Oscar’s Gift Reading Guide: Day 9
The Homestead Act of 1862
“Every homesteader for miles and miles was breaking sod that fall, racing to break as many acres as they could before the ground froze.” ~ Oscar’s Gift: Planting Words with Oscar Micheaux
What made it possible for Oscar Micheaux and hundreds of thousands of others to farm and eventually own 160 acres of what had been “unappropriated public lands” was the Homestead Act, which President Abraham Lincoln signed into law on May 20, 1862. Homestead applicants had to be at least 21 years old (or the head of a household) and must have “never borne arms against the United States Government or given aid and comfort to its enemies.”
The first homestead claim under the Act was granted to Daniel Freeman, in Beatrice, Nebraska. Today, the Homestead National Monument of America and Heritage Center sit on land originally homesteaded by Mr. Freeman.
According to the National Archives, “by 1934, over 1.6 million homestead applications were processed and more than 270 million acres—10 percent of all U.S. lands—passed into the hands of individuals.”
To learn more, read the text of the Homestead Act of 1862 and watch the following documentary, Homesteading, by Prairie Public Broadcasting, rich with historical photos and memories:
Click HERE for the full Reading Guide.