Homestead National Monument of America
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June Newsletter
News from the Homestead
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During the upcoming summer months, we invite you to come experience first-hand many of the recreation and education opportunities found within Homestead National Monument of America.  Recreation possibilities include: watching wildlife, hiking, picnicking or exploring our museum areas and historic buildings.
Friday, June 21st through Sunday, June 23rd we will be hosting Homestead Days!  Forty years ago park staff presented the very first Homestead Days. Today, just like back then, Homestead Days includes traditional arts and craft demonstrators, music, and dance.  If the many, many program opportunities at Homestead have you looking for more, you will want to get your Homestead Days Official Program to learn about scheduled activities throughout the community: parade, fireworks, barbeques, car show, runs, games, and more. 
Friday, June 14th, Flag Day, we will be welcoming over 30 new United States Citizens as we host a Naturalization Ceremony.  If you have not ever attended one of these programs; you will want to join us and experience why these ceremonies are on many peoples bucket list as a must do event.   
In  addition to  the public programs mentioned above our staff and volunteers will be working on the various projects including removing thickets and other invasive plants from the tallgrass prairie, organizing historic records or being proactive in the care and maintenance of the buildings and grounds within Homestead National Monument of America. 
We look forward to seeing you at Homestead National Monument of America.

Mark Engler, Superintendent
Join Us for the 40th Annual Homestead Days!

Enjoy free shows and craft demonstrations!

Homestead Days 2019 is coming soon! This will be the 40 th  anniversary of the annual event and we invite you to Homestead National Monument of America on Friday, June 21, 2019 through Sunday, June 23, 2019 to participate in this weekend full of free events!

During each of the three days, traditional craft demonstrators will showcase their skills from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Craft demonstrations include spinning, weaving, quilting, blacksmithing, dutch oven cooking, and much more!

This year's stage presentations will feature music and dance from the various cultures that immigrated to the United States under the Homestead Act. Each of the three days will have a different lineup of performers.

This year's stage presentations will feature music and dance from the various cultures impacted by the Homestead Act. Each of the three days will have a different lineup of performers:

Friday, June 21
10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Traditional craft demonstrations
10 a.m. Miss 'V' the Cowgirl-interactive children performance
1 p.m. Miss 'V' the Cowgirl-interactive children performance 
2 p.m. Homestead Era Fashion Show by Sue McClain, of Yesterday's Lady

'V' the Cowgirl offers an interactive musical program for children in which they get to try their hands at playing both classical and homemade instruments. V provides an overview of the instrument's historic origins and leads the group in lively tunes. At 2 p.m. Yesterday's Lady will put on a fashion show featuring clothing from the homesteading-era (1860s-1980s).

Saturday, June 22
10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Traditional craft demonstrations and antique farming demonstration
12:00 p.m. Josh Hoyer and Soul Colossal, soul music
1:00 p.m. Omaha International Folk Dancers
2:00 p.m. Singenden Wanderer, German men's choir
3:00 p.m. Rebekah Roland, pioneer songs
43rd Army Band Sharpshooters Woodwind Quartet

Sunday, June 23
12 p.m. - 5 p.m. Traditional craft demonstrations and antique farming demonstration
1:00 p.m. Jack Gladstone, Native American music and poetry
2:00 p.m. Star City Kochavim, Congregation B'nai Jeshurun
3:00 p.m. Bill Behmer, songs of Ireland
4:00 p.m. Nebraska Czech Brass Band, traditional Czech music

Jack Gladstone is a citizen of the Blackfeet Indian Nation who illustrates Western and Native American culture through music, poetry, and spoken word. Star City Kochavim is the house band at Congregation B'nai Jeshurun South Street Temple in Lincoln. Bill Behmer, a Humanities Nebraska Speaker, will perform traditional Irish songs. The Nebraska Czech Brass Band will finish out the event with toe-tapping polkas and waltzes

Homestead National Monument of America and the 2019 Nebraska Passport Program


The 2019 Nebraska Passport season is in full swing! Now in its tenth season, the Nebraska Passport program helps travelers discover hidden gems across the state. There are a total of 10 categories of 7 stops each: Beautiful Nebraska, Bite of Nebraska, Family Fun, Happy Hour, History Alive, Nebraska Stories, Not-At-Al What You Thought, Quirky Nebraska, Rural Gems, and Stop Nebraska.

Homestead National Monument of America is honored to be selected as one of the 70 stops.

Participants can participate with either a Nebraska Passport booklet, or by downloading the mobile app and collecting digital stamps. The program runs from May 1 to September 30th, and there is no fee or purchase necessary to participate. For more information, please visit

Last year individuals from 46 different states requested 48,895 booklets. The average number of stamps per participant was 31, and 749 people visited every single stop! With the numbers of visitors Homestead is seeing so far this year, it looks Nebraska Passport frenzy is still going strong. Come get your stamp at the monument today!

School's Out For Summer!

With the month of May coming to a close, the spring field trip season at Homestead has come to end as well. April and May are very busy months at Homestead with students from across southeast Nebraska and northern Kansas visiting the Monument to learn about the epic homesteading story. 

Homestead and the entire National Park Service play a key role in helping to supplement classroom instruction by providing unique, place-based learning opportunities often at no cost to schools or teachers. At the Monument, students learn about homesteading through engaging, curriculum based programs and activities that align with Nebraska and Kansas state education standards. Some of the exciting programs students participate in include: Stake Your Claim!, Day in the Life of a Homesteader, museum exhibit searches, Skins & Skulls, nature walks through the restored tall-grass prairie, water quality testing in Cub Creek, Follow the Buffalo, and more.

Both private and public schools visited the monument over the past two months from as far away as Omaha, and as close by as Beatrice. Fifty separate schools brought more than 2,700 students to the Monument during April and May. Homestead, through the generous support of a National Park Foundation grant, was able to provide assistance with transportation funding to 874 of these students. Many of these students come from areas and schools with high poverty rates and would not have been able to visit with out transportation assistance. In total school age children spent almost 225 hours during the spring season exploring and learning in one of their national parks!

Did You Know?

Did You Know?

It is well known that homesteading was a very important way that people obtained title to federal land for "free" after paying certain filing fees and meeting certain requirements.  But it was not the only way that occurred throughout the country.  Another was under the much less known "Small Holding Claim" law of 1891, the subject of this column.  

On March 3, 1891, a major piece of federal legislation became law that not only changed certain existing federal land laws but also broke new ground for allowing a different way to obtain "free" ownership of federal land in some locations without homesteading it.  One of the issues that the 1891 law tackled was how to deal with private land claims in 6 western states and territories where people had settled on unsurveyed federal land without prior authorization.  The states and territories involved were only: Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.  But to best understand why this new (and little known) 1891 law was passed and applied only to these 6 places, it is first important to realize that the March 3, 1891 legislation also repealed various existing Preemption laws going back to pre-1862 Homestead Act days.  Under those laws, "squatters" had the first right to obtain title to land on which they had settled despite not having filed a prior federal claim for it or otherwise obtained authorization for settling on it.  

So, while the Preemption laws were repealed on March 3, 1891, the same 1891 law did something new and different to help at least some "squatters" in 6 western states and territories gain title to "their" unsurveyed land in a way other than by homesteading.  So why was this "other way" needed in the 6 states that it applied to?  It was because successful homesteading in some parts of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming was not always possible due to limited rainfall preventing  sustainable agricultural development of the land.  Thus, the new 1891 law recognized that fulfilling agricultural requirements of homesteading on some of the arid lands in those 6 states or territories would not have been possible and instead provided an alternate way to gain title to the land.  But the 1891 law set up its own interesting requirements, and surprisingly one on residency was surprisingly different and harder to meet than residency requirements to qualify for a homestead.

Under the new 1891 law, the amount of land any one person could obtain could not exceed 160 acres (the same amount for most homesteaders in 1891).  But the settler had to meet this novel requirement:  "...the person has, through himself, his ancestors, grantors, or their lawful successors in title or possession, been in continuous adverse actual bona fide possession, residing thereon as his home, of any tract of land or in connection therewith of other lands ... for twenty years next preceding the time of making such a survey" of the land to establish boundaries on the claim.   But there was also a second notable difference compared to homesteading.  Under the 1891 law, no agricultural development of the land was needed for patent.   Further, the new 1891 law also established a special court for private land claims that was involved with judging the validity of these "small holding claim" tracts and the survey boundaries for them. Thus, it was work not given to the General Land Office, which otherwise made judgments about the validity of homestead claims.

By 1899, a report by the Commissioner of the General Land Office included a statement that there had been "upward of 4,000 small holding claims" filed under the 1891 act, with many more thousands filed later.  The 1891 law remained in force for some years and allowed people even after 1891 into the mid-20th century to make such claims for these "small holding claim" tracts.   That meant if someone, for example, had personally settled on unsurveyed federal land without authorization in 1895 in one of the 6 states or territories to which the law (and later amendments) applied, and personally remained residing on the land continuously for 20 years, that person would quality to obtain title to the land under this "Small Holding Claim" law of 1891 as early as 1915.  And if the person could also add in the proven residence of ancestors or other grantors or their lawful successors to which the settler had legal rights, the claim could qualify for patent even sooner.  However, from my research on these claims, it appears that many took longer than the minimal 20 years to patent, perhaps due to the volume of work these claims placed on the special court of private land claims.  Also, there may have been delays in surveying all these thousands of tracts, which was required before patents could be issued.  In New Mexico, perhaps tens of thousands of these claims were made and many thousands were successful, so it is easy to imagine that the workload for the special court created under the 1891 law could take many years to address as well as the workload of surveyors.

Interestingly, I have also found that while many thousands of these claims were successfully made and patented in New Mexico, only three (all in Arizona) were successfully patented in any other state or (then) territory.  So, while the law was passed to also include Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming, as well as New Mexico and Utah, no "small holding claim" tracts were patented in those 4 states.  Why that was must be yet another intriguing story still to be researched in the history of land laws of the homesteading period.

Exotic Plant Management Team

In 1939 park managers decided that the best way to manage the natural resources would be to restore them back to their native states restoring the grasslands and the woodlands.  In 2004 the park reaffirmed that notion by developing a goal for the natural resources that affirms that the natural resources are to be managed to protect and promote native biodiversity.  The goal states: "The monument's natural resources are managed in such a way as to maintain a heterogeneous landscape composed of a mosaic of high quality remnant and restored tallgrass prairie, lowland bur oak forest and associated ecotones, as well as prairie streams and their hydrologic processes; that reflect the value of the site as a homestead, represents as accurately as possible the environment encountered by early settlers, and preserves native biodiversity."
In order to maintain the diversity it is necessary to monitor for and remove invasive species.  The prairie at Homestead is being invaded by shrubby plants such as gray dogwood, smooth sumac and wild plum.  If these species are left unmanaged soon they would crowd out all of the tallgrass species and eventually trees such as the exotic white mulberry and Chinese Elm would establish themselves in the thicket completely changing the plant community. However, since some are native species we also do not want to eliminate those species so we have developed a goal that states no more than 15% of the prairie should be covered by woody species.   

When monitoring shows that the woody species are indeed covering more than their allotted 15 acres the park needs to reduce their dominance using two main methods.  The first is prescribed burning.  By burning the prairie the woody species are temporarily knocked back, however, often they come back with even more advengence and thicker then before.  The second more efficient method is to use herbicides.  Pesticides are one of the many tools that are part of a well thought out integrated pest management program that are used as a last resort by most managers.  To control unwanted thickets we have tried many different methods throughout the years including mowing (which seemed to encourage sprouting and make thicker thickets), pulling with Weed Wrenches (effective if you only have a few plants to get rid of), hand cutting and stump treating with herbicide (very effective, can be done any time of the year and limits non target damage from herbicide, but very labor intensive), broadcast spraying  (too much injury to non target species) and targeted foliar treatment.  

Foliar treatment in June and July has been found to be the most effective with the least impact to non target species.  By treating individual plants during this time period a minimal amount of chemical is used and the injury to non target species is limited, however it is still pretty labor intensive.  That is where the Heartland Exotic Plant Management Team, EMPT for short,  comes in.   The EPMT is a group that specializes in treating and removing invasive species.  To treat 100 acres with backpack sprayers in a short while it takes a good sized crew of trained professionals and that is what the EPMT provides.  

The National Park Service has several different EPMT's. Each team serves a group of several parks, the Heartland EPMT serves nine different parks in the Midwest Region.  During the summer season they are able to enter into agreements to hire conservation corp members to assist with the labor intensive projects which lets them travel to the nine different parks completing time sensitive projects in a timely manner.    

From June 11th through June 16th members of the Heartland Exotic Plant Management team will be onsite to assist park staff in controlling woody species that are invading the prairie at Homestead.  They may look like ghostbusters with their white coveralls and backpacks, but they are really just defending the prairie against a woody invasion.

Upcoming Events

Special Events at Homestead National Monument of America:

April - June: Promontory Point Exhibit (Education Center)

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

June 2, 2:00 p.m.: Musical Quilters Play - In Partnershhip with Area Arts Groups

June 9, 2 p.m.: Artist-In-Residence Program: Dr. Benjamin Justis

June 14, 2 p.m.: Naturalization Ceremony - US Flag Day

June 21-23 10-5 p.m. Homestead Days - Music and Dance of many cultures. See different presentations each day

To learn more about events visit:
Upcoming Naturalization Ceremony: June 14, 2019

Homestead National Monument of America is honored to host a Naturalization Ceremony this Flag Day, June 14th, at 2:00 p.m. Homesteading has a very rich connection to the story of immigration and naturalization - the peak years of homesteading were also the peak years of immigration to the United States - from the 1890s to the early 1920s. Homesteaders, just like immigrants today, were in search of the American Dream. Many thousands of immigrants came West to homestead.

By 1870, one-fourth of the population of Nebraska was foreign-born. The promise of free land under the Homestead Act of 1862, as well as the opportunities in America for civil freedoms, independence, and a chance for free education drove this immigration. The Homestead Act, historians have argued, was not just a land reform law, but also an immigration law - open to all potential citizens of the United States, as long as they declared their intent to become citizens. In meeting the requirements to "prove up," immigrants also met the requirements to become citizens, while also providing the ability to provide for a a family. 

The New York Times reported after the passage of the Homestead Act: "Europeans have learned of the immense extent of our country and its limitless resources... they have also begun, or soon will begin, to learn of the Homestead law, and provisions for securing to every man not only life, liberty, and the freedom to pursue happiness but also the means of gaining an independent livelihood."

Please join us in congratulating America's newest citizens we are pleased to honor this Flag Day.

To learn more about immigration and the Homestead Act of 1862, check out this article on our website!

Staff Training!

The last week of May, and first week of June, saw Homestead National Monument of America's volunteers and staff attending a week's worth of training activities.

Rangers Dave Graveline and Charlotte McDaniel practicing CPR and using an AED.

Staff learned everything from life-saving first aid techniques and park policies to Homestead Act history lessons.

With so many new employees, park interns, and several Youth Conservation Corps summer workers, the training was a great crash course for the park's staff and visitor services!


Homestead is one of 74 NPS sites nationwide to be awarded funding to host a Teacher-Ranger-Teacher this summer. The Teacher-Ranger-Teacher (TRT) program is a professional development opportunity for K-12 teachers to spend the summer acquiring new skills in experiential learning through a partnership program between the NPS and the University of Colorado-Denver (CUD). The participants spend between four and six weeks in a NPS unit developing a major educational project and participating in an online graduate course from CU Denver. The goal of the program is to train teachers in the resources and themes of the NPS so that they can return to their schools in the fall and incorporate their new skills into their classroom activities. 

Alisha Chab was selected to serve as the Monument's TRT for the summer. She will be with use from mid-June to the beginning of August. Alisha is an 8th grade U.S. History teacher at Culler Middle School in Lincoln. She is very passionate about teaching and national parks and is "BEYOND excited" to spend the summer working at Homestead. 

Alisha will be working on creating educational materials that explore the role of women in the homesteading story and how their experiences tie into the larger themes of women's suffrage and the 19th Amendment. The products created as part of the TRT program will be hugely beneficial to the Monument as 2020 and the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment approaches and will help the Monument better tell the epic story of homesteading.

Homestead is excited to have Alisha join us!

June 2019 Artist-in-Residence: Benjamin Justis

Dr. Benjamin Justis joins Homestead National Monument of America as the Artist-in-Residence from May 30th through June 12th. Benjamin is a composer who just earned his Doctorate of Musical Arts in Composition at the University of Kansas in May. 

During his stay, he will be combining "soundprints" from the park with music for the solo marimba while exploring the prairie ecosystem.  Dr. Justis will work on his compositions on the grounds of the monument, and in both buildings. Visitors are welcome to visit with him during his residency. 

On Sunday, June 9, 2019, at 2 p.m., Homestead National Monument of America Artist-in-Residence  Benjamin   Justis  will hold an interactive program on nature in music and modern composition followed by the group heading outside to create an improvised musical piece of their own on the prairie. This is a great creative program for visitors of all ages to learn about music and participate in musical composition. "We are excited to have Ben Justis with us as an Artist-in-Residence," stated Superintendent Mark Engler, "We are eager to hear what he creates through the mix of instruments and the natural sounds of our prairie."


Stay posted for future artists-in-residence, including authors, painters, composers, and more!

New (and returning!) Faces at Homestead!

Homestead National Monument of America would like to extend a very warm welcome to the newest members of the team here at the monument.

Amber Kirkendall - Park Guide

Roland Schwichtenberg - Park Guide

Veronica Barres - Latino Heritage Intern

Bailey Green - Laborer

Returning to the monument:

 Richard Austin - Park Guide

 Jessica Korgie - Park Guide

In addition, the YCC crew of  Ella Crawford, Ashley Yocum, Brandon Moore started this month as well.  

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

April-June: "Dust, Drought, and Dreams Gone Dry"
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

9 Sun 2 - 3 p.m. Artist-in-Residence Program:  Benjamin Justis
14 Fri 2 - 3:30 p.m. Naturalization Ceremony
21-23 Fri - Sun 40th Annual Homestead Days


4 Thu July 4th Heritage Campfire Program
13 Sat Kids in Parks Program
13 Sat Heritage Campfire Program
20 Sat Kids in Parks Program
20 Sat 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11 Landing on the Moon

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