Homestead National Monument of America
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March Newsletter
News from the Homestead
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This month, we celebrate the beginning of another year. We are excited for the school groups and upcoming special programming for the year.

All through March, in celebration of Women's History Month, you can learn about the unique link between the Homestead Act of 1862, Suffragettes, and the Nineteenth Amendment at Homestead National Monument of America. Featured in this newsletter, you'll find articles on this link, the works of Willa Cather, and ongoing research into African-American Homesteaders across the Great Plains, to name just a few!

Don't miss the weekend screening events this month celebrating Willa Cather and her tremendous impact in U.S. history: a film adaptation of her classic My Antonia, and a documentary produced by NET on her life, Willa Cather: The Road is All.

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

Mark Engler, Superintendent

Women, Homesteading, and Suffrage

The Homestead Act of 1862 was an almost unprecedented piece of legislation in terms of its democratic approach. All citizens were welcome to claim land under the act, regardless of gender . With the passage of the 14th Amendment in 1866, Homesteading was opened to all African-Americans as well. Immigrants were also able to claim land under the Homestead Act - they had the  five year period during which they "proved up" their claim to become naturalized citizens in order to meet the citizenship requirement.

It is no coincidence that the "gender-neutral Homestead Act of 1862 was part of a contemporary movement toward recognition and acceptance of increased rights for women, including the right to own land." In the eyes of the Homestead Act, any single individual, man or woman (in addition to both male and female heads of household), was eligible.

Homesteading and women's suffrage went hand in hand - Wyoming's territorial legislature was the first to enfranchise American women in 1869. Homesteading the Plains, a recent study by Richard Edwards, Jacob K. Friefeld, and Rebecca S. Wingo, found that women's claims represented approximately 10% of all homesteaders - a fact that has gone underappreciated in previous scholarship, which viewed women as reluctant secondary characters, lacking agency in their lives on the plains. The economic power of property ownership was a major factor in this transition, and the Homestead Act of 1862 and the land available in the West allowed women to access that power in a way that many women in the eastern states were not able to. 

Major American "firsts" were achieved in the 1880s and 1890s in the homesteading states: Susanna Salter, who would later homestead in Oklahoma, was the first woman elected mayor (Argonia, Kansas). In 1894 Clara Cressingham, Carrie Holly, and Frances Klock were all elected to the Colorado House of Representatives, the first women elected to a state legislature. Two years later, Martha Cannon became the first state senator (Utah).   

While 30 states were part of the Homestead Act, the states of the Great Plains and the West were most heavily homesteaded. It is no coincidence that of the states which gave women full voting rights before the 19th Amendment guaranteed these rights, all but one (New York) were homesteading states. Jeannette Rankin, whose parents homesteaded in Montana, was the first woman to hold federal office in the United States. She was elected to the House of Representatives in 1916, and was the only woman able to vote in Congress when the resolution that would become the Nineteenth Amendment was introduced in 1919.

Come visit Homestead National Monument of America, and learn more about the crucial link between the Homestead Act of 1862 and Women's Suffrage in the United States!

Welcome to Homestead's
Newest staff members:
Eric Karges and Jonathan Fairchild

Eric Karges began working at Homestead National Monument of America in mid-February, joining the Maintenance Division as a Maintenance Worker. Eric joined the National Park Service to travel the country and experience a wide variety of locations - since 2005 he has worked in 13 states! His stops have included the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Forestry Service, United States Fish and Wildlife, and of course the National Park Service. He has worked at Badlands National Park and Blueridge Parkway before coming to Homestead National Monument of America. 

Since starting, he has been learning his daily routines and the equipment - we have Eric to thank for helping to keep the snow at bay in this historically snowy winter! The 23 inches of February 2019 represent the highest monthly total in nearly ten years. He's pictured here in the park's RTV X1100C utility vehicle plowing the snow at the Heritage Center.

Eric is originally from Millbank in eastern South Dakota, and has a personal connection to homesteading - he is a sixth-generation descendant! His great-great-great-grandfather Nicholas Altman proved up 160 acres in South Dakota in the 1880s. 

Jonathan Fairchild also began working at Homestead National Monument of America in mid-February, joining the Ranger Division. He started his career with the National Park Service in the summer of 2016, as an Pathways - Archives Technician at Keweenaw National Historical Park in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He is the park's new Historian.

Jon is originally from Houston, Texas, where he attended the University of Houston and received a M.A. in United States History. He is currently completing his Ph.D. from the same university. 

"I'm thrilled to have this wonderful opportunity to share the history of the Homestead Act of 1862 and its tremendous and far-reaching impact on United States history! Without homesteaders, the United States as we know it today wouldn't exist - the Great American Desert became the Great American Breadbasket!"

A Winter for the Recordbooks!

Has it felt like a particularly cold, snowy winter to you? Well, you're not wrong! Southeast Nebraska has been blanketed with an unusually heavy amount of snow in the 2018-2019 Winter season. So far the monthly totals have been:

October: 3.5 in., November: 7.2 in., December: 5.6 in., January: February, 23.2 in., and as of early March: 2.3 in.

The 51.5 inches of snowfall on the record already places this as the fourth snowiest season on record in 119 years measured, and the most snow in nearly sixty years! The only three winters which top this one are 1959-1960 (54.3 in.), 1947-1948 (54.7 in.), and the record set in 1914-1915 at 59.4 inches. A few more heavy snowfalls in March and April and that record is well within reach!

Take advantage of the weather here at Homestead National Monument - take to the trails with skis and snowshoes! The three miles of trails through restored tallgrass prairie are prime cross-country skiing spots! Just remember, while winter activities such as skiing and snowshoeing are allowed and encouraged at Homestead National Monument of America, please do not leave the designated trails so as not to disturb the flora or fauna.

Bookstore Highlight:
Willa Cather's Great Plains Trilogy: 
O Pioneers, Song of the Lark, and My Ántonia 


In celebration of Women's History month, Homestead National Monument of America's bookstore highlights this trilogy written by Willa Cather about life on the Great Plains. The strong, capable women in her works, including the titular character Antonia, challenged the conventional idea of gender roles at the time. Cather's family migrated to Nebraska to homestead in 1883 when she was nine. She later attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, graduating in 1895, one of the first women to graduate from a university in a field outside of education.

Her formative years in Nebraska were deeply influential on her life, as seen in O Pioneers (1913), Song of the Lark (1915), and My Antonia (1918). The latter two novels honored the heroic efforts of women settling the prairie. My Antonia especially was well received, being nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and immediately altering public perceptions of women on the Great Plains for generations to  come. The titular character, the strong-willed daughter of Bohemian immigrants, is idealized by the male protagonist, both as an individual, and as a symbol for the land he loves. 

Don't miss the film events honoring Willa Cather this month at Homestead National Monument of America! There will be screenings of a film adaptation of My Antonia on Sunday, March 24 at 2:00 p.m. and then a screening of NET's documentary Willa Cather: The Road is all on Saturday, March 30 and Sunday, 31 at 2:00 p.m.

March 2019 Artist-in-Residence: Theresa Hottel

Theresa Hottel joined Homestead National Monument as the artist-in-residence in the month of March 2019. Theresa is an writer from New York City, who was born and raised in Davis, Oklahoma. She did her undergraduate work at Oklahoma City University and earned her Master's in Fine Arts from Columbia University.  Hottel has had her short stories published in SmokeLong Quarterly (Haunt) and Vol.One Brooklyn (Vaults).

She draws upon her upbringing in a small south-central Oklahoma town for inspiration in her work. She is currently writing a novel - a ghost story set in a homesteading community in the Oklahoma Panhandle during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. This ghost story blends the ecological and physical disturbances of the Dust Bowl into a haunting experience where the "ghosts" are spirits of the ravaged land.

Hottel has long been interested in a National Park Residency - when she discovered the artist-in-residence program at Homestead National Monument of America she knew it would be a great fit.  Growing up in an agriculturally centered town, Hottel has always been interested in how people relate to the land.  She shared that the concept of owning land as a means of potential economic mobility and success, as seen here at the Homestead National Monument of America through the Homestead Act of 1862, has long been deeply rooted in popular consciousness as a way to achieve the "American Dream." 

Hottel's work takes an ecofeminist perspective, and she cited Willa Cather's Great Plains trilogy as a reference for her own work, with the significance of how Cather has influenced the literary field of women on the plains. Hottel had the opportunity to visit Red Cloud, the town where Cather grew up, and drew inspiration from the author's childhood home. 

Theresa Hottel will be with us between March 5 and March 18. 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:

January- March: Empire, Wyoming African-American Homesteading Community Exhibit (Education Center)

January - May: Promontory Point Exhibit (Education Center)

February 28th - March 2: RootsTech 2019 @ Salt Lake City, Utah

March 2 & 3, 2:00 p.m. - Homestead National Monument of America Film Festival: In the Shadow of the Moon

March 23 & 24, 2:00 p.m. - Film - My Antonia

March 30 & 31, 2:00 p.m. - Film - Willa Cather: The Road Is All

To learn more about events visit:

Visit the Empire, Wyoming and African-American 
Homestead Community Exhibit and learn about the Black Homesteader Project
at Homestead National Monument of America


On temporary exhibit through March 2019 from the Wyoming State Museum, this exhibit tells the story of African-American homesteaders in the settlement of Empire. 

Empire was the first and only attempt by African-Americans to build an entirely Black agrarian community in Wyoming. It was settled in between 1908 and 1920 under the Enlarged Homestead Act. The Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909 modified the original Homestead Act of 1862 by allowing individuals to claim up to 320 acres, doubling the original allotment of 160. Homesteaders who had already claimed 160 were eligible to increase their claims to this new maximum. Several extended families migrated from Nebraska to take advantage of this new legislation and hoping to escape from racial prejudice they had experienced elsewhere. Reverend Russell Taylor arrived in 1912 to teach at the independent school, to provide the children with an African-American teacher and role model. He actively spoke out against racism and oppression. 

This exhibit is closely related to a project in partnership with the Center for Great Plains Studies and Nicodemus National Historical Site - the Black Homesteaders in the Great Plains Project. Empire, Wyoming was one of six major historical settlements from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries founded by black homesteaders. These include Nicodemus, Kansas; DeWitty, Nebraska; Dearfield, Colorado; Empire, Wyoming; Sully County, South Dakota; and Blackdom, New Mexico.

This project has found that Black Homesteaders were active in all Great Plains states, where thousands successfully proved up and claimed hundreds of thousands of acres of land in mostly rural communities closely linked by kinship and marriage ties - these African-American homesteaders often moved from one of the six major settlements to another based on family networks.
While Nicodemus, Kansas is the only of these six sites still occupied today, Black homesteaders measured their success in very different ways. These communities were transitional places meant as refuge from the bitter past of slavery only a generation previously. More importantly, they served as a staging ground for a brighter future, especially for their children. Their descendants measure in the hundreds of thousands today.

Homestead National Monument of America goes to RootsTech2019!

Homestead National Monument of America staff made the trek to Salt Lake City to exhibit the Homestead Land Entry Case Files at RootsTech2019. 

RootsTech is an annual genealogical convention held in Salt Lake City. This year's RootsTech featured over 300 classes and workshops taught by historians, archivists, genealogists, journalists, storytellers, and other industry experts. l. Additionally, the Exposition Hall had hundreds of exhibits. The conference ran between February 27 and March 2, with an estimated 25,000 attendees total. With generous contributions from the Friends of Homestead and from Eastern National, Homestead National Monument of America was able to send a team of staff members to exhibit at and participate in the convention.

Homestead National Monument of America staff partnered with the Bureau of Land Management - Eastern States to provide visitors with access to the Homestead Land Entry Case Files of the 10 states with fully digitized records, and to utilize the Public Land Survey System (PLSS) and General Land Office (GLO) Records to illustrate and map out where their ancestors' homesteads were located.

Those fully digitized Homestead Land Entry Case Files are available for visitors to access on computer kiosks in the Heritage Center - stop by and learn about homesteaders in your family tree! Want to determine exactly where the family homestead was located? Or are you from one of the 20 states which aren't yet digitized? Ask a Ranger to show you how to utilize the GLO Records and the PLSS to learn more!
Weather alerts:
Flooding on Cub Creek

Cub Creek During the Week of March 10. 

As temperatures warm up and the snow melts, rivers and creeks in the area are flooding. Cub Creek, near the Education Center, is no exception. On Saturday, March 9th, the creek was frozen over almost completely at 4.61 feet. By March 14th  the creek rose more than 14 feet (reaching 18.66 feet), placing the park on flood alert! The water level has slowly been receding since that peak.

As a result of the flooding conditions, all trails at Homestead National Monument of America are currently closed. Please check social media at  for updates on the status of the trails!

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-March: Empire, Wyoming African-American Homesteading Community
January-May: Promontory Point Exhibit 
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


  24 Sun 2:00 p.m. Film:  My Antonia
30 & 31 Sat-Sun 2:00 p.m. Film: Willa Cather: The Road Is All


  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 
29-30 Sun-Mon 10-3 p.m. Archeological Dig by Midwest Archeological Center


  1-10 10-3 p.m. Archeological Dig by Midwest Archeological Center
3 & 4 Fri-Sat 7:00 a.m. Birds & Bagels
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

Homestead Creature Corner:
2019 Sandhill Crane Migration

Keep your eyes on the sky! The 2019 Sandhill Crane migration is ongoing!  The Sandhill Crane (Antigone canadensis) derives its name from the Nebraska Sandhills region. These large cranes are a very social bird, forming flocks of thousands when they migrate seasonally. 

Nebraska's Platte River Valley is a major stop during their annual northward migration in the Spring, between late February and April - this year's migration is somewhat delayed with the extreme winter weather. An 80-mile stretch of the Platte sees hundreds of thousands of cranes each year, between Grand Island and Kearney, Nebraska. 

One of earth's greatest migrations, the spectacle is something to behold.  The National Audubon Society operates the Rowe Sanctuary along the Platte, with crane-viewing blinds available daily during the Spring migration (overnight photography blinds are also available).

Just like the Sandhill Crane stops off at at the Platte on its long journey across the country to rest and recuperate, don't forget to visit Homestead National Monument of America on your journeys across Nebraska for a little R&R!

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

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