Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Homestead Day!

I hope you're all having parties to celebrate Homestead Day today, the 148th anniversary of the signing of the Homestead Act by Abraham Lincoln!

The Homestead Act was one of several United States federal laws that gave an applicant freehold title to up to 160 acres (1/4 section, 65 hectares) of undeveloped federal land outside the original 13 colonies. The law required three steps: file an application, improve the land, and file for deed of title. Anyone who had never taken up arms against the U.S. government, including freed slaves, could file an application and evidence of improvements to a federal land office.

The original Homestead Act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on May 20, 1862.[1][2][3][4][5][6] Because much of the prime low-lying alluvial land along rivers had been homesteaded by the turn of the twentieth century, a major update called the Enlarged Homestead Act was passed in 1909. It targeted land suitable for dryland farming, increasing the number of acres to 320.[7] In 1916, the Stock-Raising Homestead Act targeted settlers seeking 640 acres (260 ha) of public land for ranching purposes.[7]

Only about 40 percent of the applicants who started the process were able to complete it and obtain title to their homestead land.[8] Eventually 1.6 million homesteads were granted and 270,000,000 acres (420,000 sq mi) of federal land were privatized between 1862 and 1934, a total of 10% of all lands in the United States.[9] Homesteading was discontinued after 1976, except in Alaska. Individuals may no longer homestead on public land as a way to acquire title.

This week we've read a book about the Homestead Act (which is why we know that the anniversary is May 20th), watched the new movie of Little House on the Prairie (some historical inaccuracies, but surprisingly good -- the ladies enjoyed it thoroughly), started reading The Long Winter, with its early chapters on harvesting hay on a homestead, and read about the new farming machinery that allowed Pa to farm 160 acres of Dakota prairie.

Today we're going to braid hair like pioneer girls and make ginger water, which, being a bit sweet and gingery, was easier on stomach on a hot weary day than plain cold water.

8 comments:

Jen said...

Oh, wow! I grew up on a homestead - been in the family since 1887! :)

PlainCatholic said...

Thank you for bringing attention to the beautiful concept of homesteading. God bless you.

Dorian Speed said...

I am on to your little game, MrsD. You lure us into a false sense of security with our own inadequacies, claiming to have "had mixed success this year," and yet you have completed several activities related to a historical event I was not even aware of having happened.

When I read "mixed success," I expect to learn that you left at least one of the children behind on your last trip to the library.

Ginger water does sound refreshing.

Dorian Speed said...

Okay, so I know it HAPPENED.

Roz said...

I'm glad to find something else to celebrate on the 20th of May besides Liza Doolittle Day.

Ranger Doris said...

Did you know there is a National Park site devoted to telling the story of the Homestead Act of 1862? To learn more about what may be the most influential piece of legislation this country has ever created go to www.nps.gov/home or visit Homestead National Monument of America. Located in Nebraska, the Monument includes one of the first 160 acres homestead claims but tells the story of homesteading throughout the United States. Nearly 4 million claims in 30 states were made under the Homestead Act and 1.6 million or 40 percent were successful. The Homestead Act was not repealed until 1976 and extended in Alaska until 1986. Homesteads could be claimed by “head of households” that were citizens or eligible for citizenship. New immigrants, African-Americans, women who were single, widowed or divorced all took advantage of the Homestead Act. It is estimated that as many as 93 million Americans are descendents of these homesteaders today. This is a story as big, fascinating, conflicted and contradictory as the United States itself. Learn more!

flabbybrain.com said...

How did your ginger water turn out? When I made it with the kids a few years back, I found the cider vinegar taste overpowering.

mrsdarwin said...

Ugh, the cider vinegar! I thought the ginger water was pretty revolting, but the girls seemed to like it. I kept adding more and more ice until it was fairly watered down, but it was still nasty. I'd rather drink actual ginger ale any day of the week.