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Homestead Act

Facts, information and articles about Homestead Act, an event of Westward Expansion from the Wild West

Homestead Act summary: The Homestead Act was a U.S. law that enabled adult Americans to acquire ownership of land in the United States at the minimum cost. The first Homestead Act was passed on May 20, 1862 for the purposes of accelerating the settlement of the western territories. It was signed into law by the President Abraham Lincoln. Anyone older than 21 was eligible provided they never took up arms against the US government. This included women and liberated slaves as well.

The homestead laws were proposed several times before the Civil War, but the southern states always voted against them because the homestead principle was related to the Northern policy of “Free Soil” that enabled people to claim and farm their own land. The rich southern slave owners saw this concept as a threat because they feared that the political influence of the free states will be increased in the west. That’s why the first Homestead Act was passed during the Civil War in 1862, when there was no opposition from the South.

By this Act, any adult citizen who never went to war against US government could claim 160 acres of federal land. There were also some conditions that had to be fulfilled: the claimants had the obligation to build a house on the lot they acquired and they had to farm the land. Their task was to improve the land they got. They had to spend 5 years on that land in order to become owners and they only needed to pay a small fee.


Articles Featuring The Homestead Act From History Net Magazines

January – February 1863Emancipation causes a stir both North and South, and a section of Virginia prepares to secede—from Virginia January 1 – The Emancipation Proclamation takes effect—as does the Homestead Act, signed into law the previous May. The first recorded homestead claim is by Union Army scout Daniel Freeman, near Beatrice, Nebraska Territory. 3 – Federals win …
Daily Quiz for September 17, 2012The last person to file a claim under the United States 1862 Homestead Act filed it in this state:
1862: May and JuneLincoln urges farmers to go west, McClellan stalls and a new Rebel commander takes over May 3 – Confederate General Joseph Johnston orders troops to evacuate Norfolk, Va. Evacuation is completed May 10, and on May 11, the crew of the CSS Virginia burn the ship because it is too heavy to flee up the …
Wild West – February 2012 – Table of ContentsThe February 2012 issue of Wild West features stories about the Homestead Act of 1862, Prohibition cowboy Richard "Two-Gun" Hart, Arizona's and New Mexico's respective statehood centennials, the conflicting stories of a Fort Laramie hanging, and the Battle of the Hot Springs (Ark.) Gamblers.
Wild West Discussion – February 2012The U.S. government passed the Homestead Act 150 years ago to prompt Americans to settle the Great Plains. Would you have jumped at the chance to claim your own “free” land in a remote, difficult environment where Indian attacks were common and law and order was scarce?
Letter from Wild West – February 2012In 2012 Americans will mark the 150th anniversary of the Homestead Act, while New Mexicans and Arizonans throw their respective 100th birthday parties.
Wild West – April 2009 – Table of ContentsAbraham Lincoln, bandit Joaquin Murrieta, outlaw Bill Downing, the ingenious chuck wagon and the incident that inspired the film The Searchers are all featured in the April 2009 issue of Wild West magazine
Letter from Wild West – October 2008Historian Robert Utley examines how the white men in charge made a mess of relations with Indians on the Western frontier. Extermination, if never an official policy, was in fact the order of the day in mid-19th-century California and elsewhere.
Daily Quiz for April 12, 2008Nebraska was admitted to the Union as the 37th state in this year.
Oklahoma Panhandle: Badmen in No Man’s LandUntil the last decade of the 19th Century, the long, narrow strip that would become known as the Oklahoma Panhandle had no government and plenty of men who didn't mind at all.

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