Nebraska Homestead History
Nebraska was accepted as part of the United States Union in 1854 and along with many other northern states, Nebraska’s homesteading history begins with the Homestead Act of 1862, where the government encouraged population of land in order to promote farming and equal opportunity for owning property to people that never rose arms against the government. This restricted the privilege from Southern Confederates and Native Americans of whom the land was originally taken from as they were forced into neighboring states when unable to be assimilated into western culture. Women, Black Americans, and other minorities were finally given the opportunity to own property.
To receive Homestead Land, an application for up to
160 acres of undeveloped land had to be submitted with a filing fee. The land was required to be developed and improved within a five year period. This included building a home/dwelling on the property and farm. A deed of title was also required to be filed in order to obtain the settlement. Proof of citizenship (or proof of intent to become a citizen) was required, along with any proof of land descriptions and family Bible records (family tree born/residing on the property). Records of Homesteads filed were kept by the United States General Land Office Tract Books for Nebraska. You can find specific titles and history by researching through the online index by name and researching land law history.
The Kinkaid Amendment of 1904 greatly added to the growth of Nebraskan territory as larger homesteads were provided to settlers through western Nebraska (up to 640 acres) to help support their families in farming. Unfortunately, much of the land was given to cattlemen, miners, lumber industry, railroads and people that could afford to establish their homestead with housing, feed, wildlife and seed to grow crops. Low income settlers did not benefit from this free land without first having the “seed money” to thrive on its development. According to Legends of America, the first claim filed under the Homestead Act was placed by a Mr. Daniel Freeman in Nebraska on January 1, 1863 and worked that land until the time of his death in 1908. That property is now designated as the Homestead National Monument of America.
The act of homesteading in relation to the government giving away land in order to promote farming and settlement ended in the late 1900s, until now. Various states have chosen to allow tax breaks and cuts for homestead in specific areas through a “homestead exemption.” More than 40 states are currently taking part in this tax relief program since 2011.
Census records for homesteads find that more than 20 land offices in Nebraska served in support of maintaining records for land claims. All documents include property descriptions, their improvements, occupants and their family lineage, records of military service and citizenship history. Original records can be found at the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C.
Specific states around the country have implemented new policies for Veterans, Disabled, Retired, etc. to have the opportunity to homestead on land within their state of residency. Specific provisions apply but Nebraska is among the states that are working to create alternatives for individuals who hope to retire on their own piece of the American Dream.
Current exemptions and provisions can be found at Revenue Nebraska.Gov. The State of Nebraska, specifically, has various plots of land that have been offered for free provided the homesteader build up to a specific value on the property over the agreed amount of time specified by their particular contracts.
Read more about why Omaha is giving land away and check out the local listings for most up to date resources and availability.
Thanks for reading a little bit about Nebaskan History. I am looking forward to the next post on
Nebraska Parks, Trails & Hiking.