all photos on this page taken by
and copyright Susan Petersen 2012
For the past month, all four pages of the Homestead Act have been on display at the Homestead National Monument of America near Beatrice, Nebraska. This was the first time the Act had been on display outside of Washington, D.C. and the first time all four pages have been publicly displayed as a unit.
The major events celebrating the Homestead Act at the monument have drawn to a close and the folding chairs under the Chautauqua tent were packed up yesterday morning. Tomorrow is the last day that the Homestead Act will be on display in Nebraska.
Yesterday morning, I took off on the short drive to Beatrice to spend the morning at the Homestead National Monument of America and to see the Homestead Act.
|Honor to the Homestead States|
The entrance to the Heritage Center is lined with outlines of each state where homesteads were issued. The cutouts on each graphic represent the proportional amount of land that was homesteaded in each state.
As you can see, a significant portion of Nebraska was open to homesteaders.
I have ancestors who were homesteaders. On Fold3.com, I have discovered the homestead documents of my 2nd great grandfathers, John Bellinger and Daniel Landon, as well as other affiliated family members.
Reading those documents provides much insight to the lives my ancestors lived. To "prove up," the homesteaders had to submit documentation that they had lived on the property for at least five years and describe the improvements made to the property. This usually meant that friends or relatives had to attest to knowing the homesteader and describe the improvements.
|The Freeman Graves|
Down the hill from the Heritage Center are the graves of Daniel and Agnes Freeman. Freeman was the very first homesteader. The 160 acres of land occupied by the Homestead National Monument of America are on the very homestead where the Freemans lived and worked.
|The Homestead Act of 1862|
As might be expected, stepping up to view the Homestead Act was a breathtaking and emotional experience. As I read the first words of the document, my eyes filled with tears, realizing that I was connected to this piece of history through my ancestors. It also saddened me, knowing how many of our Native population was displaced because of this westward expansion.
Roaming the grounds of the monument was quiet, peaceful and calming. At times, I did feel as though I had been taken back in a time machine to the lands settled by my ancestors.
Should your travels bring you through Nebraska, I certainly can recommend you make plans to visit the Homestead National Monument of America.
LongLostRelative's Homestead Act Toolbox with links to news articles
Virtual tour of Homestead National Monument (more than 50 photos that I took yesterday)