Who was the last homesteader in the United States?
Kenneth W. Deardorff was the last homesteader in the United States. He received his patent on May 5, 1988 in Alaska. It was the final homestead patent awarded under the 1862 Homestead Act to a person who had personally fulfilled its requirements. He had filed his application for the land on May 16, 1974. The amount of land he received was just under 50 acres. The issuance of the patent to Mr. Deardorff was delayed into1988. This was due mostly to the remote location of his homestead near Lime Village in western Alaska. Learn more about Mr. Deardorff on the Homesteading Timeline.
Note: Following 1988, there are other known instances of homestead legislation being used to convey land in Alaska and elsewhere. But so far, none appear to be instances of patents issued to living individuals awaiting legal title to their homestead based on their having personally fulfilled the legal requirements of homestead legislation. Instead, all appear to be special cases for technical correction of older land patents or even errors that will need future correction.
For instance, in 2010, the 1862 Homestead Act was used in Alaska to convey a small tract of land to a man who had previously homesteaded land surrounding it many years earlier. His original homestead claim included this land, however, due to a mapping error the small tract had been inadvertently omitted in the initial conveyance. To correct the situation, the BLM issued a supplemental patent for a small tract citing a 1976 law to allow such a conveyance, with the patent itself citing the 1862 Homestead Act as authority for the land transfer.
Elsewhere, in Montana in 2000, the 1862 Homestead Act was used as the legal authority to transfer land to private parties or their heirs or assignees, but with the named person a long-deceased homesteader, and not a living person who had complied with the terms of the homestead laws before their repeal in 1976.
There are also known instances of early 21st century use by the BLM of the land patent authority in the 1902 Reclamation Act for providing title to homesteads in reclamation areas. This includes a 2009 case in Montana. It is unclear what is happening in those cases, but they too may have been done to correct earlier patents.