Homestead National Monument of America
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April Newsletter
News from the Homestead
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This month, we celebrate several exciting events, including National Park Week and National Volunteer Week! 

We also remember one of the most iconic scenes in the popular consciousness of homesteading - the famous Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889, which began 130 years ago this month (April 22, 1889). We are excited for the Spring school groups and upcoming special programming.

We hope that all of our visitors, colleagues, and friends will enjoy this upcoming Spring season!

Mark Engler, Superintendent
Dust, Drought, and Dreams Gone Dry Exhibit Arrives!

Homestead National Monument of America is proud to exhibit Dust, Drought, and Dreams Gone Dry in the Education Center from April through June. This exhibit on the Dust Bowl on loan from the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City. Dust, Drought, and Dreams Gone Dry features oral histories on Women of the Dust Bowl, in addition to the broader story of the human and ecological consequences of one of America's most disastrous environmental experiences.

The Dust Bowl is intricately linked to the story of homesteading. For decades, homesteaders increasingly intensified their farming efforts in the area formerly referred to as the Great American Desert. The millions of Americans attempting to "prove up" their homestead claims between 1863 and the 1930s were optimistic. They were told by scientists and experts that "Rain Follows the Plow" - that their farming would fundamentally alter the ecology of the region, bringing all-important rains. In wetter, more prosperous years farmers were able to succeed, aided by high demand for crops in Europe during World War I. Wheat exports rose tenfold between 1908 and 1918, as prices, demand, and production all soared - until the war ended, leaving surpluses from enormous wartime level productions.

The intense farming had taken a toll on the land. The combination of several factors including plowing over and destroying prairie grasses, over-planting, wind erosion, and depleting the soil sowed the seeds for ecological disaster. When a long drought in the late 1920s and early 1930s struck, it set off a chain reaction - lean years from the Great Depression combined with the Dust Bowl to chase hundreds of thousands out of the Great Plains, including large numbers of homesteaders.

Come learn more about the Dust Bowl and those who endured it at the Dust, Drought, and Dreams Gone Dry exhibit, at the Homestead National Monument of America for a limited time!

National Volunteer Week and "Volunteers of the Year" at Homestead National Monument of America

Homestead National Monument of America celebrates and recognizes the efforts of its volunteers, especially during National Volunteer Week (April 7-13, 2019)! Volunteers are critical to the health and well-being of Homestead National Monument of America. Last year, the park called on 804 individual volunteers-called "VIPs" or "Volunteers in Parks"-to help with a variety of events, school groups, research projects, grounds and building care, and more.
Altogether, the volunteers supplied 24,375 hours of volunteer time to Homestead National Monument of America. These volunteers do a great service for the park, and, by extension, for their community and for their Nation. Every November, we recognize one of these volunteers as the park's "Volunteer of the Year."  

Park Staff and Volunteers at 2018 Pioneer Days

Would you like to volunteer at Homestead National Monument of America? If so, there's lots of amazing things to work on! To learn more about Homestead National Monument of America, its mission, and its volunteer opportunities, visit our website at or give us a call at 402-223-3514.

While most people know how homesteading officially started, with the signing of the 1862 Homestead Act by President Lincoln, and the first homestead claims being allowed starting January 1, 1863, fewer know how it ended.  
The possibility to file for a new homestead claim in the United States ended in the mid-1930s, except for Alaska and within a few special reclamation projects areas in dry land regions.  It happened as the result of the passage of the Taylor Grazing Act, approved June 28, 1934.  This law permitted 80 million acres of public lands to be placed into grazing districts with the land thereafter no longer open for homesteading.  Under this act, President Franklin Roosevelt withdrew all public lands in the western United States for classification as part of grazing districts within months after passage of the 1934 law.  He did it by issuing two Executive Orders: E.O. 6910 on November 26, 1934, and E.O. 6964 on February 5, 1935.  After February 5, 1934, the ability to file a new homestead claim was diminished, though not over, in the contiguous United States.   
So, what led to the passage of the 1934 Taylor Grazing Act?  This law, and the two Executive Orders implementing it, were a recognition that virtually all of the federal lands suitable for creating sustainable, individually-owned, family farms, except in Alaska, had already been claimed by homesteaders.  What remained were lands thought better suited, in large part, only for grazing purposes.
But there was another event, less known, that happened at this time that adds perspective to what was otherwise going on for some homesteaders in the 1930s.  It was the passage of the final homestead law that applied to all of the United States.  It was approved on May 21, 1934, just five weeks prior to the Taylor Grazing Act.  
This last national homestead act is referred to as the 1934 Homesteaders' Relief Act.  It was stated to be "an act granting a leave of absence to settlers of homestead lands during the years 1932, 1933, and 1934."  Its purpose was to help homesteaders stressed by the Great Depression to not lose their homesteads.  The law temporarily allowed extra time to prove up on homestead claims by those homesteaders who had "to seek employment in order to obtain the necessities of life for himself and/or family, or to provide for  the education of his children."
Although that was helpful for some people, the 1934 homestead law didn't wave any of the requirements for homesteading.  Instead, it only allowed a reasonable delay in their fulfillment, with the local land office left to determine if the homesteader was acting in good faith in wanting extra time to prove up.  And to help establish the truth of the matter, the distressed homesteaders' claims had to be corroborated by signed affidavits of "two disinterested persons." 
While this 1934 final national homestead act did aid some homesteaders of the mid-1930s keep their land, for others it didn't work or simply came too late.  Sadly, for many, the twin disasters of the Great Depression coupled with the effects of the Dust Bowl were just too overwhelming to successfully prove up on their homesteads.  Consequently, they were forced to abandon their claims.  
But the problems of the Great Depression years also affected many homesteaders throughout the nation who had already gotten patent to their homesteads.  Some tried to sell out, usually at rock-bottom prices.  Or unable to do that, others simply moved away and abandoned the land to their debtors including the county for failure to pay property taxes.  Still other homesteaders did everything possible to hang on, hoping to get at least some money eventually for their land and the years of work they put in to get it.
In 1937, the passage of new law provided help for some of the tenacious homesteaders just barely able to hang on.  Yet it was the exact opposite of a homestead law.  It was the 1937 Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act, approved July 22, 1937.  Until a 1962 amendment changed this law, it authorized the federal government to acquire damaged lands to rehabilitate and then use them for various purposes.  Under this act, certain privately owned homesteads were bought up by the federal government from their distressed owners and added back into federal ownership.  This happened in hundreds of cases resulting in certain patented homesteads in Montana and in other western states being bought by the federal government and returned to federal ownership.  Today, some of these "Bankhead-Jones homesteads," as they are sometimes called, are still managed by the Bureau of Land Management

Bookstore Highlight:
Reopening the Frontier: Homesteading in the Modern West 
by Brian Q. Cannon

Brian Cannon, professor of History at Brigham Young University, is the author of Reopening the Frontier: Homesteading the Modern West (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2009). Cannon presents the Homestead Act in the context of Frederick Jackson Turner's 1893 "Frontier Thesis" on the nature of the American West in the post-World War II years.

Between 1946 and 1966, the Bureau of Reclamation offered over 3,000 farms on public lands to returning servicemen. This "mini-land rush" serves in Cannon's work to represent the reopening of the Frontier that Frederick Jackson Turner had declared closed 50 years previously. Much like the previous land rushes and land lotteries with thousands of potential claimants, over 100,000 returning G.I.'s vied for these 3,000 farms. Cannon traces the new homesteaders' experiences in establishing a farm, "proving up," and gaining title to the land, contrasting the realities of modern homesteading with iconic views of the frontier.

Cannon will be visiting Homestead National Monument of America to present and sign copies of his book at the Homestead Education Center on Sunday, April 14 at 2 p.m. "The Homestead Act remained in effect until 1976 in the lower 48 states and in Alaska until 1986," said Homestead National Monument of America Superintendent Mark Engler.  "This later period of the Homestead Act, post-World War II, is often overlooked and we are pleased to host Brian and share this part of the homesteading story."

April 2019 Artist-in-Residence: Cara Calvert-Thomas

Cara Calvert-Thomas joins Homestead National Monument as the Artist-in-Residence from April 26th through May 9th. Cara is a painter, mixed-media artist, and art educator. A native of Anchorage, Alaska, she graduated from the University of Kansas in Lawrence. She has strong ties to the Great Plains, as the descendant of homesteaders in Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Her great-great-grandparents participated in the Cherokee Strip Land Rush in Oklahoma, and her family continues to farm their original homesteads.

These personal ties, along with Cara's love of nature and the great outdoors, led her to the artist-in-residency with Homestead National Monument. Cara's artistic methods and techniques during her stay focus on nature and landscapes found at the park, in addition to portraiture of indigenous peoples and notable homesteaders.

Cara will be providing a public presentation on Sunday, May 5th. She will lead an all-ages workshop where participants can create a landscape painting based off of images of the prairie, then collaging in black and white photographs of homesteaders, and providing guests with information about the inividuals in the photos.

Theresa Hottel will be with us between April 26 and May 9th. Stay posted for future artists-in-residence, including authors, painters, composers, and more!

Contact Us
Homestead National Monument of America
Upcoming Events
Special Exhibits at the Homestead Education Center:

April - June: Promontory Point Exhibit (Education Center)

April - June: Dust, Drought, and Dreams Gone Dry Exhibit (Education Center)

April 7th - 13th: National Volunteer Week

April 14th, 2 p.m.: Reopening the Frontier: Homesteading in the Modern West with historian Brian Cannon

April 20th, 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.: American Spring LIVE! 

April 20th - 28th: National Park Week

April 25th, 7 p.m.: Book Discussion with Beatrice Public Library - William G. Thomas, The Iron Way: Railroads, the Civil War, and the Making of Modern America.

April 29th - May 10th: Archaeological dig at Homestead National Monument with Midwest Archaeological Center.

To learn more about events visit:


American Spring Live at Homestead National Monument of America!


Celebrate the coming of spring with us and NET, Nebraska's PBS and NPR stations, during American Spring LIVE on Saturday, April 20, 2019. The grounds of Homestead National Monument of America will be "springing" with activity. The event will include numerous booths featuring: citizen science activities, crafts, and abundant information on the different citizen science organizations, their projects and how to get involved. It will also highlight the many ways Citizen Scientists can get involved right here at Homestead National Monument of America!

What is citizen science? It is an opportunity for people to get involved in science with organizations. Homestead National Monument of America  has several opportunities to get involved throughout the year, including water quality monitoring, butterfly monitoring, and bird, plant, and insect surveys.

Aspiring citizen scientists can also register at American Spring Live to participate in the Midwest Archeological Center's survey at Homestead National Monument of America on Friday, May 4, 2019.

American Spring Live Schedule for April 20, 2019

10 a.m.-4 p.m. Citizen Science Booths and Activities
8:00 p.m. Bird Walk
Homestead National Monument of America

9:00 a.m. Bird Walk Re-cap and eBird demonstration

10:00 a.m. Plant Walk
Homestead National Monument of America

10:30 a.m. SciStarter
Ali Mayes,
Nebraska Game and Parks

11:00 a.m. Plant Walk Re-cap and iNaturalist demonstration

11:30 a.m. The Great Sunflower Project
Dr. Shannon Bartelt-Hunt,
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

12:00 p.m. Entomology Walk
Homestead National Monument of America

12:30 p.m. Celebrate Urban Birds
Vikki Henry,
Wildlife Rescue Team, Inc.

1:00 p.m. Entomology Recap and iNaturalist demonstration

1:30 p.m. Lilac Watch
Merri Johnson,
Master Naturalist

2:00 p.m. Water Quality Macroinvertebrates
Homestead National Monument of America

2:30 p.m. Ornithology Bird Cams
Mike George,
Ducks Unlimited

3:00 p.m. Monarch Larva Monitoring Project
Jo Langabee, Butterflies in Season

3:30 p.m. Citizen Science at Homestead National Monument of America

National Park Week - April 20th to April 28th

Each April, during the presidentially-proclaimed National Park Week, the National Park Service joins with the National Park Foundation, to celebrate America's treasures at all 421 National Park Units. Come celebrate National Park Week 2019 with Homestead National Monument of America and enjoy a different theme each day of the week:

Saturday, April 20th - National Junior Ranger Day: Calling kids of all ages. Get ready to "explore, learn, and protect" while earning your Junior Ranger badge!

We'll be kicking off National Junior Ranger Day in conjunction with American Spring Live - aspiring Junior Rangers can come explore Homestead National Monument of America while learning how to become citizen scientists as well!

Sunday, April 21st - Military & Veterans Recognition Day: Recognizing the service and sacrifice of the US military and their families, discover connections and opportunities in parks.

Monday, April 22nd - Earth Day: Learn about the National Park Service's role in earth sciences and how you can get involved as a steward of the parks.

Tuesday, April 23rd - Transportation Tuesday: Innovation of the past, present, and future play a critical role in the enjoyment and stewardship of national parks. Visit the temporary exhibit in the Education Center to learn the story of Promontory Point and the 150th Anniversary celebration of the Transcontinental Railroad!

Wednesday, April 24th - Wild Wednesday: Embrace the wild side of national parks by exploring wilderness, wildlife, and wild experiences you can encounter.

Thursday, April 25th - Throwback Thursday: Flash back to the past and learn more about the efforts to keep the nation's historic heritage preserved in parks and communities. 

Friday, April 26th - Friendship Friday: We get by with a little help from our friends. Check out the ways groups are involved in protecting parks and providing opportunities.

Saturday, April 27th - BARK Ranger Day: Take your human for a walk in the park or learn how you can join the team of furriest rangers.

Sunday, April 28th - Park Rx Day: Doctor's orders: Get yourself to a park. Enjoy the physical and mental health benefits that can be experienced in national parks.

Artist in Residence Cara Calvert-Thomas will be providing a watercolor workshop for visitors Sunday, April 28th! In this free workshop, Cara will demonstrate how to create a watercolor painting of landscapes with famous Nebraskans and homesteaders interposed onto it.

Don't forget to get social: share your Homestead National Monument of America experiences and memories on social media during National Park Week using the hashtags #NationalParkWeek and #FindYourPark or #EncuentraTuParque  - Homestead National Monument of America will be launching selfie spots around the park!

Upcoming Maintenance Projects:

The recent flooding in March 2019 washed out a trail at Homestead National Monument. Maintenance projects to mitigate the damage include a trail relocation and fence installation along Cub Creek. The trail will be moved 10 to 15 feet east of the current trail, and approximately 500 feet of split rail fencing will be added for visitor safety. The recent flooding of Cub Creek washed out this portion of the trail, which has been closed since the middle of March. All other trails remain open.

Freeman School March 2019

Another maintenance project is ongoing at the Freeman School, where moisture contributed to warping of the floorboards. Homestead National Monument of America's Maintenance Division is hard at work to restore this prized cultural resource of the monument!

2019 Events Calendar Published

A close-up photograph on the wall of windows at the Homestead Heritage Center

Homestead  National Monument of America's 2019 Events Calendar has been published! If you're looking for something to do, look no further! The calendar, published below, can be accessed at any time from the park website, here. Be sure to check it out from time to time for updates!

2019 Schedule of Events

Special Exhibits at the Education Center

January-May: Promontory Point Exhibit 
April-June: "Dust, Drought, and Dreams Gone Dry"
April 29 - May 29: GeoAstroRV -  volunteers doing daily and nightly stargazing programs from the Heritage Center. - cloud cover and weather permitting
July-November: "Smoke Over Oklahoma: The Railroad Photographs of Preston George"
September-December: "Patchwork of the Prairie" Homesteader Quilts (auditorium)
November 23 - December 31: Winter Festival of Prairie Cultures


  14 Sun 2:00 p.m. Brian Cannon, Author: "Reopening the Frontier: Homesteading in the  Modern West"
19-20 Fri-Sun 10 - 4 p.m. Junior Ranger Weekend
20 Sat 7-3 p.m. American Spring LIVE!!! Bioblitz
20-28 Sat-Sun 2:00 p.m. National Park Week 
28 Sun 2 - 3 p.m. Artist-in-Residence Program: Cara Calvert Thomas
29-30 Sun-Mon 10-3 p.m. Archeological Survey by Midwest Archeological Center


  1-10 10-3 p.m. Archeological Survey by Midwest Archeological Center
3 & 4 Fri-Sat 7:00 a.m. Birds & Bagels
4 Fri 1 - 4 p.m. - Midwest Archeological Center 50th Anniversary Public Archeology Event 
5 Sun 2 - 3 p.m. 150th Anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad with author Jim Reisdorff, "Undriving of the Golden Spike"
19 Sun 2 - 3 p.m. Artist-in-Residence Program: Dr. Jeffrey Lockwood
25 Sat 10:00 a.m. Tallgrass Prairie Fiddle Festival - Free Workshop
25 Sat 12:00 p.m. Tallgrass Prairie Fiddle Festival - Competition 
30 Thurs 7:00 p.m. Musical Quilters Play in Partnership with Area Arts Groups


_ 2 Sun 
9 Sun 2 - 3 p.m. Artist-in-Residence Program:  Benjamin Justis
21-23 Fri - Sun 40th Annual Homestead Days

You don't have to feel as disconnected as the first homesteaders did.

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