“Miss Mary Longfellow holding down a claim west of Broken Bow, Nebraska
(image credit: nps.gov)

“In about a week we had a cabin ready to move into. It had a dirt floor and dirt roof, but I tacked muslin overhead and put down lots of hay and spread a rag carpet on the floor. I put the tool chest, the trunks, the goods box made into a cupboard, and the beds all around the wall to hold down the carpet, as there was nothing to tack it to. The beds had curtains and there was a curtained alcove between the beds that made a good dressing room. So we were real cozy and comfortable.”

–Emma Hill

Under the Homestead Act of 1862 and its revisions, over 1 million applicants received a plot of land from the Federal government.  Thousands of the homesteaders were women.   They were black and they were white.  Some were recent immigrants from Europe.   Some were looking for husbands, others had left husbands, or lost them to death, divorce, or desertion.  Quite a few had no interest at all in a husband.  But they all worked hard to “prove up” their homesteads.

And most of them realized that the land they were claiming had been home to Native people for centuries.

Further Listening and Reading:

Pre-Columbian Cultures and Civilizations, The History of North America Podcast

Women of the Frontier : 16 Tales of Trailblazing Homesteaders, Entrepreneurs, And Rabble-Rousers by Brandon Marie Miller

Before Wyoming: American Indian Geography and Trails

African American Homesteaders in the Great Plains

Journals, Diaries, and Letters Written by Women on the Oregon Trail 1836-1865

Land of The Burnt Thigh: A Lively Story of Women Homesteaders on the South Dakota Frontier by Edith E. Kohl

The Journals of Lewis and Clark

Mark Soldier Wolf: Northern Arapaho Past and Present

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