Western Research Paper

Andrew Doucette
U.S. History
Homestead Act Research Paper

The Homestead act was passed by legislation in 1862 after Abraham Lincoln passed the emancipation proclamation freeing slaves. It arose from the struggle between the North and the South and it was passed after the secession of the southern states from the union. The struggle was about the North wanting to give individuals land and the south wanted to keep slave labor. The Homestead Act allowed any citizen or applicant for citizenship over 21 years old, who was head of a family, to have 160 acres of public land. Not only did this apply to white men but also women, African Americans, and immigrants from nearly anywhere. The only thing they had to do was live on it and cultivate it for five years and they paid a small fee of $1.25. The homestead act was meant to expand the united states westward with farmers and included thirty of the fifty states. Some of the states include Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Oregon. Many things made it difficult for homesteaders to stay for the full five years. Wind, blizzards, and plagues of insects harmed the crops. Since it was open plains there was very few trees for building homes and other things they needed. Cooking and heating was made difficult by limited fuel and water supplies. They quickly found out that 160 acres was not enough for agriculture on the dry plains. Also raising livestock wasn't easy because of the scarce natural vegetation. Six months after the Homestead Act was passed the hardship for the homesteaders was eased by the Railroad Act. By May of 1869 a transcontinental railroad stretched out to the west. It provided transportation for the homesteaders and lured new immigrants westward to buy land for more money. The new rail lines also brought tools, linens, weapons, and other supplies that the homesteaders needed. On January 1, 1863, Danial Freeman and 417 other homesteaders filed their claims. Followed by many other...