Settling the West

Passed in 1862, the Homestead Act was an opportunity for the adult head of a family to gain a federal land grant.  While eligible citizens were only those who had never taken up arms against the United States government, the act still helped give many post-Civil War Americans a new life, and assisted with the country’s expansion westward.

Today, we shine a spotlight on the first claim to be filed under the Homestead Act.

Homesteading Certificate of Eligibility for Daniel Freeman, 1/1/1863. From the Records of the Bureau of Land Management. National Archives Identifier: 1656508

Daniel Freeman submitted his 160-acre claim on January 1, 1863.  In accordance with the rules of the Homestead Act, Freeman was first required to settle his plot for five years, and follow a series of steps for improving the property before he could gain full ownership of the land.  The basic requirements for the homesteaders to fulfill were to build acceptable accommodations and cultivate the land.  Daniel Freeman finished his five years and completed the necessary steps.  On January 20, 1868, he was rewarded with ownership of his claimed land.

You can find this document and other primary sources and teaching activities that deal with the Homestead Act on DocsTeach, our online tool for teaching with documents.

One thought on “Settling the West

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *