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In 1860 congress passed the Homestead Act but the president vetoed it. Southerners opposed it as they thought it would result in antislavery people settling the territories. Employers thought it would deplete the labor market therefore increasing wages. The act would give un-appropriated public lands to anyone who paid a small filing fee and agreed to work on the land and improve it by building residence over a five-year period.
The Homestead Act proved to be one of the most important pieces of legislation in the history of the American West, as hundreds of thousands took advantage of free land. The only requirement was that the homesteader be either the head of the family or 21 years old and thus a U.S. citizen, freed slaves, new immigrants, single women and people of all races were eligible. It attracted hundreds and thousands of settlers to the Dakota Territory and elsewhere in the West and a wave of African Americans from the South. It gave thousands of ex-slaves the opportunity to own land.
The West was the last region to be settled and developed. The Spaniards reached the Grand Canyon in 1540, Kansas in 1541, San Francisco in 1542. Extensive settlement was hundreds of years away. The Homestead Act started an exodus movement of thousands of Americans to the West. The Homestead Act remained in effect until it was repealed in 1976,with provisions for homesteading in Alaska until 1986.
The Homestead Act of 1862 is recognized as one of the most revolutionary concepts for distributing public land in American History .
On March 16, 1936 Congress passed a public Law 480 of the 74th Congress creating a new unit in the National Park System on the site of the Daniel Freeman homestead. President Franklin D Roosevelt signed the law for the Homestead National Monument of America.
From Jauflione Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution