National Significance of Homesteading
Impact on Nebraska
The Homestead Act brought people here who intended to stay and make their lives in this state. Some of Nebraska's most well-known citizens were or are the descendants of homesteaders, such as Willa Cather, Mari Sandoz, Tom Osborne, Amy Heidemann, and Marg Helgenberger. Solomon Butcher, one of America's most well-known historical photographers, was himself a homesteader and dedicated much of his career to photographing Nebraska homesteaders. The Homestead Act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln, widely considered America's greatest president and the namesake of our state's capital city. The Kinkaid Act of 1904, which granted larger homestead claims to settlers in the Sandhills, was an extension of the Homestead Act which expanded settlement across the state. The Homestead Act was responsible for the establishment of approximately 105,000 farms which helped establish Nebraska as an agricultural leader. Many homesteaders who relinquished their claims before proving up settled in and helped build many of our state's most successful towns and cities. By allowing women, African-Americans, and immigrants of nearly every ethnic background to claim land, the Homestead Act was directly responsible for much of Nebraska's current diversity, which is very visible in many of the state's communities.
Nebraska was once known as part of the "Great American Desert," but through homesteading it became an extremely inhabitable and agriculturally productive land. The Homestead Act led to a rapid increase in Nebraska's population after the Civil War, which helped lead Nebraska to become the first new state admitted to the Union after the end of the war.