Homesteading - Homesteading Act and the Northern Plains

Originally overlooked as unproductive, the Northern Plains offered opportunity for any determined person to own free or inexpensive land by homesteading. Land grants to railroads also provided a source of land for migrants to the prairie.

In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act and created opportunity for the 372,000 families that poured onto the prairies. The families came for many reasons – a hunger for land, a vision for the future, a longing for adventure, or an interest in profit. Some failed. Some scraped by. Some succeeded and, in the process, put down roots that shaped the region as we know it. Filmed in scenic Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota locations through all four seasons, “Homesteading” blends interviews with historians, the stories told by descendants of homesteaders, and dramatic readings from pioneer diaries and letters to paint a picture of the people who struggled and toiled to create a life for themselves on the prairies.

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Kim Stenehjem (Producer), Heidi Nelson (Editor), Dave Geck, Ryan Sailer, Ben Stommes, Frode Tilden (Videographers), Ryan Sailer, Ben Stommes, Steve Wallevand (Production Assistants), Matt Olien (Narrator), Barb Gravel (Production Manager), Bob Dambach (Executive Producer)


“Homesteading” Prairie Public 2010

Related Media

  1. Homesteading - Weather on the Plains
    Video: Hard winters, drought, and hail were some of the challenges that drove homesteaders to give up.
  2. Homesteading - Unremitting Labor
    Video: Only unending work allowed homesteaders to fulfill the obligations of acquiring the deed to their land.
  3. Homesteading - The Rain Follows the Plow
    Video: With settlement pushing further west to the more arid plains, more creative advertising lured settlement, as did the Timber Culture Act.
  4. Homesteading - Single Women Homesteaders
    Video: In spite of social restrictions, a number of single women homesteaded for a variety of reasons.
  5. Homesteading - Railroad Land Grants
    Video: Cash poor during the Civil War, the government made land grants to the railroads to insure the construction of a transcontinental railroad, which they then sold at a profit.
  6. Homesteading - Native American Homesteaders
    Video: Native Americans were allowed to homestead only if they renounced their tribal affiliations.
  7. Homesteading - Later Homesteaders
    Video: The seven Svihovec brothers in Hettinger County and Alma Thompson King farther north are examples of early twentieth-century homesteaders.
  8. Homesteading - Land Speculation
    Video: Some acquired land only to resell it and make money. Others homesteaders, like Lorenzo Merry, were leaving trouble behind.
  9. Homesteading - Joseph Marquart
    Video: An immigrant from Ukraine, Marquart began with almost nothing and obtained 6,000 acres by the time he died.