Homestead Act

The Homestead Act was a United States Federal law that gave freehold title to 160 acres (one quarter section or about 65 hectares) of undeveloped land in the American West. The person to whom title was granted had to be at least 21 years of age, and to have built on the section, and lived in for 5 years, a house that was at least 12 by 14 feet (3.6 x 4.3 m) in size. The Act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on May 20, 1862.


The act was intended to liberalize the homesteading requirements of the Preemption Act of 1841. The "yeoman farmer" ideal was powerful in American political history, and plans for expanding their numbers through a homestead act were rooted in the 1850s. The South resisted, fearing the increase in free farmers would threaten plantation slavery.[1] Two men stand out as greatly responsible for the passage of the Homestead Act: George Henry Evans and Horace Greeley. Agitation for free land started in 1844, when several bills began to be introduced unsuccessfully until 1862. After the South seceded and their delegations left Congress in 1861, the path was clear of obstacles, and the act was passed. Sadly, it took lands away from thousands of Native American Groups.

The end of homesteading

The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 ended homesteading; the government believed that the best use of public lands was for them to remain in government control. The only exception to this new policy was in Alaska, for which the law allowed homesteading until 1986.

The last claim under the Homestead Act was made by Kenneth Deardorff for 80 acres (32 hectares) of land on the Stony River in southwestern Alaska. He fulfilled all requirements of the Homestead Act in 1979, but he did not actually receive his deed until May 1988. Therefore, he is the last person to receive the title to land claimed under the provisions of the Homestead Act.

Fraud and corporate use

The intent of the Homestead Act was to grant land for agriculture. However, in the arid areas west of the Rocky Mountains, 640 acres was generally too little land for a viable farm (at least prior to major public investments in irrigation projects). In these areas, homesteads were instead used to control resources, especially water. A common scheme was for an individual acting as a front for a large cattle operation to file for a homestead surrounding a water source under the pretense that the land was being used as a farm. Once granted, use of that water source would be denied to other cattle ranchers, effectively closing off the adjacent public land to competition. This method could also be used to gain ownership of timber and oil-producing land, as the Federal government charged royalties for extraction of these resources from public lands. On the other hand, homesteading schemes were generally pointless for land containing "locatable minerals", such as gold and silver, which could be controlled through mining claims and for which the Federal government did not charge royalties.

There was no systematic method used to evaluate claims under the Homestead Act. Land offices would rely on affidavits from witnesses that the claimant had lived on the land for the required period of time and made the required improvements. In practice, some of these witnesses were bribed or otherwise collaborated with the claimant. In any case the land was turned into farms.

Related acts in other countries

The act was later imitated with some modifications by Canada in the form of the Dominion Lands Act. Similar acts—usually termed the Selection Acts—were passed in the various Australian colonies in the 1860s, beginning in 1861 in New South Wales.

Popular culture

See also

Further reading

  • Dick, Everett, 1970. The Lure of the Land: A Social History of the Public Lands from the Articles of Confederation to the New Deal.
  • Gates, Paul W., 1996. The Jeffersonian Dream: Studies in the History of American Land Policy and Development.
  • Hyman, Harold M., 1986. American Singularity: The 1787 Northwest Ordinance, the 1862 Homestead and Morrill Acts, and the 1944 G.I. Bill.
  • Lause, Mark A., 2005. Young America: Land, Labor, and the Republican Community.
  • Phillips, Sarah T., 2000, "Antebellum Agricultural Reform, Republican Ideology, and Sectional Tension." Agricultural History 74(4): 799-822. ISSN 0002-1482
  • Richardson, Heather Cox, 1997. The Greatest Nation of the Earth: Republican Economic Policies during the Civil War.
  • Robbins, Roy M., 1942. Our Landed Heritage: The Public Domain, 1776-1936.

External links


1. ^ Phillips, 2000
law of the United States was originally largely derived from the common law of the system of English law, which was in force at the time of the Revolutionary War. However, the supreme law of the land is the United States Constitution and, under the Constitution's Supremacy Clause,
..... Click the link for more information.
Property law
Part of the common law series
Acquisition of property
Gift  · Adverse possession  · Deed
Lost, mislaid, and abandoned property
Alienation  · Bailment  · License
Estates in land
..... Click the link for more information.
acre is a unit of area in a number of different systems, including the imperial and US customary systems. The most commonly used acres today are the international acre and, in the United States, the survey acre.

One acre comprises 4,840 square yards or 43,560 square feet.
..... Click the link for more information.
section is an area nominally one mile square, containing 640 acres (2.6 km²). Nominally, 36 sections make up a survey township on a rectangular grid. As the townships are based on meridians (of longitude) which converge towards the north pole, some sections which vary slightly
..... Click the link for more information.
A hectare (symbol ha, pronounced /ˌhɛkˈtɛə(ɹ)/) is a unit of area equal to 10,000 square metres, or one square hectometre, and commonly used for measuring land area.
..... Click the link for more information.
American Old West comprises the history, myths, legends, stories, beliefs and cultural meanings that collected around the Western United States in the 19th century. Most often the term refers to the late 19th century, between the American Civil War and the 1890 closing of the
..... Click the link for more information.
Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) was the sixteenth President of the United States, serving from March 4, 1861 until his death on April 15, 1865. As an outspoken opponent of the expansion of slavery, he won the Republican Party nomination in 1860 and was
..... Click the link for more information.
May 20 is the 1st day of the year (2nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 0 days remaining.


..... Click the link for more information.
19th century - 20th century
1830s  1840s  1850s  - 1860s -  1870s  1880s  1890s
1859 1860 1861 - 1862 - 1863 1864 1865

Subjects:     Archaeology - Architecture -
..... Click the link for more information.
The Preemption Act of 1841 (27 Cong. Ch. 16; 5 Stat. 453) was a United States federal law approved by the U.S. Congress on September 4, 1841 to "appropriate the proceeds of the sales of the public lands, and to grant pre-emption rights.
..... Click the link for more information.
The Southern United States—commonly referred to as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South—constitutes a large distinctive region in the southeastern and south-central United States.
..... Click the link for more information.
slavery in the United States (1619-1865) began soon after the English colonists first settled in Virginia and lasted until the passage of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
..... Click the link for more information.
Born in England, George Henry Evans was a radical reformer, with experience in the Working Men's movement of 1829 and the trade union movements of the 1830s. In 1844, Evans, trade unionist John Windt, former Chartist Thomas Devyr and others founded the National Reform Association,
..... Click the link for more information.
In office
December 4, 1848 – March 3, 1849
Preceded by
Succeeded by

Born January 3 1811(1811--)
Amherst, New Hampshire, U.S.
..... Click the link for more information.
Federal Land Policy Management Act, or FLPMA (Pub.L. 94-579), is a United States federal law that governs the way in which the public lands - those of the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service - are managed. The law was enacted in 1976 by the 94th Congress.
..... Click the link for more information.

Flag of Alaska Seal
Nickname(s): The Last Frontier
Motto(s): "North to the Future"

Official language(s) None[1]
Spoken language(s) English 85.7%,
Native North American 5.
..... Click the link for more information.
The Stony River is a river in southwest Alaska. It lends its name to Stony River, Alaska, a village with a population of 61.

See also

  • List of Alaska rivers

..... Click the link for more information.
The Rocky Mountains

Moraine Lake, and the Valley of the Ten Peaks, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Countries | United States,Canada

..... Click the link for more information.
GOLD refers to one of the following:
  • GOLD (IEEE) is an IEEE program designed to garner more student members at the university level (Graduates of the Last Decade).
  • GOLD (parser) is an open source BNF parser.

..... Click the link for more information.
Silver (IPA: /ˈsɪlvə(ɹ)/) is a chemical element with the symbol Ag (Latin: argentum) and atomic number 47.
..... Click the link for more information.
The General Mining Act of 1872 is a United States federal law that authorizes and governs prospecting and mining for economic minerals, such as gold and silver, on publicly owned lands.
..... Click the link for more information.
This page is currently protected from editing until disputes have been resolved.
Protection is not an endorsement of the current [ version] ([ protection log]).
..... Click the link for more information.
The Dominion Lands Act (short for An Act Respecting the Public Lands of the Dominion) was an 1872 Canadian law that aimed to encourage the settlement of Canada's prairie provinces.
..... Click the link for more information.
Selection referred to "free selection before survey" of crown land in some Australian colonies under land legislation introduced in the 1860s. These acts were similar to the United States Homestead Act and were intended to encourage closer settlement, based on intensive
..... Click the link for more information.
Advance Australia Fair [1]

Capital Canberra

Largest city Sydney
..... Click the link for more information.
New South Wales

Flag Coat of Arms
Slogan or Nickname: First State, Premier State
Motto(s): "Orta Recens Quam Pura Nites"
(Newly Risen, How Brightly You Shine)

Other Australian states and territories
Capital Sydney
..... Click the link for more information.
Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder

Born: January 7 1867(1867--)
near Pepin, Wisconsin
Died: January 10 1957 (aged 90)
Mansfield, Missouri
Occupation: Novelist
Nationality: American
..... Click the link for more information.
Little House on the Prairie

Little House on the Prairie book cover, illustrated by Garth Williams
Author Laura Ingalls Wilder
Country United States
Language English
Series Little House
..... Click the link for more information.
State of Kansas

Flag of Kansas Seal
Nickname(s): The Sunflower State
Motto(s): Ad astra per aspera

Official language(s) English[1]

Capital Topeka
Largest city Wichita
..... Click the link for more information.
Dakota Territory was the name of an organized territory of the United States that existed from 1861 to 1889. The territory consisted of the northernmost part of the land acquired in the Louisiana Purchase of the United States.
..... Click the link for more information.

This article is copied from an article on - the free encyclopedia created and edited by online user community. The text was not checked or edited by anyone on our staff. Although the vast majority of the wikipedia encyclopedia articles provide accurate and timely information please do not assume the accuracy of any particular article. This article is distributed under the terms of GNU Free Documentation License.