The Homestead Act of 1862

Claiming your land and living on and from it

...Finally, we reached the goal of our journey. The men immediately claimed the land, one next to the other, all started to make living places, digging holes, cutting trees in the forests for covering the holes, making fire places. Immediately I start to make bread from the little flour left from the travel, and also soup from water and flour, to get everybody warm again. 


It was already beginning of March, our harts were looking out for spring, and I was looking forward to start growing vegetables in the ground around our dug-out. But it took a full year more that we had to stay in the dug-out, in which time the men tried to make the land better...


The Homestead Act of 1862, signed into law by Abraham Lincoln, is literally one of the landmark laws in American history in more than one way. The Act regulated land distribution and motivated millions of people to move into the sparsely inhabited areas of the young United States to break new land.


The Act provided 160 acres of land for free "for everybody over 21 of age who will live on the land, build a home, make improvements, and farm for 5 years".


Only a filing fee of 10 dollars and 2 dollars for the land agent was needed up front. After the five years, a farmer needed to prove up that the conditions had been fulfilled and he or she became owner of the land. Only a final fee of 6 dollars was needed to get the land ownership papers. An investment of 18 dollars in total, and five years of back-breaking work to bring the new land into cultivation. An additional 160 acres could be obtained as "Tree claim"; the farmer had to cultivate at least 10 acres of the land with trees.


Section map
Map of the Homestead Sections in Ellsworth County, Ka. A homestead claim was a quarter section or 160 acre
Most of the orginal section roads still exist today, as does the school claim with the stone school house.

The lower-left quarter of section 17 was claimed by Frank Lilak of Jilovce in1878


Wood was scarce on the prairie, and many settlers started their lives in so-called dug-outs or in wooden one-room claim shanties.


Oxford Junction history

A nice piece about the Oxford Juction Township in the days of prairie grass and early settlers can be found here







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