Free Land In The 1800s

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Free Land In 1862 the U.S. Congress passed the Homestead Act. This law permitted any 21-year-old citizen or immigrant with the intention of becoming a citizen to lay claim to 160 acres of land known as the Great American Prairie. After paying a filing fee, farming the land, and living on it for five years, the ownership of the land passed to the homesteader. People came from all over the world to take advantage of this opportunity. By 1900 over 600,000 claims had been filed. Life on the Prairie The homesteaders faced many challenges. Everything about the prairie was extreme. The land was flat and treeless and the sky seemed to go on forever. On a tallgrass prairie, the grass sometimes grew to be more than 6 feet tall. It is said that riders…show more content…
Blizzards were so strong that they could trap livestock and homesteaders under the snow. During the long winter of 1886, horses and cattle died when their breaths froze over the ends of their noses, making it impossible for them to breathe. Building a home and establishing a farm was a challenge for even the most experienced farmers, but the free land, abundant wildlife, and richness of the soil made the challenge hard to resist. Choosing Your Homestead Choosing the right location for a homestead was very important. Newly arrived settlers, known as "sod busters," looked for land which featured a stream or creek and small rolling hills which served as windbreaks. Easy access to planned railroad lines was also an asset because it made it easier to ship goods and livestock to market. Once the land was selected, the homesteader went to the Land Office to make sure that the property was not already taken and to file a claim. One of the requirements for fulfilling the claim was building a "home" to live in within six months. Choosing the right site for a house was nearly as important as choosing the right claim. Building next to a small hill provided some protection from the constant wind. Being near a stream meant easy access to water. But building too close also made flooding a very real danger. Building a…show more content…
Moving In! Many people were surprised by the coziness of dugouts and sod houses. They were cool in the summer, warm in the winter and good shelter from the wild prairie weather. The fact that they were basically made of dirt made them virtually fireproof. Turning a Soddie into a Home Most sod houses were about 16 feet by 20 feet and had only one room. Furniture was kept to a minimum due to the lack of space. Beds and tables were often built right into the walls. Many people slept on pallets that could be moved out of the way during the day. Crowded conditions meant that some household objects, like sewing machines, were kept outside when the weather was good, and had to be squeezed inside when it rained or snowed. Smoothing the inside walls and either plastering or wallpapering them brightened the room and helped keep out mice. Women found floors made from packed dirt hard to live with. Adding raised wooden floors was usually one of the first improvements that homesteaders made to their sod houses. Flowers on the wide windowsills and pets — dogs, cats, and caged birds — made the house feel like a home. Many settlers threw flower seeds up on the roofs that brightened up their dugouts when they
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