Getting and Living on a Homestead
During North Dakota’s two booms, the Great Dakota Boom (1871-late 1880s) and the Second Boom (1898-1915), the Homestead Act (1862) played the important role as a way for settlers to obtain land. About 25 percent of the land was acquired this way. Under the terms of the Homestead Act, a person could get 160 acres of free land by living on and improving the land for five years. After two years, the owner could buy the land for $1.25 an acre. During the Great Dakota Boom three other means of gaining land existed. Under the Timber Culture Act (1873), a homesteader could claim an additional 160 acres if he or she raised a crop and planted ten acres of trees. The Pre-emption Act (1841) allowed a person to buy 160 acres of unsettled government land outright for $1.25 an acre. The Northern Pacific Railroad, which received about 25 percent of North Dakota’s land mass, also sold land for between $3 and $5 per acre. About 17 million acres were acquired using the Homestead Act and the other options.
During the Second Boom only the Homestead Act and purchase from private parties were available to land seekers. An additional 14 million acres were opened up for farming and ranching.
North Dakota attracted a wide range of land seekers; it was the farmer’s last frontier. The railroads and government (both territorial and state) promoted North Dakota as a wonderful place to start farming. Immigrants from Europe and Americans from the East flooded into North Dakota in search of land upon which to start new lives. Agricultural historian Paul Sharp referred to North Dakota as the “last best West.”
The following news item and interviews from The North Star Dakotan provide us with an idea of what finding a homestead and then living on it were like. Terkel Fuglestad represents homesteading during the Great Dakota boom. Jacob Kruckenberg homesteaded in the 1890s, that economically depressed decade between the two booms. Reuben Hume operated his land location business and Eliza Crawford filed on a homestead during the Second Boom. Fuglestad, Hume, and Kruckenberg were interviewed as part of a government program in the late 1930s. Their interviews are located at the State Historical Society of North Dakota. Eliza Crawford’s words come from her diary, reprinted in the Adams County Record in November 1981 and as quoted in H. Elaine Lindgren’s book, Land in Her Own Name, Women as Homesteaders in North Dakota (Fargo: The North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies, 1991).
By Dr. D. Jerome Tweton
Originally published as The North Star Dakotan student newspaper, written by Dr. D. Jerome Tweton and supported by the North Dakota Humanities Council.
Social Studies, Science
Identify ways that an organism’s pattern of behavior is related to the nature of the organism’s environment (e.g., the availability of food, space, and resources)
Explain ways humans benefit from Earth’s resources (e.g., air, water, soil, food, fuel, building materials)
Describe how community life has changed from past (i.e., pioneer and tribal) to the present
Identify similarities and differences between past events and current events in North Dakota (e.g., in the lives of people from different cultures past and present)
Use chronological order and sequence to describe the cause-and-effect relationships of historical events and periods in North Dakota (e.g., how the railroads led to settlements in the state)
Describe the daily lives (e.g., roles, shelter, significance of buffalo) of the first inhabitants of North Dakota
Explain reasons for settlement in North Dakota (e.g., railroads, Bonanza farms, Homestead Act)
Explain the significance of agriculture in North Dakota history (e.g., immigration, railroads)
Identify ways that natural resources (e.g., soil, minerals, trees, fish, people) contribute to the economy of the local community and North Dakota
Describe ways geography has affected the development (e.g., the development of transportation, communication, industry, and land use) of the state over time
Explain how background and history influence people’s actions (e.g., farming methods, hunting methods, economic decisions)
Explain the contributions of various ethnic groups (e.g., Native Americans, immigrants) to the history of North Dakota (e.g., food, traditions, languages, celebrations)
Explain the factors (e.g., trade routes, goods available, location) that influenced the growth of cities
Compare how culture influences relationships, religion, and social institutions in various societies (e.g., different family structures, world religions, rituals, government structures, social policies)
Use maps to find location, calculate scale, and distinguish other geographic relationships (e.g., latitude and longitude, population density)
Explain how physical systems affect human systems (e.g., Where do people live and why?)
Interpret and evaluate a variety of visual representations (e.g. charts, graphs, time lines, graphic organizers, maps, flow charts) of data
Analyze the impact of immigration on the United States (e.g., labor pools, ghettos)
Explain the significance of key events (e.g., settlement and homesteading, statehood, reservations) and people (e.g., Roughrider Recipients) in North Dakota and tribal history
Evaluate how economic opportunities (e.g., manufacturing, agricultural, business) impact North Dakota and other regions (e.g., Midwest, Northeast)
Compare human characteristics (e.g., population distribution, land use) of places and regions (i.e. North Dakota)