Lesson Plan

Adeline Hornbek and the Homestead Act: A Colorado Success Story

black and white portrait of a woman, Adeline Hornbek
Grade Level:
High School: Ninth Grade through Twelfth Grade
Literacy and Language Arts,Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
90 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
6-8.RH.1, 6-8.RH.2, 6-8.RH.3, 6-8.RH.4, 6-8.RH.5, 6-8.RH.6, 6-8.RH.7, 6-8.RH.8, 6-8.RH.9, 6-8.RH.10
Additional Standards:
US History Era 4 -- Standard 1C; Standard 2E; Standard 4C. US History Era 6 -- Standard 1C; Standard 2C.
Curriculum Standards for Social Studies from the National Council for the Social Studies

Essential Question

Discover how Adeline Hornbek, single mother of four, defied traditional gender roles to become the owner of a successful ranch under the Homestead Act.


1. Determine how the Homestead Act impacted the economic opportunities of some women.
2. Compare general perceptions of homesteading life with the life of female homesteader Adeline Hornbek.
3. Examine the socially perceived standards for women of the Victorian Era and describe how those norms differed from the realities of Hornbek's daily life.
4. Determine if the Homestead Act impacted the development of their community or region.
5. Investigate important women in their own community history.


Time Period: 1860s-1905
Topics: This lesson could be used in teaching units on the Homestead Act and western expansion or units on women's history.


Colorado's Florissant Valley lies 35 miles west of Colorado Springs on the flanks of Pikes Peak. To the north and east, the Rocky Mountains dominate the skyline. To the west lies high meadow land with large expanses of undulating native grasses so beautiful that early fur trappers to the area referred to it as a park. In the summer the grassy meadows are filled with the colored mists of thousands of wild flowers.

In the center of this lush valley stands the Hornbek homestead complex, the home of a strong, determined woman who came to the area with her four children in the 1870s. Claiming land under the Homestead Act, Adeline Hornbek defied traditional gender roles to become the owner of a prosperous ranch.

Lesson Hook/Preview

The Homestead Act of 1862 was passed to ease overcrowding in the East and help small farmers and would-be farmers by providing inexpensive land. The law stated that a U.S. citizen (or a person intending to become one) who was the head of a family and over 21 years of age could qualify for a land grant of 160 acres (one quarter square mile). To receive the land, applicants had to pay a $10.00 registration fee, live on the site for at least 6 months of every year for five years, and cultivate and improve the land for five full years. Settlers could purchase the land outright after only six months of residence at a cost of $1.25 per acre. By 1900, nearly 400,000 individuals or families had filed for land under the provisions of the Act.

Before the passage of the Homestead Act, it was nearly impossible for middle or lower class women to acquire land. They had few opportunities for employment and consequently little ability to accumulate the money necessary for buying land. Under the Homestead Act, however, unmarried, widowed or divorced women could claim homestead land as head of a household. By making land affordable the Homestead Act gave some women, like Adeline Hornbek, the chance to gain financial independence. A single mother of four, Adeline Hornbek defied traditional gender roles to become the owner of a prosperous ranch in Colorado's Florissant Valley.


Getting Started Prompt
Map: Orients the students and encourages them to think about how place affects culture and society
Readings: Primary and secondary source readings provide content and spark critical analysis.
Visual Evidence: Students critique and analyze visual evidence to tackle questions and support their own theories about the subject.
Optional post-lesson activities: If time allows, these will deepen your students' engagement with the topics and themes introduced in the lesson, and to help them develop essential skills.


Homestead Act of 1862

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Last updated: March 3, 2020