April 29, 2012
Back to the Homestead - History of Homesteading
This week was pretty productive. We cleared out much of the clutter that has been hanging around the homestead such as old timbers, wheelbarrows and a garden cart with four flat tires.
We also decided to get rid of the ICB totes - the containers in which we were going to do the aquaponics in. I am sad about that. This is something I really want to do and think would be a fantastic way to produce food for the family. I'll talk about the "whys" on a latter post.
Potatoes, spinach, cabbage, carrots and beets are all planted. We'll soon be planting the rest of the garden. However, with temperatures in the 30's and 40's as a low, the risk of frost is still here. We'll wait just a bit longer and then get the rest of the seeds in the ground.
Homesteading - A Short History
Concerned that free land would lower property values and reduce the cheap labor supply; Northern businessmen opposed the nearly free distribution of federal lands. Pre Civil War Southerners feared settlers of federal lands would add their voices to the call for abolition of slavery. With Southerners having their hands full in 1862, the legislation finally passed.
On May 20, 1862, Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act. This act gave adults 21 years or older farmland called a "homestead.” This was typically 160 acres of undeveloped federal land west of the Mississippi River.. The homesteader was required to build a 12x14 dwelling and farm the land or plant trees. Some folks took advantage of a legislative loophole caused when those drafting the law's language failed to specify whether the 12-by-14 dwelling was to be built in feet or inches.
Many homesteaders did not last the required five years due to all kinds of challenges such as blizzards, drought, grasshoppers, disease, and social isolation on the open prairies.
January 1, 1863, the day the Homestead Act went into effect, the fellow named Daniel Freeman. As the story goes, he was supposedly a scouter for the Union Army and told someone that he was leaving for St. Louis the morning of January 1, 1863, for military duty. Freeman convinced someone to open the land office just after midnight so he could be the first person to file his claim.
When the homesteader had fulfilled his requirements of living on the land for five years and show that improvements had been done, he then had to have two or three witnesses sign a document called "Proof Required under Homestead Acts May 20, 1862." Daniel Freeman had his neighbors, Joseph Graff and Samuel Kilpatrick, sign this first document.
Anyone including freed slaves, who had never taken up arms against the U.S. government, could file an application to claim a federal land grant. The occupant had to be 21 or older or the head of a family, live on the land for five years and show evidence of having made improvements.
Only about 40 percent of the applicants who started the process were able to complete it and obtain title to their homestead land. Eventually 1.6 million homesteads were granted and 270,000,000 acres (420,000 sq mi) of federal land were privatized between 1862 and 1934, a total of 10% of all lands in the United States. Homesteading was discontinued in 1976, except in Alaska, where it continued until 1986.
That was a shame too. I was in the 10th grade in 1985 and was taking American History. I learned about the act and my teacher, Mr. Warner had encouraged me to write a letter and inquire about the application process. I remember pulling out an old type write. You know, the one with the big spinning ball with all the letters on it. And I wrote my letter.
I got my answer weeks later. I was not 21 yet and was told I could reapply later. By the time I turned 21, it was too late. I wish I still had that letter. But at 15 years old, I found the rejection to be worthless and did not see the value in keeping the letter.
The series referenced to in this week's video:
Here's the eBay seller I get my seeds from. This is my second year doing business with these guys: http://stores.ebay.com/heirloomvegetables