Homestead Act

In 1862 America celebrated a centennial of the Homestead Act – a federal law initially signed by Abraham Lincoln that entitled any applicant to a freehold of up to 160 acres of land. The act enabled thousands of people to own land for cultivation and create farms on underdeveloped lands in the US. This was the first act to allow anyone to apply for a homestead title, including black people and former slaves as well as immigrants from Europe and other countries. Apart from filing the application, the title owner was required to make improvements to the land by cultivating it. The other stipulations were that the applicant under this act had to remain on the land for a minimum of five years and had to file a deed of title.

The Homestead Act caused a lot of fraud with the lands not being used for farming or cultivation, but rather to control recourses such as water and minerals. In the long run, the act resulted in privatization of almost ten percent of the land in the US with a total of 270,000,000 acres. This initiative was eventually discontinued in 1976, when the government decided to gain back control over public lands and passed a Federal Land Policy and Management Act. ls.

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