Homesteading requires a lot of work. It’s humbling and rewarding, but it’s also hard. Animals die, crops fail and structures fall down.
Growing food is a core part of homesteading. Even if you don’t have an acre, you can still grow herbs on your windowsill or use a small hydroponics kit to get started.
FORT KEARNY — Tips for searching homesteading archives will be among the topics Tuesday at the “Homesteading the Plains” program at Fort Kearny State Historical Park.
The program will begin at 2 p.m. Tuesday and will feature personal perspectives on the homesteading era, which began in 1862 and contributed greatly to the westward expansion of the United States.
One Kearney-area resident who’s familiar with the significance of the era, Tom Kelly of rural Holdrege, said the homesteading program at Fort Kearny will teach valuable lessons, especially about south-central Nebraska’s history.
“There is a major, major lesson to us that comes out of the homesteading era,” said Kelly, who lives southwest of Holdrege near Atlanta. The grandparents of Kelly’s wife — Carl Elof Benson and Neta Johanna Benson — homesteaded in the Atlanta area. Family members descended from the Bensons still live on the land they settled, Kelly said.
People are also reading…
“The story of homesteading is about blessing, sacrifice and hard work. It’s about the good life that we have today because of all of those ancestors,” Kelly said. “Can someone learn something from the program on homesteading? I think they can.”
Kelly won’t be speaking Tuesday, but he said he places the homesteading era among the significant events that led to the settlement of the American West.
Starting at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Grant Newbold of rural Minden will talk about researching archives related to the Homestead Act.
In 1862, Congress passed and President Lincoln signed the act as an incentive to increase settlement of the Great Plains. To file for 160 free federal acres, a person had to be head of a household or at least 21 years of age, and then live on and improve the property for five years.
By the act’s 1976 repeal, 270 million acres were claimed and settled, representing 10% of U.S. land. Montana, North Dakota, Colorado and Nebraska had the most successful claims.
The Fort Kearny program also will feature “Secrets of the Sandhills” author John Hunt and former state Sen. Jim Jones, 92, who will share photos and memories of homesteading in the Sandhills through the Kincaid Act of 1904. It amended the Homestead Act to allow 640 acres to be claimed in 37 northwest Nebraska counties.
Finally, there will be a musical performance by Miss V, a modern-day homesteader and Humanities Nebraska speaker. Refreshments will be served by the Christian Heritage Girl Scout group from Minden.
Fort Kearny State Historical Park is at 1020 V Road and can be reached at 308-865-5305. A Nebraska park permit is required to attend the program. Learn more at OutdoorNebraska.gov.