Lesson Plan

Freeing the Elwha(“Life on the Homestead”)

Clearing land and building a homestead was laborious for settlers here at Humes Ranch and elsewhere in the Elwha Valley.


What was the life of a homesteader like and what tools from today would make their lives simpler?


  • Identify the purpose of the Homestead Act;
  • Decide what was needed to move west during the 1800s;
  • Describe the day-to-day life of homesteaders;
  • Explore who moved onto the Olympic peninsula;
  • Develop a time line for events and developments along the Elwha River and Port Angeles, WA.


After reading articles, as a class, students will brainstorm how living in 1890 was different than living today in the 21st century. Students will examine photographs of homesteads on the Olympic peninsula and complete a graphic organizer. Students will write a short essay to describe a homestead then choose something from today that would be useful to an 1890 homesteader and explain why.

  • Cedar shakes:In North America shakes and shingles are typically made from Western Red Cedar. Shakes are split into 24 inch lengths, the most common length, 18 inch lengths, and 48 inch lengths (used for siding).
  • Cedar shingles:Shingles are sawn on all sides in lengths of 15 inches, 18 inches and 24 inches. Shingles are commonly used on the roof.


  • Access to photographs of homesteaders.
  • Articles
  • Homesteading
  • Claims
  • Daily Life
  • Graphic Organizer:
  • Life on the Homestead Photographs
  • Life on the Homestead Photographs teacher master
  • Photograph Information
  • Journal


Have students read 3 articles from the Olympic Peninsula Community Museum.

Discuss what would be different about living in 1890 compared to today.
Have students look at photographs of homesteads on the Olympic peninsula.
Students will complete the graphic organizer "Life on the Homestead".
Students will write a paragraph in their journal to describe one of the homesteads. In a second paragraph have them describe what they think the homesteader would most like to have from this century on the homestead. If you have a pre-discussion before the writing assignment get students to expand on initial answers to get to larger concepts. For example, if students mention an electronic device such as a TV, DVD, etc. guide the discussion to what makes those items operate: electricity and/or batteries and what else could be gained with those larger ideas. Other examples: medicine, indoor plumbing, telephone, etc.


Journal entry: a description of a homestead including what materials were used for construction (walls, roof, doors, etc.), what could be seen inside the cabin, and a general description of the setting of a homestead. The second paragraph of the journal entry should include something useful from the 21st century and an explanation of why it would be useful for a homesteader.


Cedar shakes
Cedar shingles