Homesteading Significance

National Significance of Homesteading

In total, 270 million acres, or 10% of all land in the United States, were settled under the Homestead Act. Homesteading occurred in 30 of our 50 states. The Homestead Act was extremely progressive in who it allowed to make claims: women, nearly all immigrants, and African Americans had the right to claim free land. The Homestead Act revolutionized agriculture; by World War I, the U.S. was known as "the breadbasket of the world." Homesteading also hastened America's Industrial Revolution by the need to provide farmers with higher quantities and improved equipment and tools. Immigration to the United States increased dramatically during much of the homesteading era; the Act was highly publicized overseas and drove new immigrants to the U.S. to claim their 160 acre piece of the American Dream.


Impact on Nebraska

One of the very first homesteads of approximately two million in the nation is near Beatrice, Nebraska. In total, 22,253,314 acres of land were homesteaded of Nebraska's total 49,201,920 acres. This amounts to 45% of the state – the highest percentage of homesteaded land of any state.

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.

Last updated: September 19, 2019

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

8523 West State Highway 4
Beatrice , NE 68310


(402) 223-3514

Contact Us