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Wyoming Homestead Lesson Plan


The lesson is based on The Homestead Act of 1862, General Land Office Records, and the family research and historical account of Martin J. Gothberg gathered by staff at the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center.

The lesson uses primary documents, maps and photos to enrich class discussion.

 The Homestead Act of 1862.
 Gothbert Ranch.

The lesson covers units on the Homestead Act, western expansion, geography and development, and local Wyoming history from the 1860s-1940s.

United States History Curriculum

K-4 Grades:
  • Topic 2: The history of the student’s own state or region.
    • Standard 3E: The student understands the ideas that were significant in the development of the state and that helped to forge its unique identity.
  • Topic 4: The History of Peoples of Many Cultures Around the World
    • Standard 7A: The student understands the cultures and historical developments of selected societies in such places as Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe.
      • Describe the effects geography has had on societies, including their development of urban centers, food, clothing, industry, agriculture, shelter, trade, and other aspects of culture.
Grades 5-12:
  • United States Era III: (1801-1861)
    • Standard 2C: The student understands how antebellum immigration changed American society.
    • Standard 2E: The student understands the settlement of the West.
    • Standard 4C: The student understands changing gender roles and the ideas and activities 
      of women reformers.
  • United States Era IV (1870-1900)
    • Standard 1C: The student understands how agriculture, mining, and ranching were transformed.


  • Students will determine how the Homestead Act impacted the growth of the West.
  • Students will learn from example how the Homestead Act impacted ranching in Wyoming.
  • Students will determine how the Homestead Act impacted the development of the local community or region.
  • Students will build familiarity with using primary documents for research.
  • Students will examine how socially perceived standards for women and men in the West were
    influenced by the Homestead Act.


The materials are available on line or may be printed for use.

  • Two overviews: Homestead Act of 1862 and Homestead Example in Natrona County
  • Five question worksheets
  • Map: Martin Gothberg’s GLO Homesteading Plots in the Casper Area
  • Eight primary documents
  • Photo: Gothberg Homestead circa 1910


Day One: 
Introduce the Homestead Act of 1862 with the overview handout and question worksheet. Use a class discussion to clarify the Homestead Act. Be sure that the students understand the criteria for being a homesteader and the steps homesteaders needed to take to claim their land.

Day Two: 
Introduce the Homestead Example in Natrona County handout. Read as a class or in small groups. Have the groups answer the question worksheet and report to the class.

Day Three: 
Divide the class into small groups and assign each a primary document. Have students answer corresponding questions in groups and report answers to class. Discuss the use of primary documents. Were they easy to read? What type of information could be found on them? Was there anything interesting the students found in the document? Discuss how Martin Gothberg had to file all these documents without the use of a computer. What would it have been like for Martin if computers existed when he was filing his claim?

Day Four: 
Pass out copies of the map to small groups. Discuss what students see on the map. If they are unable to read the map, introduce map reading. (Local classes: Does anyone know where the ranch is located by reading the map? What are familiar landmarks?) Have each group answer the questions on worksheet five. Finalize with a class discussion on how Martin Gothberg built a ranch in Wyoming by using the Homestead Act.

To Day One Lesson >>

Last updated: 09-17-2013