Yes. The first amendment to the 1862 Homestead Act concerned veterans. In March 1864, Congress made it easier for men serving in the Union Army to meet requirements for “proving up” on homesteads for which they had already filed. In 1872, Congress passed a law that made it possible for former soldiers and sailors to get homestead patents. They could count up to four years of their military service toward meeting residence requirements on their homestead. It shortened the period they needed to remain on the homestead to as little as one year.
This idea of special homesteading rules for veterans continued throughout the entire homestead era. It became even easier for veterans to patent some of the last homesteads in Alaska after World War II. If a veteran with over nineteen months of military service applied for a homestead in Alaska, he/she could receive it by meeting only three requirements:
- The veteran had to reside on the land for seven months during the first entry year.
- There had to be a habitable house upon the land.
- He or she had to promptly submit proof to the BLM land office at the end of the first year showing that the first two requirements had been met.
What was NOT required was the need to do any cultivation or agriculture on the homestead. Interestingly, veterans with fewer than nineteen months of military service were required to do some cultivation on their homesteads.
This changed in 1954. After June 18, 1954 veterans with over nineteen months of service had to cultivate one-eighth of their homesteads. This was the usual amount required for everyone at this time.