Homestead National Monument of America
National Park Service Arrowhead Emblem

April Newsletter
News from the Homestead
  _Find Your Park_ Logo

This April we celebrate the arrival of Spring, as the prairie bursts into life. April also marks the celebration of National Park Week, from April 18th through the 26th. It is a wonderful time to reflect on the more than 400 National Parks across the country, and their natural, cultural, and historic significance. 

We hope that all of our visitors, colleagues, and friends enjoy a safe, healthy Spring season.

Mark Engler, Superintendent
Homestead National Monument of America - Public Health Update

Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health authorities in consultation with NPS Public Health Service Officers, Homestead National Monument of America's Heritage Center and Education Center are closed until further notice. Where it is possible to adhere to the latest health guidance, grounds, trails, and picnic areas will remain open during daylight hours to provide healthy options for the public to enjoy. Updates will be posted to the park website and social media channels. 

Needing to get outside? Three  miles of trails await you at Homestead National Monument of America! Choose a trail that interests you, such as the woodland loop, which explores the lowland burr oak forest, or the upland prairie loop which winds through the 100 acres of restored tallgrass prairie.

While the buildings at Homestead remained closed, the trails and picnic areas are open daylight hours. A map of the trail system is available on our website  here - just remember to practice social distancing (keeping a distance of six feet and avoiding large gatherings) and be aware of CDC guidance and NPS Public Health Service recommendations.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
    • Wash with soap and water to destroy the virus. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.
    • While an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60%-95% alcohol can be used, it's best to reserve those resources for work locations where soap and water are not readily available.
    • If your hands are visibly dirty, soap and water should be used rather than hand sanitizer.
  • As always, it is especially important to clean hands after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. Regular household cleaners will destroy the virus.
  • The CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
  • Most importantly, stay home when you are sick in order to avoid exposing others.
Remember - practice social distancing (6 feet), and respect a safe distance with all wildelife! (300 feet). 

The Surprising Tale of One Man's Two Homesteads

The story of homesteading in America began with the 1862 Homestead Act. But over 50 years later, it had become much more complicated with the continuing passage of numerous additional federal laws that variously changed homesteading requirements. Some post-1862 homestead laws were enacted just for specific states or regions, while others addressed special needs or unusual circumstances not foreseen in 1862. I cannot do justice in a short article to the amazing array of changes that transformed homesteading in America over the course of its long history, but I can provide an intriguing example that illustrates how usual it had become by the early 1920s. It is the story of how two different types of homesteads could be patented to the same man on the same day for a total of 640 acres. And as unlikely as it first sounds, it was all quite legal and was done under homestead laws that didn't exist in 1862.
First, let me introduce you to the "double-homesteader": Mr. Frank John Wolf (1884-1960). He was born on February 4, 1884 at Hamtramck, Wayne County, Michigan, and died December 26, 1960 at Boyne City, Michigan (per his wife's obituary with Find A Grave reporting a different death date). He was the son of John Peter Wolf (1857-1923), who was a son of German immigrants who had settled in Michigan. Frank's mother was Victoria (Carreyn) Wolf (1858-1925), an immigrant from Belgium. In 1900, according to the federal census, Frank Wolf was a teenager attending school. He was living with his parents, two sisters, and his grandfather Wolf, a widower, on a farm in Oceana County, Michigan.
Sometime prior to the summer of 1916, Frank Wolf arrived in northwestern Montana in Valley County and took up homesteading. According to his W.W. I draft registration record dated September 9, 1918, his address was Thoeny, Valley County, Montana. It also noted that he was of medium height and medium build, with blue eyes and brown hair. By that time, he had been homesteading nearby for nearly a year. However, the same 1918 draft registration form also listed him with the occupation of "Traveler" for "R. G. Dun & Co.," with his place of employment listed as: "State of Montana." This was a large credit reporting company that later merged to become today's Dun & Bradstreet, a worldwide financial firm. Exactly what he was doing for the company is uncertain, but probably his "travels" for this company had somehow brought him to Valley County, Montana where he decided to homestead. Indeed, he would receive two homesteads on June 6, 1921 under two different homestead laws.
First, I will discuss his agricultural homestead filed under the 1862 Homestead Act. It was for 320 acres, which was allowable for a homestead in Montana at this time, so double the usual size of 160 acres. This change occurred with the passage of the 1909 Enlarged Homestead Act that applied not only to Montana but also to certain other states that had mostly drier lands left for homesteaders to claim by the early 20th century. It was felt that more land was needed in such drier areas to make a successful farm.
Frank Wolf's homestead claim was on treeless, largely rolling grassland with some rocky areas in far northern Valley County, Montana. His land was around 10 miles south of the Canadian border and was subject to cold winter weather and sometimes short growing seasons. His homestead casefile in the National Archives noted that he initiated his claim at the U.S. Land Office in Glasgow, Montana on November 23, 1917. The same homestead casefile includes many more records that tell the story of his efforts to gain title to the land, including his last written statements in July of 1920 made when proving up his claim. They chronicle his actions since first filing a claim on the land, with the details he and two supporting witnesses provided becoming his final evidence ("proof") to legally justify receiving the land. Among what he wrote was that he began living on the land in a tent "about July 15, 1916," while building a frame house of 10 x 12 feet in size. He also reported that he constructed a half-mile long fence "of cedar posts and barb wire."
When answering a question about the amount of time he spent living away from his homestead, he told of being absent only for the usual permissible periods-not more than 5 months total during each year starting in 1917 through 1920. He further noted that all absences were "for the purpose of earning money to improve [the] land." In total, he reported placing 40 acres under cultivation, which was the minimum amount needed to get a 320-acre homestead, namely to farm one-eighth of land being claimed as a homestead.
But soon after Frank began living in his small homestead shack in the "last week of November 1916," as he also reported when proving-up, a new type of homestead law was passed that was much different than any before it. It was the Stock-Raising Homestead Act of December 29, 1916, and under it, a person could claim up to 640 acres of land.
For all prior homestead laws, the requirements always included cultivation of the land for the raising of harvestable crops. But the novel 1916 Stock-Raising Homestead Act did not mandate that. Instead, it was written to provide settlers with land judged "chiefly valuable for grazing and raising forage crops." Further, according to the new law, these lands were not to contain "merchantable timber" and could not be "susceptible for irrigation from any known source of water supply, and are of such character that six hundred and forty acres are reasonably required for the support of a family." Uniquely, this new homestead law also allowed homesteaders under the 1862 Homestead Act to relinquish their former homesteads and apply for new and larger homesteads under the 1916 law.
But soon two amendments to the 1916 Stock-Raising Homestead Act made it even more attractive for homesteaders like Frank Wolf to apply. First, on October 25, 1918, the law was amended so that "no residence shall be required on such additional entry if the entryman owns and is residing on his former entry." And second, on September 29, 1919, new terms were added to the 1916 law enabling existing homesteaders, like Frank Wolf, to claim additional contiguous land, and even noncontiguous land, to add to their existing homesteads. And it further applied to homesteaders with both pending and patented homesteads.
This was a perfect fit for Frank Wolf! He wouldn't have to build a second homestead house or struggle to cultivate more land that was already very challenging to farm. Instead, he could claim more acreage and use it to potentially expand his livestock business that was already part of his farming venture.
Thus, on October 16, 1919, less than a month after this second amendment to the 1916 Stock-Raising Homestead Act was passed, Frank Wolf filed for an additional 320-acre Stock-Raising Homestead on land that adjoined his first homestead claim. Together, the two homesteads took up an entire 640-acre section of land (a square mile), which was Section 9 in Township 36 North, Range 36 East. His new obligations to get the second homestead, termed a homestead "addition" to his first homestead in some of the paperwork by the General Land Office, was to accomplish improvements that would help him raise horses and cattle. And more fencing would count.
Part of the process in making the second homestead claim was petitioning that the land would be qualified for patent under the 1916 Act, which included determining that it had "no streams, springs, or bodies of water, or irrigation ditches on or adjacent to the land" that otherwise would have made farming feasible. With that determined in his favor, and with Frank Wolf meeting other requirements of the 1916 law, on June 6, 1921, his second homestead for stock-raising was awarded to him. And it was done on the very same day as his other 320-acre agricultural homestead, with both given consecutive patent numbers by the General Land Office.
So, what happened to Frank's two homesteads? His homestead casefile in the National Archives reports that even before he received title to the square-mile of public land, he had taken out a mortgage for $100 on it, from the First National Bank in Hinsdale, Montana. This suggests that he might have been operating with limited money and perhaps had little to tide him over if financial problems arose. And unfortunately, they did.
Much of Montana, including Valley County, was entering a drouth cycle that started in the later 1910s. Consequently, farming was becoming ever more challenging as a way to make a reliable living. In his "proving up" statements, Frank reported how he was affected by the low rainfall and even missed complying on time with one requirement to get his 320-acre agricultural homestead. He reported: "1919 was a year of extreme drouth in the vicinity of this land. I could have applied for a 'drouth leave of absence,' but I wanted to cultivate the required area. I kept trying but could not break the sod as it was so dry. I had hired men to do the breaking for me but owing to the drouth they could not." Wolf 's statement was accepted by the General Land Office officials, and he did get his land. But the drouth would continue and worsen. Ultimately, it helped drive him from Montana.
An article printed on December 22, 1922 in "The Glasgow Courier" newspaper of Glasgow, Montana (p. 11), listed that Frank J. Wolf was delinquent in paying Valley County, Montana real estate tax on his two homesteads. I haven't determined what the outcome of that was, but it sounded potentially troubling if not ominous.
A month before the public announcement of his delinquent taxes, another major change happened. It was Frank Wolf's marriage at age 38, which ended forever his bachelor life. That development, added to the growing uncertainly about being able to sustain a farm in Montana in the ever-drier years of the later 1910s and early 1920s, led to his leaving northeastern Montana and never returning.
Frank Wolf married November 22, 1921 in Portland, Indiana to Adah L. Powell (1888-1961). This was less than 6 months after his two Montana homesteads were patented to him, and he may already have left Montana before he and Adah exchanged vows. It is unclear how and when he met her, but in 1920, she was reported as a 31-year-old "traveling sales lady" for some type of art firm. She was then living with her parents in the town of Portland, Indiana.
Following their marriage, Frank and Adah Wolf remained in Portland, Indiana, staying there into 1923. Afterward, they lived in Chicago and Detroit (where Frank's parents were living in 1920) before moving to Boyne City, Michigan in 1937 (as reported in Adah's 1961 obituary). The 1930 federal census, taken as the United States was slipping deeper into the Great Depression, reported Frank and Adah as living in Detroit. His occupation at that time was listed as "Reporter" for a mercantile agency, and the home they owned on Gratiot Avenue was valued at $20,000.
In 1942, when Frank registered for the draft during W.W. II (though he not called to serve), he and his wife were listed as still living in Boyne City, Michigan, as they also were when the 1940 federal census was taken. Frank was then 58 and noted to be without an employer, so may have been retired. It appears that he and Adah lived the remainder of their lives in Boyne City, Michigan. They had no children, and both passed way in the early 1960s. In his later years, we can only wonder what Frank Wolf may have wistfully talked about concerning his earlier days struggling in remote northeastern Montana to prove up on two homesteads on the same day, now nearly a century ago.

NPGallery - Homestead's New Digital Archive!

The NPGallery website, showing Homestead's digital archives.

NPGallery is online repository for the National Park Service to store, easily find, and retrieve digital items, including photos, audio files, videos, and documents. Homestead has worked with NPGallery to create a custom page for our file. This includes custom fields and dropdown menus for the collections from our park. Each item found on NPGallery has a direct link that can be shared, and multiple file sizes are available for use and download.

The Homestead Digital Archive site currently houses four park collections:

Homestead NM Photo Archive

Homestead National Monument was established as a unit of the National Park Service on March 19, 1936 on the site of Daniel Freeman's homestead. It is a site commemorating the lives and accomplishments of all pioneers and changes to the land and people brought about by the Homestead Act. The mission of the park from its enabling legislation is to be a "...monument to retain for posterity a proper memorial emblematical of the hardships and the pioneer life through which the early settlers passed in the settlement, cultivation and civilization of the Great West."
This collection contains photographs related to all of the functions of the park. Some subjects include the buildings and grounds of the monument, construction projects, special events, and interpretive programs.

Homestead NM Museum Collection

Homestead National Monument of America has over 9,000 archaeological artifacts, over 6,700 historical objects, over 1,000 scientific specimens and over 928,000 archival documents or 580 linear feet. The collection size for Homestead National Monument of America is over 944,000 items! Historical objects range from plows to modern trapping equipment from Alaskan homesteads. There are 123 years between the first homesteader, Daniel Freeman, and the last homesteader, Kenneth Deardorff. The needs of the homesteader did not change dramatically, but the technology did.

Dempster Mill Manufacturing Company Archive, 1878-2010

Charles B. Dempster founded the Dempster Mill Manufacturing Company in Beatrice, Nebraska in 1878. Dempster began making agricultural equipment for farmers and homesteaders populating the west. Dempster Mill Manufacturing Company is the longest running windmill manufacturer in the United States. The Dempster Mill Manufacturing Company archival collection consists of records related to how the company ran, the people working there, and the products they made.

Lillian Higgins Glass Plate Negatives

In 1899 Lillian Wilkinson, her parents, and five siblings mov ed to Sheridan County, Nebraska to homestead. The children continued receiving their education in Gage County, Nebraska and spent their summers in Sheridan County. After finishing her schooling, Lillian Wilkinson taught in Sheridan County, Nebraska and homesteaded on her own claim. She proved up on her claim in 1914. Three years later, she married Jesse Higgins and moved back to Gage County, Nebraska. These glass plate negatives have been reversed to show the positive print of the image. They depict life in Gage County where she went to school and later raised her family as well as homesteading life in Sheridan County. The images were primarily taken between 1900-1910.
We hope to add many more files to this digital archive to help the public learn, explore, and research the park digitally. This includes adding the thousands of scanned historic photos from the Senior Ranger Volunteer project. 

Check out the archive at   

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

Stay in touch with us all the time! 

Like us on Facebook  
Follow us on Twitter
Follow us on   
Contact Us
Homestead National Monument of America
Upcoming Events
Special Events and Exhibits at Homestead National Monument of America:

Hiking Trails, picnic areas, and other outdoor spaces remain open dawn to dusk. though the Heritage Center, Education Center, Palmer-Epard Cabin, and Freeman School are currently closed, watch for daily digital programming!

Digital Ranger Led Content on posts daily on Facebook at 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Content is also available on Youtube, Twitter, and Instagram.You can access all of those social media accounts using the link at the bottom of this newsletter. Follow along and enjoy a wide variety of programming including videos, songs, behind-the-scenes tours, and much more!

If you have any questions, please call the monument at (402)223-3514,  or you can reach out to those social media accounts.

To learn more about events visit:
Homestead Digital / Social Media Content and Education Opportunities! 

Though Homestead National Monument of America has closed down the Heritage Center and Education Center until further notice, that doesn't mean you can't still explore your National Parks - rangers at Homestead  are going digital with interpretive programs and other great content! 

For the foreseeable future, each day at 1:00 P.M. CST we will be offering some virtual opportunities to learn about the Homestead Act of 1862 through our social media channels! We will begin with a 7-part series that focuses on the stories of Homesteaders and the far-reaching impacts of the land law.

View part one here, and follow the links to access the rest of the series!

Ranger Jesse providing a distance learning program.

Attention Educators!

Even though you are not in school we are able to bring your students together through Zoom for live interactive learning. To learn about these distance learning opportunities through Homestead National Monument you can visit  this link.

Students are able to connect with any device that has audio and video! If desired, they can connect to just the audio via phone. Currently, you may schedule a session Monda y through Friday, after 12:30 pm CDT.
Scheduling allows for only one classroom at a time (30 students or less). The teacher is expected to join as well and be in charge of their classroom, calling on students to answer questions posed by the ranger. As the schedule allows there can be up to 15 minutes before and after the presentation for the teacher to interact with the students.

Please email [email protected] with any questions.

Celebrating Arbor Day with a Homesteader's Apple Tree!

Did you know that Nebraska is the home of Arbor Day? J. Sterling Morton, of Nebraska City, proposed to the State Board of Agriculture that April 10, 1872 be dedicated to planting trees across the state. The board adopted the resolution, and more than a million trees were planted in Nebraska!

Homestead National Monument of America has been working with Wind Cave National Park, in South Dakota, to save an apple tree originally planted by a homesteader their orchard there in the 1920s. If you have ever accessed the Homestead Land Entry Case Files, you may have noticed - many, many homesteaders across the nation planted their own orchards!

 We have been working with Wind Cave to acquire a cutting of this historic homesteader heirloom apple variety to add to our own orchards at Homestead National Monument of America! The tree may be preserved through grafting.  Two types of grafting could work: whip grafting using whips or shoots from the canopy in winter; or by bud grafting using a single bud from the canopy in summer.  For whip grafting, approximately 6" minimum length of young shoots is needed.  This may be difficult if the old tree has little vigor, and has almost no new growth.  In this case, bud grafting may be most feasible, as the tree is likely to bear at least 1"-2" of new growth, and that small amount of growth will have a bud or two.

What better way to celebrate Arbor Day at Homestead National Monument of America, than to preserve an original homesteader's orchard!

Ranger Jesse's Natural Resource Musings

Harbingers of spring... Every person/family has their own significant arrival. For many it is seeing flocks of American Robins, others it is when you awake to the Redwing Blackbird, and others it may be the deafening call of the Chorus Frogs. For our family it is when the 13-lined ground squirrels make their appearance.   In our house they are not called 13-lined ground squirrels though.   In our house my wife brought the Czech word for the 13-lined ground squirrel to our house that is pronounced sis-lek. But is "sis-lek" really a Czech word? When searching for how to spell the word I was not able to find it on-line, when I asked my father-in-law he was not sure so he called his sister.   She looked it up in her Czech dictionary, no luck.   Same for my sister-in-law.

So what was supposed to be a fun article about the amazing 13-lined ground squirrel has now turned into quest to figure out to figure out how to spell "sis-lek" and the origin of the word.   It seems like a word that was created by Nebraska Czechs once they got here.

Image of baby "sis-leks" taken in June as they emerge to discover how to find seeds on their own.

The "sis-lek" is one of the few true hibernators at Homestead. In October it curls up into a hard ball and slows its respiratory rate from 100-200 breaths per minute down to one every five minutes.   In the spring when they emerge you can often hear their bird like calls as it stands like a picket pin (another common name for the "sis-lek").   A picket pin is the stake that is driven into the ground to tie a horse. At our house they appreciate the messy birds scattering seeds on the ground and can often be seen feeding beneath the bird feeder.  

If you want to see a "sis-lek" at Homestead hang out between the cabin and the Heritage Center. While enjoying the excellent views you may hear a new "bird" and then I hope you remember the story of the confused Ranger who can't figure out how to spell "sis-lek" and is too lazy to say 13-lined ground squirrel every time he encounters one.

If anyone can help him in this mystery or has other names for Ictidomys tridecemlineatus (formerly Spermophilus tridecemlineatus) please let us know at [email protected].

National Park Week 2020, April 18th - 26th

Each April, during the presidentially proclaimed National Park Week, we join with the  National Park Foundation , the official fundraiser for America's national parks, to celebrate America's treasures. National Park Week is a time to explore amazing places, discover stories of history and culture,  help out , and  find your park .

Get ready to celebrate National Park Week 2020 from  April 18 to 26.  Parks across the country host a variety of special programs and events with  a focus on digital experiences in 2020 . To kick off National Park Week, all  entrance fees are waived  on Saturday, April 18. There are also special days during the week to highlight the different ways everyone can enjoy national parks.

April 18th - National Junior Ranger Day: Calling kids of all ages. Get ready to "explore, learn, and protect" while earning your Junior Ranger (or Not-So-Junior Ranger!) badge. You can complete your Junior Ranger book while social distancing! Download it here: 

April 19th -  Volunteer Day: Did you know about the Volunteers-in-Parks (VIP) program? It is a National Park Service-wide program that allows individuals to play an active role in helping protect and share America's national treasures! Contact the monument to learn how you can get involved in a wide range of activities. From working with field trips, going behind the scenes with museum and archival collections, to working with the tallgrass prairie and natural resources - there is something for everyone! Contact [email protected] to learn about social distancing-friendly volunteer opportunities, including electronic and remote options.

April 20th - Military Monday: Recognizing the service and sacrifice of the U.S. military and their families, discover connections and opportunities. Remember - active duty military is eligible for a free Military Interagency Pass. Learn more at 

April 21st - Transportation Tuesday: Innovation of the past, present, and future play a critical role in the enjoyment and stewardship of National Parks. Visit the Heritage Center to see the Last Homesteader's Tractor, and learn about innovation and transportation under the Homestead Act!

April 22nd - Earth Day: This year marks the 50th anniversary of celebrating Earth Day! Learn all about the National Park Service's role in resource protection, conservation, and earth sciences, as well as how you can get involved as a steward of the parks.

April 23rd - Throwback Thursday: Flash back to the past and learn more about the efforts to preserve America's cultural and historic heritage in parks and communities around the country.

April 24th - 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. It's also a great opportunity to learn more about the Friends of Homestead organization.

April 25th - Park Rx Day: Enjoy the physical and mental health benefits that can be experienced in National Parks, as part of the Healthy Parks, Healthy People initiative - a global movement that harnesses the power of parks and public lands as a health resource. Though the buildings at the monument are closed, the grounds themselves are open to enjoy. Come soak up the beauty of the tallgrass prairie in Spring!

Maintenance Corner - Recent and Upcoming Projects

We're grateful for all the hard work the Maintenance Division puts in here at Homestead, and we love sharing a "behind the scenes" look so you can see what they're up to!

Homestead has been working on a project to repair shutters and windows at the Freeman School, a one-room schoolhouse in use from 1872 to 1967 - when the Freeman School closed, it was the oldest continuously operating one-room school in Nebraska! 
Homestead turned to expert craftsmen at Ratigan-Schottler, a Beatrice-based company that manufactures and restores wooden courtroom and church furniture.
To learn more, check out this video by 1011 News and PureNebraska

Looking to enjoy the beautiful Spring weather? Are you a fan of riding your bike? We've just installed a Bike Repair Station at the pathway leading up to the Heritage Center. This deluxe stand provides all the tools you may need when you're out riding. It includes the following tools: a  Phillips and standard screwdrivers, steel core tire levers, headset/pedal wrench, 8/10mm cone wrench, 9/11mm cone wrench, torn t-25, and a hex key set. There is also a a tire pump with gauge attached. 
Image of the newly installed Bike Repair Station at the Heritage Center

Other upcoming projects throughout the park include replacing all split-rail fencing throughout the park - a total of more than 5,000 feet of fencing! Another project will be the installation of two grills at the park, including one at the Education Center. When you visit this summer, keep an eye out and you may see the maintenance division hard at work with these and other projects!.