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What was the Homestead Act?

The Homestead Act was a law which allowed ordinary settler families to buy up small chunks of land in the American West.


What was a homestead?

Land was divided into small areas of 160 acres enough land for a family to build a home and farm the land.

It only cost $10 to make a claim to the land meaning settlers could pay a deposit of $10 and the rest at a later date.


Immediate consequences of the Homestead Act

Anyone over 21 could claim for land.

Small families were encouraged to move west to populate the West rather than big businesses buying big areas of land for themselves.

Women were also able to make a claim and own land.

Ex slaves from southern confederate states were also encouraged to buy Homestead land.

Once a claim for the land had been made and the family lived there for five years they could opt and buy the land for good for $30.


Longer term consequences of the Homestead Act:

By 1876 6 million acres of government land sold for Homesteads.

It led to parts of the Great Plains being settled on for the first time.

Half of Nebraska’s land was Homestead and it encouraged immigration from Europe.


Negative consequences of the Homestead Act

Only 13 million acres of land had been fully bought by 1884. Which was a result of white settlers finding Homestead land very difficult to farm on.

They had trouble farming on the Homestead land so it became less popular.

Despite the governments aim to encourage small families, big businessmen found ways to buy the land.


Importance of the Homestead Act

It encouraged a new start for many after the civil war.

Many black Americans decided to move away from the south to make a new life in the west.

It proved the government were keen to settle in the West.

It dramatically increased the Settlement of whites, blacks, and immigrants into the American West.