The Homestead Act of 1862 was signed into law by Abraham Lincoln after southern secession, and is responsible for the distribution of almost one tenth of U.S. lands to private citizens.
This sweeping legislation granted 160 acres to anyone willing to settle in the Western territories. It was an irresistible offer that dramatically increased the country’s westward expansion.
Homestead National Monument of America examines the impact of this sweeping land policy, and recreates the landscape settlers would have discovered upon staking their claim in the West.
The park occupies the site of the first homestead claim, made by Daniel Freeman on January 1, 1863. The original Freeman schoolhouse shows the importance the settlers placed on educating their children. The 1867 log cabin, measuring just 14’ x 16’, once housed a family of twelve.
At the Heritage Center, you’ll learn how the Homestead Act forever changed the country and see some of the tools the farmers used to clear, sow, and harvest the land.
From the center’s balcony, look out over the restored tallgrass prairie, now teeming with small animals and plants indigenous to the Plains. A creek cuts through the nearby woods. This is the landscape that greeted homesteaders, with plenty of flat land, fresh water, and hardwood to sustain their new life.