History and Culture

The Homestead Act of 1862 was one of the most significant and enduring events in the westward expansion of the United States. It was a revolutionary concept for distributing public land. By granting 160 acres of free land to claimants, it allowed nearly any man or woman the opportunity to own land. Millions of people filed claims including, families, immigrants, single women, and formerly enslaved people.

Over 10 percent of the United States, or 270 million acres, was homesteaded! The land, long inhabited by indigenous cultures, changed forever. Homesteaders created settlements and farms, drove industrial advancement, and built the nation chasing the American Dream. For over a century, homesteaders would test their grit and endurance to own land in their name. Repercussions of this monumental piece of legislation can be detected throughout the United States of America today.

Homestead National Historical Park, located in Southeast Nebraska, commemorates this Act and the far-reaching effects it had upon the landscape and people.

It is the purpose of our government "to elevate the condition of men, to lift artificial burdens from all shoulders and to give everyone an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life."

- President Abraham Lincoln, July 4, 1861

A collage of advertisement about moving west
Homestead Act

Learn why the Homestead Act of 1862 has been called one of the most important pieces of Legislation in the history of the United States.

President sitting in a car signing a bill while three men watch
Park History

Learn about the history of Homestead National Historical Park from 1936 to today.

Two people sitting at computers looking at homestead records

Research is conducted by Homestead National Historical Park to better understand and share stories of the homesteading experience.

Family posing for a photo in front of their homestead

Nearly 4 million homesteaders settled our country over 123 years, across 30 states. Learn a bit about their stories.

Prairie grass with the roof of a cabin seen over the grasses.

Learn about places to visit within the park and about the history of homesteads around the country.

Artifacts in the museum collection related to Daniel Freeman
Museum Collection

The museum collection includes historical items, archaeological artifacts, biological specimens, and archival records.

Black and white photo, dustorm on the homestead.
Millions of People, Millions of Stories

Discover homesteading stories of migration, risk taking, labor, sacrifice, hardship, and courage in the face of daunting odds.


The Homestead Act & Its Impacts

Loading results...

    Last updated: May 7, 2024

    Park footer

    Contact Info

    Mailing Address:

    8523 West State Highway 4
    Beatrice, NE 68310


    402 223-3514

    Contact Us