Homestead National Monument of America
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March Newsletter
News from the Homestead
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March is a special month for Homestead National Monument of America. It was in this month, 84 years ago, that Homestead National Monument was established as a National Park Service site. On March 19th, 1936, Congress authorized the creation of the park with Public Law 74-480, which was then signed into law by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. 

This month, we are also honoring Women's History Month, especially remembering the women homesteaders who helped build America as we know it today. March marks the first of our suffrage themed programs and events for the year, with a presentation by scholar Blake Bell on Women, the West, and Suffrage on March 8th. In addition, monument historian Jonathan Fairchild's research on the role of women homesteaders and the 19th Amendment will be released on the park website at 

Mark Engler, Superintendent
Homestead National Monument of America Heads to RootsTech 2020!

Thanks to generous support from Eastern National and the Friends of Homestead, staff from Homestead National Monument of America went to RootsTech2020! RootsTech is an annual genealogical conference held in Salt Lake City, Utah. It's the largest genealogical convention in the world, with more than 25,000 attendees! RootsTech also features hundreds of classes and workshops, from beginner to expert level, taught by historians, archivists, genealogists, journalists, storytellers, and other professionals. Additionally, the large Exposition Hall holds hundreds of exhibits. This year's conference, a tenth anniversary celebration, ran from February 26th through March 1st, with the theme "The Story of YOU." You can learn more at 

Homestead National Monument joined up at the conference with the Bureau of Land Management - Eastern States to provide visitors with access to the General Land Office Records database ( as well as the Homestead Land Entry Case Files, in order for attendees to learn about and uncover their homestead ties. With an estimated 93 million Americans today who are descended from homesteaders, there's about a 1 in 3 chance that you are related to a homesteader! Want to learn exactly where the family homestead was located, what improvements your ancestors made to their land, or a wide variety of other genealogical information in this treasure trove of a resource? Staff at Homestead are happy to help you access these databases at the research computers in the Homestead Heritage Center to learn about your ties to the homestead story!

A big thanks to the Bureau of Land Management - Eastern States for parterning to share these valuable resources with visitors! (Left: Andrea Israel, BLM; right Jonathan Fairchild, NPS)

The Story of Elizabeth Babcock, an Oregon Homesteader
In recent issues of the Newsletter issued in late 2019, I wrote about two men who homesteaded.  They were soldiers in two different wars: Isaac Potts (1844-1926), who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War, and Forster Tappan Howland (1890-1939), a World War I soldier.  Now, I want to tell the story of a woman homesteader who was most remarkable in her own way.  Among other things, she was the oldest homesteader I have encountered, male or female, and she led an amazing pioneer life.  It included raising a large family and coming west by wagon train to California in the 1850s with her husband and children from Missouri.  But she also traveled again by wagon in the 1880s to settle in Oregon where she homesteaded.  As will be told, how and when she got her homestead is part of an intriguing story involving requirements of various land laws that allowed pioneers to obtain federal land.
Let me introduce you to Mrs. Elizabeth Babcock (1817-1904).  As a widow, she applied for and received a homestead for 160 acres in Baker County, Oregon, with her homestead patent dated February 26, 1896.  She was then a few weeks past her 78th birthday, and she would survive another nearly nine years.
Elizabeth was born Elizabeth Pyburn on December 20, 1817 in Hardin County, Kentucky.  While the names of her parents remain elusive, they apparently moved with Elizabeth sometime probably in the early 1830s to Indiana.  It was there in Harrison County, Indiana that Elizabeth married on October 29, 1835, about two months short of her 18th birthday (per
Her husband was Pardon Babcock (1814-1890).  He was born February 28, 1814 at Panton, Addison County, Vermont, and died August 5, 1890 in Baker County, Oregon.  He was a son of Sherman Babcock (1762-1851), a Revolutionary War soldier, and his wife Delectra (Rich) Babcock (1770-1849), per Find A Grave.  Both had early family roots in New England, with Pardon apparently a family name.
Elizabeth and Pardon Babcock would eventually have 11 children born over a span of about 28 years, but the names of only 10 are known, with the other child probably dying young.
Pardon Babcock was listed in the 1840 census along with his family as living in Posey Township in Harrison County, Indiana.  His parents apparently were living with them at that time, while living beside them was his older brother Youngs Babcock and his family.  (Note: The specific names of the wives and children of Pardon and Youngs Babcock were not listed in the 1840 census.  Only the names of the heads of households were given in that and earlier federal census returns, with only the ages of household members reported within a range of years.  The next federal census of 1850 was the first to report the names and ages of all people living in a household.)
In 1842, Pardon Babcock was listed in the 1842 Wisconsin State census as living in Pleasant Prairie Township in Racine County, Wisconsin, per  Subsequently, in 1850, Pardon and Elizabeth Babcock were reported by the 1850 federal census as farming with their family in Benton Township in Knox County, Missouri.  His 87-year-old widowed father, Sherman Babcock, also lived with them but would die the following year having been a long-surviving Revolutionary War veteran.
In 1857, the Babcocks decided to move west.  They crossed the Plains by wagon settling in California (per a 1940 obituary of their daughter Miranda found in Find A Grave.  She was 2 years old at that time). 
The 1860 census of Cloverdale Township of Sonoma County, California reported the Pardon Babcock family farming there.  The unique 1866 and 1871 California Voter Registration lists found in report the Pardon Babcocks was residing in Mendocino County, California during those years, and they would remain there even longer.  They would acquire federal land there.  While it was land for farming like homestead land, it came to them not under any homestead laws.  Rather, they would obtain it using another method that also transferred millions of federal acres into private ownership: the use of scrip, which Pardon Babcock purchased.  Scrip was a transferrable federally recognized certificate that could be taken to any land United States Land Office and redeemed for land.  Using scrip was a way that tens of millions of acres of federal land were privatized in the 19th century, with a person buying land scrip not otherwise having to homestead the land or buy it directly from the General Land Office.     
On October 1, 1874, Pardon Babcock received 160 acres of federal land in Mendocino County, California, which he obtained by having bought land rights in the form of land scrip.  What he purchased was scrip from the State of Georgia.  That State, and other States had received ownership rights to a large amount of federal land under the terms of a federal law passed by Congress on July 2, 1862, about 6 weeks after passage of the 1862 Homestead Act.  This July 2nd 1862 law transferred to each State in the union many thousands of acres of federal land "which may provide Colleges for the benefit of Agriculture and the Mechanical Arts," as quoted from the law.  But States were also allowed to sell their land rights under this law in the form of certificates (scrip) that was widely sold by dealers and even companies specializing in scrip. 
Pardon Babcock, probably through a scrip dealer in California, had bought State of Georgia scrip and then used it at the U. S. Land Office in San Francisco to claim 160 acres of federal land at no further price in Mendocino County, California.  (Had he wanted federal land elsewhere, the scrip could have been used for that instead.)
Before this land acquisition, the 1870 census had listed Pardon and Elizabeth Babcock as farming with their family in Township 3 in Santa Barbara County, California.  They have not been found in the 1880 census but may have been in Mendocino County, California in 1880.  For sure they were there in 1874, when they got 160 acres using scrip.
Elizabeth's homestead records indicate that Pardon and Elizabeth Babcock moved from California to Baker County, Oregon sometime in the 1880s before 1888.  For certain they were there prior to August 5, 1890 as Pardon died in Baker County, Oregon that day.  Their travel to Oregon from California most likely was once again by covered wagon, with some of their family probably accompanying them.
As shown in her homestead casefile in the National Archives, Elizabeth Babcock filed for a homestead as a widow in her own name on November 19, 1890.  This was just over 3 months after her husband died.  Thus, she both claimed and received her homestead in her own right and not as a widow from a deceased husband who might otherwise have filed a homestead claim and died before proving up giving his widow rights to obtain the homestead.  That was not the case for Elizabeth.  Her homestead claim was clearly under her own name and by her own initiative.  And, interestingly, it was only possible for her to claim a homestead because her husband died.
It is noteworthy to point out that Pardon Babcock never homesteaded and was unable to do so after 1874.  That year, using scrip, he had obtained 160 acres of federal land.  Under homestead laws in effect at that time, having gotten that much federal land, he was not allowed to obtain more land.  And Elizabeth, who married in 1835, also couldn't file for a homestead.  She was not considered the head of the household, which was a requirement of homestead laws.  Thus, it was only after Pardon died in 1890, making Elizabeth the head of the household that she could file for a homestead.  And that's exactly what she did.  In Elizabeth's case, her homestead casefile tells in statements made when she was proving up on her claim on November 23, 1895, that "one of her sons" lived with her and presumably helped with the work needed to prove up her claim.
In all, this is an interesting homestead story not only for it being about a strong pioneer woman homesteader, but also how restrictions in federal land law shaped when and which members of the Babcock family could homestead.  And at age 78, when Elizabeth received her homestead, she became one of America's oldest homesteaders, certainly the oldest I have encountered so far.  
So, what became of her?  In 1900, when the federal census was taken, Elizabeth was reported as 82 years old and living with her daughter Miranda Beck (1855-1940) and her family in Eagle Precinct in Union County, Oregon.  Probably advanced age or declining health had caused Elizabeth to leave her Baker County, Oregon homestead by that time.  Subsequently, she died December 2, 1904 at age 87 at Richland in Baker County, Oregon, as found in Find A Grave.  She was then a great-grandmother many times over (and probably also a great-great-grandmother).  She was buried beside her husband in Eagle Valley Cemetery at Richland, Baker County, Oregon.  Today, there are many hundreds of descendants of this most remarkable woman homesteader, Mrs. Elizabeth (Pyburn) Babcock (1817-1904). 

Happy 84th Birthday to Ho mestead National Monument!


Homestead National Monument of America turns 84 on March 19th! The park was established on the site of the first homestead claimed under the Homestead Act of 1862. Daniel Freeman claimed his 160 acres in Gage County, just after midnight on January 1st, 1863 - as soon as the law officially took effect!

There had been previous attempts to establish either a state or national park at the site following Freeman's death in 1908, but it wasn't until the late 1920s that the idea really began to catch on, when Governor Adam McMullen called for an "enduring memorial to our homesteaders, to those courageous men and women who laid the foundation stones of our commonwealth." Congressman Charles H. Sloan introduced a bill calling for the establishment of a park at the site, though it failed to make it out of committee.

In 1935, Nebraska Senator George W. Norris proposed the establishment of "The Homestead National Park of America." The bill was referred to the Committee on Public Lands and Surveys, where it was renamed to "Homestead National Monument of America," approved, and sent to the House of Representatives.  In the House, Congressman Henry C. Luckey championed the bill. After vigorous debates, it was passed and signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on March 19th, 1936. 

Happy birthday, Homestead!

A Collective Effort: Homestead National Monument's Volunteers

The National Park Service has the special role of preserving the land that belongs to all of us containing significant natural and cultural resources. Each park contains a different part of the American story; at Homestead National Monument of America we remember the significant role the Homestead Act of 1862 played in the development and trajectory of the United States. The Act impacted people in various ways and everyone within the borders of the United States was affected by its enactment. Our park features two visitor centers - the Homestead Heritage Center and the Homestead Education Center, a museum collection, an authentic homesteading cabin, the original one-room school built by this community in 1872, computer research stations, hiking trails, a picnic area, and so much more. The park host various programming, field trips, special events and citizen science opportunities. The opportunities we offer our guests at Homestead National Monument of America would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of our volunteers (VIPs.)

This dedicated group of individuals meet regularly to plan, organize and implement our various programs and promotional efforts. Their passion for the homesteading story and the resources inspires others to make their own connection to the Park. Volunteers plan events, travel to get exhibits, lead hands-on activities and help protect and preserve the prairie while using it to teach others about this once vast ecosystem.

This valuable source of enthusiasm and support is something that Homestead National Monument of America. Their partnership with us makes the opportunities we wish to provide a reality. The things they do both seen and unseen really are at the heart of the park. If you are interested in learning more about how you can become part of this special group Please call Amber Kirkendall at 402-223-3514 or email at [email protected]

Ranger Jesse's Natural Resource Musings

March marks the beginning of migrations.  Overhead the geese are getting ready to go north.  Outside the temperatures are warming enough to get you thinking about yard work.
Years ago, during March you may have found the Daniel Freeman family pruning their fruit trees. According to the witness testimony found in his Homestead case file "40 apple and 400 about peach trees were set out".  To carry on that Homesteading legacy just to the south of the Homestead Heritage Center a small orchard was planted.  Included in that orchard are apples, plums, peaches, cherries and pears.  The varieties selected were for the most part available to Daniel Freeman in the late 1800's. You are encouraged to enjoy the fruit and allowed to harvest what you and your family can consume in a day.


Master gardeners have graciously volunteered to help with the pruning of the orchard trees this March which will ensure long term health and vigor of the trees.

Upcoming Events
Special Events and Exhibits at Homestead National Monument of America:


February 5 - May 31 - David Plowden: A Sense of Place (Homestead Education Center)


Sunday March 8th, 2:00 p.m. - Women's History Month Program - Women's Suffrage and the Homestead Act - Blake Bell, Former Historian, Homestead National Monument of America 

To learn more about events visit:
The Homestead Quarter - Worth Up to $25?! Check your change!

Homestead National Monument of America was one of the 50 National Park sites selected for the America the Beautiful Quarter series, featuring a National Park from each state - following up on the popular State Quarter series. Homestead's quarter was released in 2015. But check your pockets, because you could have a coin worth 100 times its face value! 

Bill Fivaz, renowned in the numismatic (the study and collection of coins) world for finding rare varieties of coins. At the American Numismatic Association's National Money Show in February, he presented his 2020 Guide to Rare Die Varities of United States Coins, which included the Homestead National Monument of America quarter - worth face value (25 cents) in circulation, but up to $25 with an unusual reverse variety to a collector! The United States Mint also released a special collector's version of the Homestead Quarter - made out of 5 ounces of silver bullion, now sold out at the mint. This coin sells for more than $150! 

Be sure to check out the Homestead Quarter and other America the Beautiful National Park quarters and coin collecting items in the gift shop!

Welcome to Homestead's new Supervisory Park Ranger, Amy Genke!

Please give a warm welcome to Homestead National Monument of America's new supervisory park ranger, Amy Genke! 
Amy joins us with twenty years of experience with the National Park Service, including time at Navajo National Monument, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Yellowstone National Park, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, and Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site.
Amy had previously served as the District Interpretive Ranger at the Natchez Trace Parkway, a unit of the National Park Service in Mississippi along a 444-mile stretch of road which was a historic travel corridor used by American Indians, European settlers, and Americans at the beginning of the 1800s. Genke had called Mississippi home since 2007, but grew up in a small town near Green Bay, Wisconsin. She earned a bachelor's degree in biology with a minor in environmental studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Amy said that her biggest goal as Chief Ranger is to "enhance the visitor experience to make sure that when people come to Homestead, they can start to see themselves in the story and really relate to those experiences," and that she is really excited to be here. We're excited, too, Amy! Welcome to Homestead.

American Bus Association Marketplace 2020

The American Bus Association (ABA) held its annual conference for the first time in Omaha, Nebraska. This conference is the premiere event for bus companies and destination points across the country to intersect. Homestead National Monument of America attended the conference as a sponsor through funding provided by the Friends of Homestead. For four days Homestead rangers shared how this National Park site is an ideal destination point in southeastern Nebraska. Rangers shared how the homestead story resonated across the country. They also handed out informational sheets and many cornhusk dolls made by the park's volunteers and staff. Tour operators' interests were peaked by the nationwide connections to homesteading which can make for exciting and new travel experiences.

Over 3200 people attended the conference. 850 motor coach and tour operators from across the country were in attendance. Many operators were very interested in planning future tours through southeastern Nebraska. Tour operators generally plan their trips a year or more in advance, so the benefit of attending this conference should be seen in the next few years.

The Beatrice Area Chamber of Commerce was a sponsor at ABA Marketplace as well. Between the efforts of the chamber and Homestead staff, southeast Nebraska should expect more bus tours throughout the area.

"I was delighted to hear how many bus companies were interested in our park site. Many of the bus companies had not planned a tour through this part of Nebraska before - but the conference shed a new exciting light on all that Nebraska has to offer. There is a real interest in the companies to provide their travelers unique experiences through new areas. I heard many say that Homestead would be an ideal stop. I guess we'll find out in a year or two." said Ranger Jessica Korgie who attended the conference.


The First and Last Women Homesteaders - 
Mary Myers and Elizabeth Mary Smith

In honor of Women's History Month, we'd like to honor the women who took part in the Homestead Act. Historians have found that somewhere between ten and fifteen percent of successful homesteaders were women who proved up in their own name.
The first woman to secure a homestead in her own name under the Homestead Act of 1862 was Mary Myer. Myer applied for a homestead in Gage County, Nebraska on January 20th, 1863 - just 19 days after Daniel Freeman! She was only the third homesteader to file at the Brownville Land Office. In fact, she knew Daniel Freeman - he was one of her two witnesses, the other being her son-in-law, Joseph Graff, a homesteader whose descendants remain close friends of the park today - the Heritage Center is on land purchased from the Graff family. Myer plowed and cultivated 35 acres of land, built a corral, corn crib, chicken coop, dug a well, and planted peach trees and grapevines. Though the Homestead Act was gender neutral and allowed women as well as men to claim land, the form the Brownville Land Office had at the time used male pronouns - so Mary crossed out "him" and "his" and wrote in "her"! She successfully proved up and become America's first woman homesteader in 1869 - the twentieth person to do so at that land office.

Mary Myer's homestead case file - with crossed out masculine pronouns.

The last woman to secure a homestead in her own name under the Homestead Act was Elizabeth Mary Smith.  Elizabeth has homesteading and migrations in her DNA - her grandparents came from Germany in the late 19th century to settle in Dawson County, Nebraska, near the peak of Nebraska homesteading. In 1950, she packed her bags and headed for "the last frontier" - she settled in Alaska and started a family. 
After the untimely passing of her husband, the family decided to stake their claim on homestead land in the Southeast Fairbanks Census area, near Delta Junction. Elizabeth Smith applied for her homestead in 1974, as a group of 10 people, including her son William Smith, who all filed in the same area that year. Both Elizabeth and William successfully proved up their homesteads in 1984 - Elizabeth was the very last woman homesteader to successfully prove up land in her own name, and one of the last throughout the nation. Approximately 15 homesteads proved up later than Smith's - with Ken Deardorff as the last, in 1988.
Myer photo courtesy of Graff family; Smith photo courtesy of Steve Dubois, The Lincoln Journal Star.

An interesting coincidence, that the first and last woman homesteaders were so close together to their first and last male homesteader counterparts - Mary Myer and Daniel Freeman homesteaded in the same county, and knew each other. They staked claims only 19 days apart, and received their patents in 1869. Ken Deardorff and Elizabeth Smith both claimed homesteads in in Alaska in 1974, and though Smith received her patent 4 years before Deardorff, they were separated by only a few homesteaders proving up in between them.

Are you connected to the Homestead story? Do you have a research question, or a topic you'd like to see in the newsletter? Monument Historian Jonathan Fairchild would love to hear from you. You can reach him at [email protected] or (402)223-3514.

Homesteading in the News

- Learn about the homesteading history of the Des Lacs Wildlife Refuge, which was one homesteading land in North Dakota. In fact, many National Parks and other Public Lands have former homestead sites on them! Next time you're in a National Park, keep your eyes open and you might spot one! 

- One of the difficulties homesteaders faced in trying to "prove up" their claim and become successful landowning farmers were plagues of insects - especially locusts! Many of the digitized land entry case files where homesteaders explain reasons for delays in establishing their farm mention locusts nearly destroying their livelihoods year after year in the 1870s. 

- Want to live the lifestyle of a modern homesteader? Learn about the benefits of keeping a flock of chickens in your backyard!

 - While the Homestead Act of 1862 was officially repealed, don't despair! Here's a list of communities where you can stake your claim to a free homestead across the country today!

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

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Homestead National Monument of America