions of Baxter Tract operated as one large cooperative farm and survived to become the Phoenix Homesteads Historic District.

The Phoenix Homesteads Association
As each subdivision was built and occupied, the Resettlement Administration provided for the creation of "farm associations." The concept was to allow members of the association to sell their "spare time" labor at prevailing farm wages to the association to offset the cost of living on the project. Profits were to be divided equally among residents. The Phoenix Homesteads Association was incorporated in August 1936, replacing Rural Homes of Arizona as administrator of the Baxter Tract. Each resident was required to join the association and by March 1937, both phases of the Baxter Tract were assimilated into the Association.

By 1939, virtually all residents of the Phoenix Homesteads project worked at full-time jobs and were unable to give much time to cooperative labor efforts, although they did tend their home gardens after work and on weekends. This situation forced the Association to begin hiring full-time farm laborers to tend the dairy herd and poultry operations. This movement away from the initial concept of a cooperative farm effort toward a more commercial enterprise forced the federal government to recognize these particular resettlement projects as separate entities from the typical part-time farm project. Consequently, federal administration of resettlement projects whose residents were deriving their primary income from nonfarm employment was transferred to the Federal Public Housing Authority. In 1944, an act allowing farm associations to repay the purchase price of housing sold by the Resettlement Administration was passed. By 1948, the Phoenix Homestead Association had paid the indebtedness in full to the United States, which released all interest the government had in the property.

Building Styles in the Phoenix Homesteads Neighborhood
The initial phase of the Phoenix Homesteads community was designed to accommodate single-family homes on standard size subsistence farm lots. Constructed of adobe, the simple homes were designed in the Pueblo Revival style. Typically, they had flat or low-pitched, tiled or slabstone roofs, irregular floor plans and wide verandas. A significant part of the building of the first phase was planting of street trees, notably the Washington Palms and Aleppo Pines which still line Pinchot Avenue today.

Although the first phase was designed and developed locally, the second phase of the Phoenix Homesteads community was designed by engineers and architects employed by the Resettlement Administration. Hence, the architectural styles of tract *2 are representative of more uniform public housing which was designed to emphasize economy, uniform house plans, efficient heating and cooling, and use of low-cost local construction materials. Like the houses in the initial phase, homes in the Arizona Part-Time Farm tract are principally constructed of adobe. The Great Depression and the associated New Deal programs had a significant effect on the development of Phoenix. The Phoenix Homesteads District survives today as a tangible link with this important early influence. Of the original 60 homes built in the two phases of the project, 45 remain and are excellent examples of adobe construction.

he Phoenix Homesteads Association continues to operate today, making it the oldest continuously operating homeowners association in the Valley. Many aspects of its heritage remain, including the large lots, the towering Aleppo Pines and Washington Palms, and common area, which give the district a decidedly rural character and make it one of Phoenix' most unique neighborhoods.


Homestead Act History

“Homesteading” has a very different meaning for me. The Homestead Act, enacted in 1862, provided that settlers could obtain up to 160 acres at no cost other than various filing fees of about $18. However, homesteaders were required to cultivate the land, and to live in a habitable dwelling on that land for at least five years.

According to the BLM (Bureau of Land Management), almost 63,000 homesteads, consisting of 10,514,000 acres, were claimed in Oregon. This was about 17 percent of the state’s total acreage. Interestingly, women over 21 were able to receive homestead patents if they were heads of their households (including unmarried women, widows, or women with disabled husbands). This was several years before women had the right to vote.

My father’s maternal grandparents came to Oregon over the Oregon Trail, and my father’s father came west a few years later, shortly after the Civil War, when his home state of Missouri was in chaos. He settled near Portland, in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and was a teacher for a few years before he decided to pick up and move his small herd of cattle to Eastern Oregon.

In 1909, the Enlarged Homestead Act increased homestead claims to 320 acres in several western states. The Homestead Act was repealed in 1976, although the program continued a few more years in Alaska.


(1862) The Homestead Act

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That any person who is the head of a family, or who has arrived at the age of twenty-one years, and is a citizen of the United States, or who shall have filed his declaration of intention to become such, as required by the naturalization laws of the United States, and who has never borne arms against the United States Government or given aid and comfort to its enemies, shall, from and after the first January, eighteen hundred and sixty-three, be entitled to enter one quarter section or a less quantity of unappropriated public lands, upon which said person may have filed a pre-emption claim, or which may, at the time the application is made, be subject to pre-emption at one dollar and twenty-five cents, or less, per acre or eighty acres or less of such unappropriated lands, at two dollars and fifty cents per acre, to be located in a body, in conformity to the legal subdivisions of the public lands, and after the same shall have been surveyed: Provided, That any person owning and residing on land may, under the provisions of this act, enter other land lying contiguous to his or her said land, which shall not, with the land so already owned and occupied, exceed in the aggregate one hundred and sixty acres.

Section 2. And be it further enacted, That the person applying for the benefit of this act shall, upon application to the register of the land office in which he or she is about to make such entry, make affidavit before the said register or receiver that he or she is the head of a family, twenty-one years or more of age, or shall have performed service in the army or navy of the United States, and that he has never borne arms against the Government of the United States or given aid and comfort to its enemies, and that such application is made for his or her exclusive use and benefit, and that said entry is made for the purpose of actual settlement and cultivation, and not either directly or indirectly for the use or benefit of any other person or persons whomsoever and upon filing the said affidavit with the register or receiver, and on payment of ten dollars, he or she shall thereupon be permitted to enter the quantity of land specified: Provided, however, That no certificate shall be given or patent issued therefor until the expiration of five years from the date of such entry and if, at the expiration of such time, or at any time within two years thereafter, the person making such entry or, if he be dead, his widow or in case of her death, his heirs or devisee or in case of a widow making such entry, her heirs or devisee, in case of her death shall prove by two credible witnesses that he, she, or they have resided upon or cultivated the same for the term of five years immediately succeeding the time of filing the affidavit aforesaid, and shall make affidavit that no part of said land has been alienated, and that he has borne true allegiance to the Government of the United States then, in such case, he, she, or they, if at that time a citizen of the United States, shall be entitled to a patent, as in other cases provided for by law: And provided, further, That in case of the death of both father and mother, leaving an infant child, or children, under twenty-one years of age, the right and fee shall enure to the benefit of said infant child or children and the executor, administrator, or guardian may, at any time within two years after the death of the surviving parent, and in accordance with the laws of the State in which such children for the time being have their domicil, sell said land for the benefit of said infants, but for no other purpose and the purchaser shall acquire the absolute title by the purchase, and be entitled to a patent from the United States, on payment of the office fees and sum of money herein specified.

Section 3. And be it further enacted, That the register of the land office shall note all such applications on the tract books and plats of his office, and keep a register of all such entries, and make return thereof to the General Land Office, together with the proof upon which they have been founded.

Section 4. And be it further enacted, That no lands acquired under the provisions of this act shall in any event become liable to the satisfaction of any debt or debts contracted prior to the issuing of the patent therefor.

Section 5. And be it further enacted, That if, at any time after the filing of the affidavit, as required in the second section of this act, and before the expiration of the five years aforesaid, it shall be proven, after due notice to the settler, to the satisfaction of the register of the land office, that the person having filed such affidavit shall have actually changed his or her residence, or abandoned the said land for more than six months at any time, then and in that event the land so entered shall revert to the government.

Section 6. And be it further enacted, That no individual shall be permitted to acquire title to more than one quarter section under the provisions of this act and that the Commissioner of the General Land Office is hereby required to prepare and issue such rules and regulations, consistent with this act, as shall be necessary and proper to carry its provisions into effect and that the registers and receivers of the several land offices shall be entitled to receive the same compensation for any lands entered under the provisions of this act that they are now entitled to receive when the same quantity of land is entered with money, one half to be paid by the person making the application at the time of so doing, and the other half on the issue of the certificate by the person to whom it may be issued but this shall not be construed to enlarge the maximum of compensation now prescribed by law for any register or receiver: Provided, That nothing contained in this act shall be so construed as to impair or interfere in any manner whatever with existing pre-emption rights: And provided, further, That all persons who may have filed their applications for a pre-emption right prior to the passage of this act, shall be entitled to all privileges of this act: Provided, further, That no person who has served, or may hereafter serve, for a period of not less than fourteen days in the army or navy of the United States, either regular or volunteer, under the laws thereof, during the existence of an actual war, domestic or foreign, shall be deprived of the benefits of this act on account of not having attained the age of twenty-one years.

Section 7. And be it further enacted, That the fifth section of the act entitled “An act in addition to an act more effectually to provide for the punishment of certain crimes against the United States, and for other purposes,” approved the third of March, in the year eighteen hundred and fifty-seven, shall extend to all oaths, affirmations, and affidavits, required or authorized by this act.

Section 8. And be it further enacted, That nothing in this act shall be so construed as to prevent any person who has availed him or herself of the benefits of the first section of this act, from paying the minimum price, or the price to which the same may have graduated, for the quantity of land so entered at any time before the expiration of the five years, and obtaining a patent therefor from the government, as in other cases provided by law, on making proof of settlement and cultivation as provided by existing laws granting pre-emption rights.


Homestead Act

Summary and Definition of the Homestead Act
Definition and Summary: The Homestead Act of 1862 was passed by Congress on May 20, 1862 during the Civil War (1861-1865) following the secession of the Southern states. The Homestead Act was "An Act to secure Homesteads to actual Settlers on the Public Domain". The Homestead Act was one of the most important laws passed in the history of the United States enabling 270 millions acres, or 10% of the area of the United States, to be claimed and settled by private citizens.

1862 Homestead Act for kids
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th American President who served in office from March 4, 1861 to April 15, 1865. The Homestead Act was passed by Congress in opposition to President Lincoln's lenient plan for reunification of the United States.

Purpose of the Homestead Act of 1862
The purpose of the Homestead Act of 1862 was to shape the future of the Western regions of the United States by taming the region by populating the area with farmers. The Homestead Act of 1862 virtually gave away public lands to farmers and settlers.

What did the Homestead Act do?
The provisions of the Homestead Act of 1862 were:

● To provide 160 acres of land in exchange for a small filing fee and the time and the effort of the farmer
● Under the terms of the Act anyone over the age of 21 years, the head of a family or a military veteran was able to claim land
● Established American citizens and immigrants were able to make a claim which gave them the temporary right to occupy and farm the land
● After farming and occupying the land for a period of five years the 'homesteader' would gain full ownership
● The Homestead Act gave away 270 millions acres of public land to private citizens
● This was equivalent to 10% of the total area of the United States in 1862

Reason for the Homestead Act of 1862
The reasons for the Homestead Act of 1862 were:

● Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans and the Free Soilers in the North wanted to establish a national agricultural policy
● The North favored giving land to farmers and settlers. The South wanted to retain the system of slave labor
● By creating an agrarian base, as part of a social movement to cultivate the land, the Northern advocates of the Homestead Act believed they could destroy the practice and institution of slavery
● Southern politicians had therefore long opposed the passing of such a law. The succession of the Southern States provided a clear path for passing the Homestead Act
● The law was also seen as a way of taming the frontier lands of the west fuelled by the belief in the Manifest Destiny of America and the drive for Westward Expansion

Effects of the Homestead Act of 1862
The effects of the Homestead Act of 1862 produced unexpected results and destroyed much of the purpose of the law.

● Unscrupulous speculators used bribery and corruption to obtain the best lands
● The law was particularly exploited by the railroads
● Large corporations, many operating the timber industries, acquired a large proportion of the lands
● Many of the 'Homesteaders' failed in their attempts to farm the land they had been allocated due to dry, barren soil and insufficient rainfall. The Homesteaders also found it difficult to endure the harsh living conditions, living in makeshift accommodation called sod houses (soddies)

Significance of the Homestead Act of 1862: Additional Homestead Acts
The significance of the Homestead Act was that the Agriculture Department was created in May 15, 1862. The limitations, exploitations and additional requirements of the law were addressed by the passing of additional Homestead Acts including:

● 1866 Southern Homestead Act which allowed poor tenant farmers and sharecroppers in the south to become land owners during reconstruction
● 1873 Timber Culture Act allowed homesteader additional land (320 acres) if they planted 40 trees
● 1904 Kinkaid Amendment granted larger homestead tracts, up to 640 acres, to homesteaders in western Nebraska
● 1909 Enlarged Homestead Act increased the number of acres for a homesteader to 320 acres in dry lands such as those in the Great Plains
● 1916 Stock-Raising Homestead Act
● 1916 Stock-Raising Homestead Act was passed allowing 640 acres for ranching purposes
● 1930 Subsistence Homesteads provisions under the New Deal

Homestead Act for kids - President Abraham Lincoln Video
The article on the Homestead Act for kids provides an overview of this Important political incident during his presidency. The following Abraham Lincoln video will give you additional important facts and dates about the political events experienced by the 16th American President whose presidency spanned from March 4, 1861 to April 15, 1865.

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