How did homesteading come about? 

By the mid-19th century, there was growing support for the idea of the federal government providing free land to Americans. This included land for immigrants who wanted to become Americans. By this time, the Republican Party was officially in support of such legislation. They had adopted it as a plank in their platform for the 1860 election. In 1862, Galusha A. Grow, the Republican Speaker of the House, wrote the bill for homesteading and Congress passed it. President Lincoln signed it that year. It was called the 1862 Homestead Act.