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The Homestead Act
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Legacy of the Homestead Act 
and Homesteading

Are the 1862 Homestead Act and later homestead laws still important today?

The answer is yes, and in many ways. 

One way to think about Homesteading in America is to view it as a great American historical experiment. It was a process that transformed much of the country. The laws that brought it about are also important. They were key agents in causing this change. They have lingering importance in helping us understand how the America we know today came about. 


The Homestead Act


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Homesteading Comes to an End: 
A Video with BLM Archaeologist 
Robert King

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Homesteading Questions and Answers

BLM Homesteading Resources

Additional Homesteading Resources


The BLM’s Role in Homesteading: 1946 to the Present

 
On May 20, 1862, President Lincoln signed into law the nation’s first Homestead Act. It set into motion a new process for privatizing land. 1862 also marked the 50th anniversary of the General Land Office (GLO). For the GLO, the 1862 law added another task to its administration duties for the nation’s public lands. The first application claims for homesteads were filed in dozens of GLO offices in the public land states of the Midwest and West.  Learn More >>
 Whisky Springs Homestead, Idaho


How Did BLM Come To Manage Failed Homesteads Or: Why Are There Homesteads on BLM Land?

  
Lands available for homesteading were Public Domain lands, managed by the General Land Office. Only about 40% of homesteads were successful. Homesteads that weren’t proved up remained in the Public Domain. These lands were managed under the General Land Office, which became the BLM in 1946.
 
For a variety of reasons, additional homesteads also came to be managed by BLM. Learn More >>
 BLM Homestead

Use of Homesteaded Lands Today: What happened to some of the lands originally homesteaded?

From the 1860s until the 1980s, people homesteaded around 270 million acres of land in the United States. The original intent was to help people obtain federal lands for farming. However, today many of the lands are no longer used for farming.  Learn More >>

Hagadone Homestead, Montana
 


Last Homesteaders
in the Nation

Even though Alaska was purchased from Russia in 1867, homestead laws did not initially apply to land in Alaska. At first, not many people settled there, so there was little need for much federal management. People from outside Alaska began to move in, especially after the Klondike – the last great gold rush. The population began to grow. The government needed to be able to turn federal land into private land. In 1898, Congress passed a special law allowing the first homesteads in Alaska. For the next 88 years, until 1986, homesteading was possible in Alaska. In fact several homestead laws or amendments applied only to Alaska. Learn More >>

Alaska Homesteader Ken Deardorff


The Top 10 Myths about Homesteading

 

#1 Most people who homesteaded were successful at it. 

Truth:  Researchers think the homestead success rate is only around 40%. They get this number by comparing two figures. The number of people who applied for homesteads and those people who actually got patent to the lands for which they applied. Now, the Homestead National Monument and University of Nebraska are conducting new research on success rate of homesteads. Their research helps us better understand the accuracy of this number. They think between 2 and 4 million people applied for homesteads. The research gives us a better idea about that figure as well.

#2 Homesteading only took place in the West. 

Truth: Homesteading took place in 30 states. It includes states as different as Florida, Ohio, and Alaska.

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