Tuesday, May 29, 2012

It May of Been Free But They Paid a Price - Part II

The Chrisman sisters are shown outside their Nebraska sod house in 1886. Lizzie Chrisman filed the first of the sisters' homestead claims in 1887. Lutie Chrisman filed the following year. The other two sisters, Jennie Ruth and Hattie, had to wait until they came of age to file, in 1892.

Yesterday, I was telling you about my visit to the Homestead National Monument over the Memorial Weekend.  The Homestead National Monument, which is part of the U.S. National Park system was celebrating the 150th anniversary of the 1862 Homestead Act that was signed into law by President Lincoln.  (The actual signed document was brought in under a great deal security.  One of the volunteers told me they bring it in, in the middle of the night. How cloak and daggerish.  So, it would seem there is a security force in place for past president's signatures.)

I did manage to learn a few things while visiting the museum. ......Homestead acts had been around from the very beginning of our country. The Continental Army offered parcels of land to those that fought in the Revolutionary War. You can click on the Homesteading Timeline to see some of the other Homesteading Acts prior to the 1862 Act. The one we are most familiar with is the Homestead of of 1862 and it was in effect from 1862 until 1986.

As an estimated 93 million of us are decedents of the homesteaders that participated in the 1862 Homestead Act.  If you click on the Homestead National Monument web site there is a link that will let you search for ancestors.  I have such a common maiden name, there were quite a few that came up.  I have no idea if they were actually related to me.

Only about 40 percent of those that filed claims were able to last the  five years that was required to receive the deed to the land.  There are a lot of reasons that the homesteaders failed but some of the reasons were the harsh elements, drought, disease, isolation, and the economic climate of the time.

Thought #1-  A Really Hard Life

Here is a family that homesteaded a claim in North Dakota. It must be summer, spring or fall in this picture.
How do I know this?

Because this is what winter looks like in North Dakota.  Let's go up to the roof for some fresh air.

Six kids in a tent house....makes you appreciate real walls, huh?

Lacy Goldthorpe was one of the single women that claimed land as a homesteader.  This is a picture taken around 1905 of her standing outside her shack.  She wrote " I was caught up in the excitement of the moment, I had no doubt but what I could prove up on the land as anyone else.  I had a little money saved and no fears of rural life. (Prove up was the term for  accomplishing the required steps of building a house, planting a crop and staying 5 years in order to get the title to the land)

Historians estimate that some 12 percent of homesteaders in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, North and South Dakota, and Utah were single women. Lured by the Homestead Act, which gave any 21-year-old who headed a household the right to homestead federal land, independent women crossed the country to become landowners. By the early 1900s, a woman could load her belongings on a train and in several days make a trip that once took months. When she arrived, a land-locator took her by wagon to find her claim.

Some of the states with the most AWFUL weather had the greatest numbers of homesteaders that managed to
stick it out for five years.  Go Montana!!!!    Makes me a little sorry
I didn't go homestead some acreage in Florida in the 1980's.

Thought Number Two: Why I Might Not Have Been a Good

It isn't the amount of work....it's having to wear layers
of petticoats and long dresses while working.

OK....It's about the amount of work, too. 

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Bodaciousboomer said...

A few thoughts-
1. Did you ever notice the people in the old photos are NEVER smiling?
2. I bet they never had a 7th child with 6 kids and no walls
3. Was that woman hauling buffalo chips?

Cheryl P. said...

1. I have noticed the "no smiling thing" as well. I wonder if there were rules about picture taking back then. heh heh.

2. I don't know about that, Michele. If she had a vote on the number of kids, I would think there wouldn't of been six until/unless PA built her a real house.

3. I am sure that is either cow or buffalo chips. They were used for burning. That is probably the early version of Glade. Nothing says home like the scent of burning dung.

AngelBaby said...

I thought that this was such a romantic era that I wanted to try it in our modern day world. So for two years, we grew all of our food, I made everyone's clothes, I cut everyone's hair, I made all of our food including bread from scratch and I canned all of our fruit and vegetables. If you are wondering why only two years, I was worn out! I went to work for a vacation!

The people of that era worked so hard it is no wonder they died so young. I still find them amazing.

Here's your click ...............

Love and Blessings,

Wolfbernz said...

Hi Cheryl,

Wow, I had no idea that the homesteading act lasted as long as it did! Kudos to all those young women who went out there and stuck it out and claimed their piece of land and made it!


Trina said...

How cool! What an awesome task to accomplish back then, especially for a single woman :)

Clicks for you and thanks for the history lesson!

Cheryl P. said...

When we were starting out I sewed a lot of our clothes, baked everything from scratch, and canned things from our garden as well. I think it was just a different time and people still did that sort of thing. It wasn't exclusive though. I bought things as well.

I never attempted to cut anyone's hair as I can't be trusted with scissors around anyone's hair.

You're right, the longevity of those pioneers was very short. Hard lives for sure.

Grandpa said...

Neat post, seems like glorious times, until you see or hear of the hard times.
Those that stuck by it were rewarded.
Couple of thoughts...with that amount of work, NO WONDER they did not smile.....
and I'm a thinkin that if they would have all had a fluffy red comforter to use, they would have had a little smirk or smile.....
And burnt cow crap stinks...may be warm, but it stinks...

Cheryl P. said...

I was really surprised by that. Why weren't we all filing claims in the 80's (of course, that implies you were over 21 years old before 1986 as I was) The last man to file a claim actually filed before the deadline but got his deed in 1988. Not a bad deal to get 160 acres free for living on it 5 years.

Cheryl P. said...

I was really surprised at the number of single women homesteaders. Pretty impressive that so many women not only did it but stuck it out and got deeds.

Cheryl P. said...

You and that d*** blanket. They would have had layers of hand made quilts that the women stitched up between working the fields, cooking, cleaning and having babies. In the winter in ND maybe buring cow poo was preferable to freezing one's butt off, I suspect. I am glad to not the them.

L.C. Griffith said...

I can't imagine being a single woman back then and proving up the land. Good God! And sitting on the roof is not my idea of a night out LOL!!! Good one Cheryl. I really admire our ancestors.

Cheryl P. said...

I can't imagine it either. I can hardly imagine myself as a single person in the 21st century as I am the type to be married, I think.

I definitely am NOT the type to stick it out for 5 years when I have to dig myself out and sit on my roof. Call me a wimp but I need not to have snow deeper than my home.

Linda Medrano said...

I would have just worked at the saloon.

Cheryl P. said...

I think you have the best idea. There would be some fun there, I would hope. Unfortunately for me, I would probably be the town's school marm. Or.... like the lady in the picture....I'd be the woman picking up the cow pies for the fire.