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The Homestead Act and Congressional Acts or Laws
The following are the four Congressional Acts or Laws that the settlers had access to for making claims and enlarging holdings.
1. The Pre-emption Act of 1841 gave title to 160 acres to the head of a family over 21 years of age, who was a citizen of the United States. The Rules of the general land office required that a house be built, at least 10 acres of ground broken, before making final proof and in order to take a preemtion, a settlement on the land was required to be made within 60 days from the date of filing the claim. A patent could be secured at the expiraton of two and a half years from the time of filing, or payment of $1.25 per acre for land outsisde the railroad land grant and $2.50 per acre within the railroad grant. This act was repealed in 1891. From the "Western Nebraska" 1909.
2. The Homestead Act signed by Abraham Lincoln, May 20, 1862, was effective January 1, 1863, and gave title to a 160 acre tract upon five years occupancy and cultivation. "Western Nebraska," 1909 stated: Liberal provisions were made by which the soldeir, his widow and his orphans were permitted to receive enlarged privileges.... thus adding to the national recognition of the priciple that every citizen... was entitled to the rights to make himself a home upon the public domain." Small fees (about $18.00) were paid in the transactions. The first homestead in Nebraska was filed on by Daniel Feeman on January 1, 1863. It is situated near Beatrice, on Cub Creek, in Gage County.
3. The Timber Culture Act, or Tree Claim, passed by Congress in 1873, offered land free to settlers who would plant trees in 40 acres (later reduced to 10) of each 160 acre claim. Only one tree claim was permitted on each 640 acres and only on prairie land devoid of timber. This law was repealed in 1891.
4. Moses P. Kinkaid was a Republican Representative from the old Sixth District in Congress (later the 12th). He came from O'Neill, Nebraska. In 1904, during his first term in Congress, Kinkaid brought before the house a bill, the Kinkaid Act, which permitted a settler to have a homestead after five years residence and improvement at a minimum of 800 dollars. Persons who had already homesteaded 160 acres or less, could file again and bring their holdings to a full section or 640 acres. The Kinkaid Act opened up the Sand Hills that had proved unsuitable for small farms.
This inormation was taken from Pioneer Stories of Brown, Keya Paha and Rock counties, in Nebraska. Published by the Brown County Historical Society in 1980 at Ainsworth, Nebraska and submitted by Marilyn Calver to the NeGenWeb Brown County coordinator.
Doris Jones-Harris. This page may not be copied or distributed or
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