The Homestead Act of 1862, from The Development of the Industrial United States (1870-1900),
comprises public domain material from The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
UMGC has modified this work.
The Homestead Act of 1862
On January 1, 1863, Daniel Freeman, a Union Army scout, was scheduled to leave Gage County,
Nebraska Territory, to report for duty in St. Louis. At a New Year’s Eve party the night before, Freeman
met some local Land Office officials and convinced a clerk to open the office shortly after midnight in order
to file a land claim. In doing so, Freeman became one of the first to take advantage of the opportunities
provided by the Homestead Act, a law signed by President Abraham Lincoln on May 20, 1862. At the
time of the signing, 11 states had left the Union, and this piece of legislation would continue to have
regional and political overtones.
The distribution of Government lands had been an issue since the Revolutionary War. At the time of the
Articles of Confederation, the major controversy related to land measurement and pricing. Early methods
for allocating unsettled land outside the original 13 colonies were arbitrary and chaotic. Boundaries were
established by stepping off plots from geographical landmarks. As a result, overlapping claims and
border disputes were common. The Land Ordinance of 1785 finally implemented a standardized system
of Federal land surveys that eased boundary conflicts. Using astronomical starting points, territory was
divided into a 6-mile square called a township prior to settlement. The township was divided into 36
sections, each measuring 1 square mile or 640 acres each. Sale of public land was viewed as a means
to generate revenue for the Government rather than as a way to encourage settlement. Initially, an
individual was required to purchase a full section of land at the cost of $1 per acre for 640 acres. The
investment needed to purchase these large plots and the massive amount of physical labor required to
clear the land for agriculture were often insurmountable obstacles
By 1800, the minimum lot was halved to 320 acres, and settlers were allowed to pay in 4 installments, but
prices remained fixed at $1.25 an acre until 1854. That year, federal legislation was enacted establishing
a graduated scale that adjusted land prices to reflect the desirability of the lot. Lots that had been on the
market for 30 years, for example, were reduced to 12 Â½ cents per acre. Soon after, extraordinary bonuses
were extended to veterans and those interested in settling the Oregon Territory, making homesteading a
viable option for some. But basically, national public-land-use policy made land ownership financially
unattainable for most would-be homesteaders.
Before and after the Mexican-American war in the mid 1800s, popular pressure to change policy arose
from the evolving economy, new demographics, and shifting social climate of early 19th-century America.
In the 1830s and 1840s, rising prices for corn, wheat, and cotton enabled large, well-financed farms,
particularly the plantations of the South, to force out smaller ventures. Displaced farmers then looked
westward to unforested country that offered more affordable development. Prior to the war with Mexico
(1846â€“48), people settling in the West demanded â€œpreemption,â€ an individual’s right to settle land first and
pay later (essentially an early form of credit). Eastern economic interests opposed this policy as it was
feared that the cheap labor base for the factories would be drained. After the war with Mexico, a number
of developments supported the growth of the homestead movement. Economic prosperity drew
unprecedented numbers of immigrants to America, many of whom also looked westward for a new life.
New canals and roadways reduced western dependence on the harbor in New Orleans, and England’s
repeal of its corn laws opened new markets to American agriculture.
Despite these developments, legislative efforts to improve homesteading laws faced opposition on
multiple fronts. As mentioned above, Northern factories owners feared a mass departure of their cheap
labor force and Southern states worried that rapid settlement of western territories would give rise to new
states populated by small farmers opposed to slavery. Preemption became national policy in spite of
these sectional concerns, but supporting legislation was stymied. Three timesâ€”in 1852, 1854, and 1859
â€”the House of Representatives passed homestead legislation, but on each occasion, the Senate
defeated the measure. In 1860, a homestead bill providing Federal land grants to western settlers was
passed by Congress only to be vetoed by President Buchanan.
With the secession of Southern states from the Union and therefore removal of the slavery issue, finally, in
1862, the Homestead Act was passed and signed into law. The new law established a three-fold
homestead acquisition process: filing an application, improving the land, and filing for deed of title. Any
U.S. citizen, or intended citizen, who had never borne arms against the U.S. Government could file an
application and lay claim to 160 acres of surveyed Government land. For the next 5 years, the
homesteader had to live on the land and improve it by building a 12-by-14 dwelling and growing crops.
After 5 years, the homesteader could file for his patent (or deed of title) by submitting proof of residency
and the required improvements to a local land office.
Local land offices forwarded the paperwork to the General Land Office in Washington, DC, along with a
final certificate of eligibility. The case file was examined, and valid claims were granted patent to the land
free and clear, except for a small registration fee. Title could also be acquired after a 6-month residency
and trivial improvements, provided the claimant paid the government $1.25 per acre. After the Civil War,
Union soldiers could deduct the time they served from the residency requirements.
Some land speculators took advantage of a legislative loophole caused when those drafting the law’s
language failed to specify whether the 12-by-14 dwelling was to be built in feet or inches. Others hired
phony claimants or bought abandoned land. The General Land Office was underfunded and unable to hire
a sufficient number investigators for its widely scattered local offices. As a result, overworked and
underpaid investigators were often susceptible to bribery.
Physical conditions on the frontier presented even greater challenges. Wind, blizzards, and plagues of
insects threatened crops. Open plains meant few trees for building, forcing many to build homes out of
sod. Limited fuel and water supplies could turn simple cooking and heating chores into difficult trials.
Ironically, even the smaller size of sections took its own toll. While 160 acres may have been sufficient for
an eastern farmer, it was simply not enough to sustain agriculture on the dry plains, and scarce natural
vegetation made raising livestock on the prairie difficult. As a result, in many areas, the original
homesteader did not stay on the land long enough to fulfill the claim.
Homesteaders who persevered were rewarded with opportunities as rapid changes in transportation
eased some of the hardships. Six months after the Homestead Act was passed, the Railroad Act was
signed, and by May 1869, a transcontinental railroad stretched across the frontier. The new railroads
provided easy transportation for homesteaders, and new immigrants were lured westward by railroad
companies eager to sell off excess land at inflated prices. The new rail lines provided ready access to
manufactured goods and catalog houses like Montgomery Ward offered farm tools, barbed wire, linens,
weapons, and even houses delivered via the rails.
On January 1, 1863, Daniel Freeman and 417 others filed claims. Many more pioneers followed,
populating the land, building towns and schools and creating new states from the territories. In many
cases, the schools became the focal point for community life, serving as churches, polling places and
social gathering locations. In 1936, the Department of the Interior recognized Freeman as the first
claimant and established the Homestead National Monument, near a school built in 1872, on his
homestead near Beatrice, Nebraska. Today, the monument is administered by the National Park Service,
and the site commemorates the changes to the land and the nation brought about by the Homestead Act
of 1862. By 1934, over 1.6 million homestead applications were processed and more than 270 million
acresâ€”10 percent of all U.S. landsâ€”passed into the hands of individuals. The passage of the Federal
Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 repealed the Homestead Act in the 48 contiguous states, but it
did grant a ten-year extension on claims in Alaska.
The Docum ents
Daniel Freeman’s Homestead Application
Click to Enlarge
Daniel Freeman’s Proof of Improvements
Click to Enlarge
Daniel Freeman’s Certificate of Eligibility
Click to Enlarge
Image Top Right:
A family poses with the wagon in which they live and travel daily during their pursuit of a homestead, 1886.
Potter, Lee Ann and Wynell Schamel. “The Homestead Act of 1862.” Social Education 61, 6 (October 1997): 359-
Get Professional Assignment Help Cheaply
Are you busy and do not have time to handle your assignment? Are you scared that your paper will not make the grade? Do you have responsibilities that may hinder you from turning in your assignment on time? Are you tired and can barely handle your assignment? Are your grades inconsistent?
Whichever your reason is, it is valid! You can get professional academic help from our service at affordable rates. We have a team of professional academic writers who can handle all your assignments.
Why Choose Our Academic Writing Service?
- Plagiarism free papers
- Timely delivery
- Any deadline
- Skilled, Experienced Native English Writers
- Subject-relevant academic writer
- Adherence to paper instructions
- Ability to tackle bulk assignments
- Reasonable prices
- 24/7 Customer Support
- Get superb grades consistently
Online Academic Help With Different Subjects
Students barely have time to read. We got you! Have your literature essay or book review written without having the hassle of reading the book. You can get your literature paper custom-written for you by our literature specialists.
Do you struggle with finance? No need to torture yourself if finance is not your cup of tea. You can order your finance paper from our academic writing service and get 100% original work from competent finance experts.
While psychology may be an interesting subject, you may lack sufficient time to handle your assignments. Don’t despair; by using our academic writing service, you can be assured of perfect grades. Moreover, your grades will be consistent.
Engineering is quite a demanding subject. Students face a lot of pressure and barely have enough time to do what they love to do. Our academic writing service got you covered! Our engineering specialists follow the paper instructions and ensure timely delivery of the paper.
In the nursing course, you may have difficulties with literature reviews, annotated bibliographies, critical essays, and other assignments. Our nursing assignment writers will offer you professional nursing paper help at low prices.
Truth be told, sociology papers can be quite exhausting. Our academic writing service relieves you of fatigue, pressure, and stress. You can relax and have peace of mind as our academic writers handle your sociology assignment.
We take pride in having some of the best business writers in the industry. Our business writers have a lot of experience in the field. They are reliable, and you can be assured of a high-grade paper. They are able to handle business papers of any subject, length, deadline, and difficulty!
We boast of having some of the most experienced statistics experts in the industry. Our statistics experts have diverse skills, expertise, and knowledge to handle any kind of assignment. They have access to all kinds of software to get your assignment done.
Writing a law essay may prove to be an insurmountable obstacle, especially when you need to know the peculiarities of the legislative framework. Take advantage of our top-notch law specialists and get superb grades and 100% satisfaction.
What discipline/subjects do you deal in?
We have highlighted some of the most popular subjects we handle above. Those are just a tip of the iceberg. We deal in all academic disciplines since our writers are as diverse. They have been drawn from across all disciplines, and orders are assigned to those writers believed to be the best in the field. In a nutshell, there is no task we cannot handle; all you need to do is place your order with us. As long as your instructions are clear, just trust we shall deliver irrespective of the discipline.
Are your writers competent enough to handle my paper?
Our essay writers are graduates with bachelor's, masters, Ph.D., and doctorate degrees in various subjects. The minimum requirement to be an essay writer with our essay writing service is to have a college degree. All our academic writers have a minimum of two years of academic writing. We have a stringent recruitment process to ensure that we get only the most competent essay writers in the industry. We also ensure that the writers are handsomely compensated for their value. The majority of our writers are native English speakers. As such, the fluency of language and grammar is impeccable.
What if I don’t like the paper?
There is a very low likelihood that you won’t like the paper.
- When assigning your order, we match the paper’s discipline with the writer’s field/specialization. Since all our writers are graduates, we match the paper’s subject with the field the writer studied. For instance, if it’s a nursing paper, only a nursing graduate and writer will handle it. Furthermore, all our writers have academic writing experience and top-notch research skills.
- We have a quality assurance that reviews the paper before it gets to you. As such, we ensure that you get a paper that meets the required standard and will most definitely make the grade.
In the event that you don’t like your paper:
- The writer will revise the paper up to your pleasing. You have unlimited revisions. You simply need to highlight what specifically you don’t like about the paper, and the writer will make the amendments. The paper will be revised until you are satisfied. Revisions are free of charge
- We will have a different writer write the paper from scratch.
- Last resort, if the above does not work, we will refund your money.
Will the professor find out I didn’t write the paper myself?
Not at all. All papers are written from scratch. There is no way your tutor or instructor will realize that you did not write the paper yourself. In fact, we recommend using our assignment help services for consistent results.
What if the paper is plagiarized?
We check all papers for plagiarism before we submit them. We use powerful plagiarism checking software such as SafeAssign, LopesWrite, and Turnitin. We also upload the plagiarism report so that you can review it. We understand that plagiarism is academic suicide. We would not take the risk of submitting plagiarized work and jeopardize your academic journey. Furthermore, we do not sell or use prewritten papers, and each paper is written from scratch.
When will I get my paper?
You determine when you get the paper by setting the deadline when placing the order. All papers are delivered within the deadline. We are well aware that we operate in a time-sensitive industry. As such, we have laid out strategies to ensure that the client receives the paper on time and they never miss the deadline. We understand that papers that are submitted late have some points deducted. We do not want you to miss any points due to late submission. We work on beating deadlines by huge margins in order to ensure that you have ample time to review the paper before you submit it.
Will anyone find out that I used your services?
We have a privacy and confidentiality policy that guides our work. We NEVER share any customer information with third parties. Noone will ever know that you used our assignment help services. It’s only between you and us. We are bound by our policies to protect the customer’s identity and information. All your information, such as your names, phone number, email, order information, and so on, are protected. We have robust security systems that ensure that your data is protected. Hacking our systems is close to impossible, and it has never happened.
How our Assignment Help Service Works
1. Place an order
You fill all the paper instructions in the order form. Make sure you include all the helpful materials so that our academic writers can deliver the perfect paper. It will also help to eliminate unnecessary revisions.
2. Pay for the order
Proceed to pay for the paper so that it can be assigned to one of our expert academic writers. The paper subject is matched with the writer’s area of specialization.
3. Track the progress
You communicate with the writer and know about the progress of the paper. The client can ask the writer for drafts of the paper. The client can upload extra material and include additional instructions from the lecturer. Receive a paper.
4. Download the paper
The paper is sent to your email and uploaded to your personal account. You also get a plagiarism report attached to your paper.