Free Land For Everyone!

Back in May 1862, President Abraham Lincoln passed the first law that granted land to most people, the Homestead Act. The Homestead Act entitled immigrants, freed slaves and Americans to 160 acres of undeveloped land to increase the expansion to the west. In order to gain access to 160 acres of federal land, Settlers had to follow three steps. Those interested in the new law needed to file an application in order to obtain a homestead title. Next, applicants needed to improve and cultivate the land. Although the first two steps seemed fairly easy to fulfill, there was one other requirement. All applicants needed to remain on the granted land for a minimum of five years in order to file for a deed of title which completed step 3.

Despite the promise of the Homestead Act, many applicants were unable to seize the opportunity the new law offered. Only about 40% of applicants who started the process were able to obtain titles to their homestead land. That 40% amounted to 270,000,000 acres of land which equaled 10% of all the land in the United States.

The Homestead Act was also greatly abused as many individuals committed fraud. Instead of building farms and using the land for agriculture, owners used the land to gain access to water and other minerals. A few owners used the land to gather timber and oil. Eventually the Homestead Act was discontinued in 1976 when the government decided to take control of public land and passed the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.

2 thoughts on “Free Land For Everyone!

  1. The homestead act is a prominent document because it gave applicants freehold titles for undeveloped land. One of the very first person who took advantage of this opportunity is Daniel Freeman and on January 1,1863, he and 417 other filed claims. This act helped populated the area and created communities.Freeman was recognized to be the first claimant and in 1936 the Department of the Interior established the Homestead National Monument on his homestead.

  2. Did you know there is a National Park site devoted to telling the story of the Homestead Act of 1862? To learn more about what may be the most influential piece of legislation this country has ever created go to or visit Homestead National Monument of America. Located in Nebraska, the Monument includes one of the first 160 acres homestead claims but tells the story of homesteading throughout the United States. Nearly 4 million claims in 30 states were made under the Homestead Act and 1.6 million or 40 percent were successful. The Homestead Act was not repealed until 1976 and extended in Alaska until 1986. Homesteads could be claimed by “head of households” that were citizens or eligible for citizenship. New immigrants, African-Americans, women who were single, widowed or divorced all took advantage of the Homestead Act. It is estimated that as many as 93 million Americans are descendents of these homesteaders today. This is a story as big, fascinating, conflicted and contradictory as the United States itself. Learn more!

Comments are closed.