Lesson Plan

Freeing the Elwha (Neighbors Along the Elwha River)

Homesteaders along the Elwha

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Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
60 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
6-8.RH.1, 6-8.RH.2, 6-8.RH.7, 6-8.RH.10
State Standards:
Washington State Standards:
Social Studies:
EALR 1: CIVICS, Component 1.2:
Thinking Skills:
Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Applying: Apply an abstract idea in a concrete situation to solve a problem or relate it to a prior experience. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts.


What combination of factors both natural and manmade is necessary for healthy river restoration and how does this enhance the sustainability of natural and human communities?


Who were the people that homesteaded along the Elwha? How and what can we find out about their lives?


  • 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 an article explaining the use of Township and Range to identify land parcels, students will look at two specific townships along the lower Elwha River. The teacher will assign each student a name to research on the BLM website and find information about homesteads. The student place the homesteader's name on n individual Clallam County map, the teacher and students will fill in a large class map to show all the homesteaders in each section of Township 30N and 31N, Range 7W. Students will write a journal entry on the additional name they selected to research on the website. The paragraph will include who they selected, why they selected that name and what information they found. If they were successful in finding another homesteader the journal entry should include where the homestead was located.


Print materials for students included in the lesson plan document.


  • Computer access to the internet
  • Article: An Explanation of Township and Range
  • Maps
  • Clallam County Township and Range
  • Clallam County T30N and R7W Section blank
  • Clallam County T30N and R7W Section teacher master
  • Graphic Organizer: "Land Patents"
  • Graphic Organizer "Land Patents" teacher master
  • Journal


  1. Have students read the article on the explanation of Township and Range.
  2. Assign each student one homesteader name from the teacher's master list. Each student will go into the BLM Land Patent website http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/search/ (use this link, as the one in the lesson plan link is a dead url) to gather information about their homesteader to fill in the student graphic organizer. After they have found the information for the assigned names, have a discussion of how other homesteader names may be discovered (from street, creek or river names, historical books, library sources, etc). Have them find one more name to enter into the land patent website (also have them try their own last name or a parent or guardians last name) so they have a total of two names.
  3. Have students find the meridian map for Washington.
    (This map shows the Willamette meridian and is only needed for understanding where and how the townships and ranges are referenced.)
  4. Have students find maps of Clallam County.
  5. Use the Clallam County Township and Range Map to find the Townships and Ranges of the areas around Port Angeles. Add the correct Townships and Ranges to the Section Map. Let students explore the maps and discover where the homesteads they researched are located. If students had a homesteader name with more than one land patent have them focus on Township 30N, Range 7W and Township 31N, Range 7W along the lower Elwha River.
  6. Print out a large copy of the blank Clallam County T30N and R7W Section map. On the blank section map of homesteads along the Elwha River, write the names of their homesteaders and the year the patent was issued. (In a future lesson, section 15, the Thomas Aldwell homestead on the Elwha River will be where the Elwha River Dam is located.) If you assigned all the names, the map will be filled in with most of the homesteaders along the lower Elwha River from 1890 to 1910.
  7. Conclude with a discussion of what other homesteaders the students discovered using the other names not assigned and discover if anyone in the class has a homesteading history.
  8. Assign a journal entry to include information about the additional name the student researched. The entry should include where the homestead is located (township, range and section), how the parcel was purchased (authority) and the issue date.


  • Aliquot: an equally divided part. A section could be divided into fourths, then the fourth was divided again into fourths until less than an acre became a lot.
  • Base Line: The horizontal line where the survey began.
  • Meridian: The vertical line where the survey began. Washington and Oregon are on the Willamette Meridian.
  • Range: The measure of township squares east or west of the meridian.
  • Section: A square mile numbered between 1 and 36 containing 640 acres.
  • Township: A six by six mile square containing 23,040 acres divided into 36 sections. Also used for the measure of township squares north or south of the base line.

Assessment Materials

Finishing the Lesson

  • Completion of graphic organizer with all information about the assigned homesteader and one additional name.
  • The records from the BLM site are used by researchers today to find family information and real estate information. Students may also write in their journals about the additional information they found.
  • Completion of section map (keep for future lessons).

Related Lessons or Education Materials

There are many lesson plans in the Freeing the Elwha unit in various subjects. Search "Freeing the Elwha" on the nps.gov education portal.

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Last updated: July 24, 2015