Homestead National Monument
the beginning, the west has exerted a pull on the American spirit. In colonial
times those who dreamed of family farms went from the coastal plain to
the foothills, then across the Appalacians to the Ohio Valley. The grassy
interior between the Missouri and the Rocky Mountains was designated Indian
Territory in the 1830's and was bypassed by emigrants on the Oregon Trail.
But as the east and far west closed to settlement, expansionists pushed
through the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which opened that territory to
Tennessee Congressman Andrew Johnson took up the cause of free land for working people in the 1840's. Southerners opposed Johnson's land giveaway as benefitting working-class whites who were unlikely to vote slavery into the new states. The bill establishing the Homestead Act was signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862 after the southern states had left the union.
The Homestead Act declared that any citizen or intended citizen could claim 160 acres- one quarter square mile- of surveyed government land. Claimants must "improve" the plot with a dwelling and grow crops. After 5 years, if the original filer was still on the land, it was his property, free and clear. Among the first takers was a Union scout from Iowa named Daniel Freeman and his wife Agnes. Daniel Freeman persuaded the Brownville, Nebraska land agent to let him sign up shortly after midnight on January 1, 1863, the day the act took effect, so Freeman could return to his regiment.
1936, the Freeman's T-shaped
claim has commemorated one of the first documented Nebraska homesteads,
as well as the waves of American landseekers and European immigrants who
ventured west in the late 19th century to take up the demanding life of
the prairie farmer. Homestead National Monument includes the original Freeman
land, an historic log cabin typical of those in eastern Nebraska, the original
Freeman school, and trails that wind through the restored
of Homestead National Monument