The Homestead Act was passed by Congress on May 20, 1862 to get people to move to the Great Plains. It said that any citizen of the United States could claim 160 acres of government land. After paying a small fee, homesteaders were to improve their land by living on it, building a dwelling (home), and planting crops. If the settlers fulfilled these requirements, and remained on their homestead for a period of five years, the land became their property. With the Homestead Act 270 million acres of land was available for people to live on.
What was the Homestead Act? What did settlers have to do to become owners of the land?
The Great Plains in Nebraska What do you notice about the land?
Though the requirements of the Homestead Act seemed easy, many people still had problems. Many who took claims had little or no farming experience. Much of the land in the Great Plains was not good for farming even if you were a great farmer. It was dry and not good for many crops. The Homestead Act lasted for 124 years. In this time over 2 million people claimed land. Of that 2 million, less than half lived on the land long enough to become an owner.
Even though the odds were against them, people from all walks of life settled in the Great Plains. single women freed slaves immigrants
Why would these people want to settle in the frontier?
There were few trees in the Great Plains. People had to have another method to build homes. Their solution was to make homes out of sod, which was cut from soil. These were strong blocks used to build the walls and sometimes even the roofs of homes. Lumber was needed for a door and one or two windows. If people saved enough money they’d buy timber to build a house.
If you lived in the 1870s would you want to move to the frontier? Why or why not?
What do you think life was like once you settled there? Easy? Difficult? Fun? Boring?
Write a journal entry about a day in your life on the frontier. Write as if you were a settler in the Great Plains. You can choose to be a man or a woman, single or married, alone or with other people. Use any information you have learned about frontier life or the Great Plains from the video clip, slide show, or Laura Ingalls Wilder books. Include: -The date (you can choose any day in the year 1870) -At least five sentences -Correct spelling and grammar -Have fun and be creative!
June 2, 1870 Today was a very busy day. We worked on building a sod school house for the frontier children. We made the sod bricks out of soil. It is almost finished, except the windows and doors. Hopefully it will last a long time, or at least until we can afford lumber to build a new one.