Homestead National Historical Park
Beatrice, Nebraska; Gage County
Abraham Lincoln is known as the Great Emancipator. His proclamation of 1862 gave freedom to enslaved people in the United States. In the same year, he signed another document that gave land to free men. The Homestead Act of May 20, 1862, brought tens of thousands of settlers to the Middle West and Great Plains regions. These regions eventually become the nation’s breadbasket.
Millions of acres from the public domain became available. Under this law, families could pay a small filing fee to live upon and cultivate 160 acres of land for five years to eventually before it became their own. For some, the rigors of frontier life were too great, but many others replaced the prairie grasses with grain and built homes, often of sod, on land of their own.
With this opportunity for settlers came displacement for many Native American tribes. Traditional and treaty lands of many Native American tribes became lands for the Homestead Act. Native Americans were pushed farther from their homelands or crowded onto reservations.
The Homestead National Monument of America, a part of our National Park System, is located on the Daniel Freeman homestead seven miles west of this site. It commemorates this act and the policies of the government that played a major role in the settlement of the West.
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⭐ = This activity could be done together as a class or independently by providing the students with the link.
Daniel Freeman is credited as the first person in the nation to file a Homestead Act claim. As the story goes, Freeman persuaded an official to open the land office at Brownville, Nebraska Territory, shortly after midnight on January 1, 1863, the day the law took effect. Freeman, a Union soldier on furlough, claimed land near Beatrice, Nebraska. Freeman’s homestead is preserved as Homestead National Monument, administered by the National Park Service.