Homesteaders in the Beginning

The Homestead Act was signed in 1862. It opened up settlements in the western United States, allowing any American, including freed slaves, to put in a claim for up to 160 free acres of federal land. By the end of the Civil War more than 15,000 homesteaders put in claims for land.

When homesteaders arrived they set up houses or camps. They produced food by farming and using cattle. These homesteaders had to live off the land sense there was no towns or cities for miles.
In all, more than 270 million acres of public land, or nearly 10% of the total area of the U.S., was given away free to 1.6 million homesteaders.

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