Homesteading teaches you to be self-sufficient, save money, live a healthier lifestyle and become more environmentally conscious. It also can bring your family closer together.
Start by making a list of your goals for your homestead and see what projects you can do to achieve them. Then, take it slow and build your homestead step by step.
By Mark Swenson
In one of the more consequential decisions in Point Roberts history, this month commemorates the 115th anniversary of President Theodore Roosevelt ending the federal government’s ownership of Point Roberts.When the Washington Treaty created Point Roberts as an exclave in 1846, the U.S. government established the Point as a military reservation. The military status ended in 1884, but the federal government retained the land, preventing the homesteading common on the mainland at the time.
Despite it being federal land, there were no local federal officials stationed at Point Roberts. Over time people moved to the peninsula and squatted the land. They organized homesteads, cleared the land, built homes and barns. Businesses and a pier sprouted at the foot of Gulf Road. Large canneries operated, offering jobs. Hanging over this activity was a fear of making too many investments with the future of Point Roberts’ federal status unresolved. Residents campaigned for the federal government to open the Point for legal homesteading.
In 1904, President Roosevelt sent special agent Ed Ellett to investigate the squatters of Point Roberts. Ellett thought he would encounter dangerous criminals, yet he was warmly greeted at the Gulf Road pier and escorted to everybody’s homestead so he could catalog the occupants, their professions and improvements made to the land.
Roosevelt decided the shoreline was too shallow for large ships and deemed it of no use for future military purposes. Ellett’s report convinced Roosevelt in May 1908 to end federal ownership of the Point and that the residents’ improvements were significant enough for the squatters to be deeded their homesteads, even though they had bought the land from previous squatters. If they had to pay the value of the property again, scraping together a down payment would have forced many off their land.Residents slaughtered the Point’s largest ram and tanned the hide into a luxurious sheepskin rug as a gift of thanks. Roosevelt wrote a note indicating he placed it in his bedroom in the White House. Perhaps 115 years later it’s still there.
The Point Roberts History Center has a database of the squatters listed in Ellett’s report, as well as local residents up through the 1950 census. Stop in on Saturdays for help with your genealogical research.