Homestead Act 1862

Family Farm since 1898

The America to which these Swedish settlers came was a land that needed the hardy qualities they brought. It was not a land that was particularly softhearted towards newcomers, but everyone believed that each should have a fair chance regardless of his origin. The newcomers quickly learned their way about and soon felt at home. The Homestead Act of 1862 provided them, as well as many other pioneers, with an opportunity to acquire land and establish family farms. To the land-hungry immigrants, the tough prairie sod seemed a golden opportunity and they conquered it by hard work.

Harry S. Truman

The quote from President Truman is about Swedish settlers but the Jamison family had its roots in Scotland. My ancestors left their homes in Scotland and Ireland as a result of religious persecution. The land the farmer and I live on was homesteaded in 1898 by a young couple. Many of their relatives still live in this area. They filed the homestead claim certificate number 8599 on June 17, 1898. My great grandfather Samuel H. Jamison and his wife Mary Elizabeth (Molly) purchased the homestead from this couple just a short month after they filed. The date of purchase was July 21, 1898. Some of my family have lived on this property since that time. In 1998 it was recognized as a Centennial Farm.

Official Homestead Document and Seal

The Homestead Act of 1862 made 160 acres of public land available to every adult who chose to emigrate to the Plains territories and beyond. After payment of a ten dollar fee, the homesteader would get title to the land after he had “resided upon or cultivated the same for a term of five years.” One hundred and sixty million acres of government land or the public domain, typically called a homestead was given away free to 1.6 million homesteaders. The official document above was signed by President William McKinley.

In this land they had no lumber to build or to burn for their fires but they used buffalo and cow manure to burn for heat and for cooking. Many children spent their days gathering this fuel. They built their homes from sod. Sod houses were built by using a plow or other device to break up the land. You had to have sod that had the right kind of grass. The grass had to have roots that would hold the soil together. The buffalo grass still present on this prairie was found to work very well. The sod was cut into three foot lengths and were 12 inches wide and 4 inches thick. They were placed lengthwise, making a wall 2 feet thick. All the sod was laid with the grass side down.

“What a breed they were–those sod house settlers. Color, creed, possession did not matter. Everyone was poor, but non a pauper. Can it be they were richer for having little? Can it be they were wiser for knowing less?”

John G. Niehardt

Samuel and Molly came on the emigrant train west from Franklin County, Virginia. Molly’s parents had already made the trek, and the couple and their six children decided it was time to join them. Molly’s father Daniel filed on a timber claim in Gove County. When Samuel and Molly arrived they lived in a sod and frame house. It must have been a difficult time for them to adjust to the plains after living in the lovely wooded hills of Virginia.

The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small piece of land.

Abraham Lincoln

Their hopes and dreams were high and their love for God and family carried them through many tragedies and difficulties. Here I am with the Farmer, 122 years later on the land they purchased. I am sitting under a tree my great grandmother Molly planted. Here on the same prairie, with the same dreams and hopes and love for God and my family. My desire for freedom from religious persecution is the same as Samuel and Molly’s.

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