The Homestead Act, 1862
The Homestead Act of 1862 was the culmination of decades of work to organize and distribute government lands. Every 160-acre parcel largely went to new settlers, but fraudulent schemes placed much of the land in corporate hands. Homesteaders struggled to settle their land grants and many abandoned the land before receiving ownership. But overall, the Homestead Act was instrumental in settling the frontier, providing land for family farms and creating the legacy of the American West.
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Daniel Freeman becomes first Homesteader
January 1, 1863 | Brownville, Nebraska
The Homestead Act became active on January 1, 1863. The story goes that Daniel Freeman submitted his land application at 12:10 am on January 1st at the Land Office in Brownville, Nebraska. Freeman thus became the first person in history to apply for and receive land under the Homestead Act. Freeman succeeded in settling his land grant and lived there until his death in 1908. Today, the Homestead National Monument of America sits on the site of the old farm where many come to honor their pioneer ancestors who started out as homesteaders.
 Information taken from http://www.nps.gov/home/historyculture/firsthomesteader.htm; accessed Sept 15, 2008.