President Abraham Lincoln signed the homestead Act on may 20, 1862. Top top January 1, 1863, Daniel Freeman made the first claim under the Act, which offered citizens or future citizens approximately 160 acres of public land noted they live ~ above it, boost it, and also pay a tiny registration fee. The government granted much more than 270 million acre of land while the legislation was in effect. Read more...

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On January 1, 1863, Daniel Freeman, a Union military scout, was scheduled to leaving Gage County, Nebraska Territory, to report because that duty in St. Louis. In ~ a brand-new Year"s eve party the night before, Freeman met some regional Land Office officials and convinced a salesman to open up the office soon after midnight in stimulate to paper a floor claim. In act so, Freeman became one that the an initial to take benefit of the opportunities detailed by the homestead Act, a law signed by president Abraham Lincoln on may 20, 1862. At the moment of the signing, 11 states had left the Union, and this item of law would proceed to have local and political overtones.

The distribution of federal government lands had actually been one issue because the Revolutionary War. At the moment of the short articles of Confederation, the major controversy regarded land measurement and also pricing. Early methods for allocating unsettled land external the original 13 nests were arbitrary and also chaotic. Boundaries were established by stepping off plots from geography landmarks. Together a result, overlapping claims and border problems were common.

The soil Ordinance that 1785 finally enforced a standardized device of commonwealth land surveys that eased border conflicts. Making use of astronomical starting points, region was split into a 6-mile square referred to as a township before settlement. The township was divided into 36 sections, every measuring 1 square mile or 640 acres each. Sale of public floor was regarded as a way to generate revenue for the government rather 보다 as a method to encourage settlement. Initially, an individual was compelled to acquisition a full section the land at the cost of $1 per acre because that 640 acres. The investment needed to acquisition these big plots and the substantial amount of physical labor forced to clear the land for agriculture were regularly insurmountable obstacles.

By 1800, the minimum lot to be halved come 320 acres, and settlers were allowed to salary in 4 installments, yet prices remained fixed in ~ $1.25 one acre until 1854. The year, federal regulation was enacted creating a graduated range that adjusted land price to reflect the desirability of the lot. Lots that had actually been ~ above the market for 30 years, for example, were diminished to 12 ½ cent per acre. Quickly after, particularly bonuses were prolonged to veterans and those interested in settling the Oregon Territory, making homesteading a viable option for some. However basically, nationwide public-land-use plan made land property financially unattainable for most would-be homesteaders.

Before and after the Mexican-American war in the mid 1800s, famous pressure to readjust policy arose from the evolving economy, new demographics, and also shifting society climate of beforehand 19th-century America. In the 1830s and 1840s, climbing prices because that corn, wheat, and cotton permitted large, well-financed farms, particularly the plantations of the South, to force out smaller sized ventures. Displaced farmers then looked westward to unforested country that offered more affordable development.

Prior come the war through Mexico (1846–48), people settling in the West request “preemption,” an individual"s right to clear up land first and pay later (essentially an early kind of credit). Eastern financial interests protest this policy as it was feared that the cheap labor base because that the factories would be drained. After the war through Mexico, a number of developments sustained the development of the house movement. Economic prosperity attracted unprecedented numbers of immigrants to America, countless of whom additionally looked westward for a brand-new life. New canals and also roadways diminished western dependence on the port in new Orleans, and England"s repeal the its corn regulations opened new markets to American agriculture.

Despite this developments, legislative efforts to improve homesteading laws faced opposition on many fronts. As pointed out above, northern factories owner feared a mass exit of their cheap labor force and Southern states worried that rapid settlement that western territories would provide rise to brand-new states occupied by small farmers opposed to slavery. Preemption ended up being national policy despite these sectional concerns, however supporting law was stymied. 3 times—in 1852, 1854, and 1859—the residence of representatives passed homestead legislation, yet on each occasion, the Senate beat the measure. In 1860, a homestead bill offering Federal land grants to western settlers was happen by Congress only to it is in vetoed by chairman Buchanan.

The civil War eliminated the slavery issue because the southern states had actually seceded from the Union. Therefore finally, in 1862, the homestead Act was passed and signed right into law. The new law developed a three-fold house acquisition process: paper an application, boost the land, and document for deed that title.

Any U.S. Citizen, or to plan citizen, who had never borne arms against the U.S. Government could document an application and also lay claim to 160 acre of surveyed federal government land. For the following 5 years, the general Land Office looked for a good faith initiative by the homesteaders. This intended that the house was their main residence and that lock made improvements upon the land. After 5 years, the homesteader could file for his patent (or deed that title) by submitting evidence of residency and the compelled improvements to a regional land office.

Local land offices forwarded the paperwork to the basic Land Office in Washington, DC, together with a final certificate that eligibility. The case paper was examined, and also valid insurance claims were granted patent come the land free and clear, except for a small registration fee. Title could also be gained after a 6-month residency and trivial improvements, noted the claimant payment the government $1.25 every acre. After ~ the civil War, Union soldiers might deduct the moment they offered from the residency requirements.

Some land speculators took advantage of legislative branch loopholes. Others rental phony claimants or bought exit land. The basic Land Office to be underfunded and unable to rental a sufficient number investigators because that its commonly scattered regional offices. As a result, overworked and underpaid investigators were regularly susceptible to bribery.

Physical conditions on the frontier presented also greater challenges. Wind, blizzards, and also plagues the insects endangered crops. Open up plains meant couple of trees for building, forcing plenty of to build homes the end of sod. Minimal fuel and water supplies can turn simple cooking and heating chores into daunting trials. Ironically, also the smaller dimension of sections take it its very own toll. If 160 acre may have been enough for an east farmer, the was merely not enough to sustain agriculture on the dried plains, and scarce herbal vegetation made raising livestock ~ above the prairie difficult. Together a result, in numerous areas, the initial homesteader did not remain on the soil long sufficient to meet the claim.

Homesteaders that persevered to be rewarded with avenues as rapid alters in transport eased several of the hardships. Six months after ~ the homestead Act was passed, the rail Act was signed, and also by might 1869, a transcontinental rail stretched across the frontier. The new railroads provided relatively basic transportation because that homesteaders, and new immigrants to be lured from the west by railroad suppliers eager to sell off excess land in ~ inflated prices. The brand-new rail lines noted ready access to made goods and catalog residences like Montgomery Ward available farm tools, barbed wire, linens, weapons, and even houses delivered via the rails.

The distribution of west land by the Federal federal government cannot be extricated from commonwealth Indian policy. The duration from 1870 come 1900 marked a exit from earlier policies that were overcame by removal, treaties, reservations, and also even war. Brand-new policy in the so late 1880s – ~ the quantity of windy lands available had rapidly diminished – concentrated specifically on break up reservations by giving land allotments to individual aboriginal Americans. Seek to meet the nation"s hunger for land, congress passed the Dawes action in 1887, offering individual ranches to reservation Indians and also opening the staying Indian lands come settlers.

On January 1, 1863, Daniel Freeman and also 417 others had filed claims. Many an ext pioneers followed, populating the land, building towns and schools and creating brand-new states native the territories. In countless cases, the schools came to be the focal suggest for community life, serving together churches, polling places and also social gathering locations.

In 1936, the department of the interior recognized Daniel Freeman together the very first claimant and also established the Homestead national Monument, near a school built in 1872, on his homestead near Beatrice, Nebraska. Today, the monument is administered through the national Park Service, and the website commemorates the transforms to the land and the country brought about by the homestead Act that 1862.

By 1934, over 1.6 million house applications were processed and an ext than 270 million acres—10 percent of every U.S. Lands—passed into the hand of individuals. The passage of the federal Land Policy and Management act of 1976 repealed the homestead Act in the 48 contiguous states, yet it did approve a ten-year extension on claims in Alaska.

This text was adapted from the article "The homestead Act that 1862" by Lee Ann Potter and also Wynell Schamel.

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Citation: Potter, Lee Ann and also Wynell Schamel. "The homestead Act of 1862." Social Education 61, 6 (October 1997): 359-364.

Materials created by the national and also Records administration are in the public domain.