The Homestead Act: May 20, 1862

Brownville, NE

Even before becoming president in 1861, Abraham Lincoln advocated “cutting up” government lands in the West so “every poor man may have a home.” Homestead legislation was introduced in Congress in February 1862, opening public lands to any claimant willing, for a filing fee, to occupy and improve up to 160 acres of land. The first claim was filed by Daniel Freeman (1826–1908) in the U.S. Land Office in Brownville, Neb., on Jan. 1, 1863. Over the next 50 years, four million settlers would file 2.5 million claims to 270 million acres— approximately 10% of the U.S. landscape. The Homestead Act was the greatest single act of privatization of government property in American history and remained in effect until 1976.

Website

Return to full map