Homestead National Monument of America
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May Newsletter
News from the Homestead
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Homestead National Monument of America has been busy this Spring, welcoming thousands of schoolchildren to the park. This month, we celebrate several exciting events, including the Midwest Archeological Center's 50th Anniversary Event, the Tallgrass Prairie Fiddle Festival,  and much more! May also kicks off the 2019 Nebraska Passport season. We are proud to be one of the many stops across the state, and have a number of passport books for those interested in joining in the fun.

It's also the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad and the driving of the Golden Spike at Promontory Point, Utah, on May 10, 1869 - come see the Promontory Point Exhibit on display at the Education Center to see the day the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads linked together, documented in photographs.
We hope that all of our visitors, colleagues, and friends will enjoy this upcoming Spring season!

Mark Engler, Superintendent
Midwest Archeological Center's 50th Anniversary Event at Homestead!

On May 4, 2019 at 2 p.m. join the National Park Service in celebrating the Midwest Archeological Center's 50 th Anniversary with a program on archeology and Homestead National Monument of America.  There will be several speakers discussing how archeology is used in National Parks and what has been found at Homestead since the first survey in 1948 as well as American Indian perspectives on the information found during this survey.
Archeologists will investigate a Native American settlement site discovered in 1985 that is believed to be part of the Oneota culture - a Native culture in the American Midwest between 1150 and 1700 AD. Archeological sites of the Oneota have been discovered in Nebraska, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri. Modern Indian tribes believed to be descended from the Oneota include the Oto-Missouria, Ponca, and Pawnee. Homestead National Monument of America is honored to welcome representatives and members of those tribal nations for this event.
Archeologists will also search for the site of a brick kiln and other structures associated with the Freeman Homestead. Archeologists will be working in Homestead National Monument of America from April 29 through May 10.  Visitors are allowed to watch the work being done.

If you would like to participate in the project as a volunteer on the morning of May 4, 2019, please register by emailing [email protected]. Space is limited. Join archeologists from the National Park Service's Midwest Archeological Center at Homestead National Monument of America to see what archeology is like firsthand!  From 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. volunteers can participate in archeological fieldwork

The public archeology project at Homestead is part of MWAC's 50th anniversary celebrations. The Center was established on July 1, 1969 from staff and offices of the Smithsonian Institution's River Basin Surveys in Lincoln, Nebraska. Since then MWAC staff have completed over 1,100 archeological projects. MWAC curates archeological collections for over 60 Midwest and Intermountain Region parks! To learn about more archeology events, visit

Astronomy at the Homestead with GeoAstroRV!

Homestead Heritage Center at night
Photo by Alison Taggart

Homestead National Monument of America is excited to host John and Brenda Nejedlo of GeoAstroRV as monument volunteers from April 30-May 28, 2019. John and Brenda are travelling the country in their RV and volunteering their astronomy knowledge at national park sites across the Midwest. GeoAstroRV will give both daytime and nighttime astronomy programs every day, weather permitting, during their stay at Homestead National Monument of America.

You can visit their website at  to learn more and follow their journey.

Our Magnetic Sun Daytime Astronomy Programs

Photo Courtesy GeoAstroRV
GeoAstroRV's daytime program is a NASA-approved "Our Magnetic Sun" presentation in which visitors are able to use a 152mm Lunt Hydrogen Alpha telescope that is double stacked, along with a TeleVue NP101 with a Baader Herschel Prism. Daytime presentations last about 30 minutes and will run from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

Hands-On Nighttime Astronomy Programs

Nighttime programs allow you to be more involved as John and Brenda will teach visitors how to use their various telescopes and allow time to explore the night sky with them. Nighttime programs last 2 to 3 hours and include a laser presentation on constellations. Nighttime presentations are limited to 12 people and attendees must be middle school age and above. To reserve your spot for the nighttime program call Homestead National Monument of America at (402) 223-3514 or stop in and speak to a ranger.

Parks as Classrooms: Education at the Homestead

Spring Field Trip season is going strong at Homestead National Monument of America!

From April 26 to May 24, every weekday is filled with school groups engaging in curriculum-based programs at the Monument. We are busy educating students from Omaha, Lincoln, southeast Nebraska, southwestern Iowa, and northern Kansas on the Homestead Act of 1862 and its impacts.

Mary Ann Gabel and her pupils at the Freeman school.

What about the original students at the Homestead? The Freeman School at Homestead National Monument of America has quite a rich history. 
Some key facts about this National Park Service one-room school include:
  • Whenever the federal government transferred land to a state or a territory, it usually set aside certain sections of land in each township for the purpose of the construction of public schools;
  • Contrary to popular belief, education wasn't seen as "frivolous" or "unnecessary" by frontier communities: In fact, schoolhouses were oftentimes one of the first buildings constructed by the community;
  • Schoolhouses served many needs on the frontier: naturally, they were first and foremost places to educate the area's children, but they also served as meeting halls for community clubs and organizations, hosted dances and socials, offered some religious congregations a place to worship, and even stood in as polling places at election time -- they were more than just school buildings;
  • Like most frontier communities, the citizens of early Beatrice, Nebraska who lived in the area of School District 21 (where Homestead National Monument of America and the Freeman School is located) saw the need for a school and constructed the Freeman School in 1872;
  • A local resident named Thomas Freeman was paid $100.15 for the bricks used to build the school (which, after calculating for inflation, is worth about $2,082 today) -- Thomas Freeman and first homesteader Daniel Freeman were not related;
  • It is unclear whether the Freeman School was named for Daniel Freeman (the first homesteader) or Thomas H. Freeman, who was the director of District 21 when the school was built;
  • The first desks in the school were not made locally but were instead shipped to Beatrice all the way from Indiana;
  • Beginning in 1881, the Freeman School/School District 21 began to provide standardized textbooks to its students (this was 10 years before Nebraska state law required that schools do so);
  • Like most frontier schools, many of the teachers who taught at the Freeman School were very young, often boarding with the families of students;
  • In 1899, Daniel Freeman objected to teacher Edith Beecher's use of the Bible in the public school (as well as the singing of hymns and recitations of prayers), and when Beecher refused to stop and local government sided with her, Freeman took his case up the courts until, in 1902, the Nebraska Supreme Court agreed that the behavior was a violation of Nebraska's constitution and ordered it stopped -- this major court decision is still used in case law today;
  • The Freeman School taught students until 1967 -- this meant school was in session there for 95 years before it was closed;
  • On September 25, 1970, Freeman School became part of Homestead National Monument of America!

Additional information on our education programs can be found  

Did You Know?

Having just recently gone through an election including for many governors, did you know that a few state governors were homesteaders?  In Alaska, two of the state's governors homesteaded.  Both were in the mid-20th century, with one of their homesteads just recently receiving national recognition.   

The first Alaskan governor to have been homesteaded, was Keith Harvey Miller (1925-2019), a Republican.  He served as the Secretary of the State of Alaska under Alaska's second governor, Walter Hickel, and then served out Hickel's remaining term as governor after Hickel's resignation to become Secretary of the Interior in President Nixon's cabinet.  Miller thus became the third governor of Alaska after statehood in 1959, serving 1969-70.  Earlier, during territorial days, Miller, as a young man, had homesteaded 160 acres near Talkeetna, Alaska, receiving patent in 1961.  He passed away earlier this year on March 2, 2019.

The other governor of Alaska who homesteaded was Jay Sterner Hammond (1922-2005), also a Republican.  He was elected for two terms as Alaska's fifth governor, serving 1974-1982.  Recently, on July 30, 2018, the Hammond homestead was added to the National Register of Historic Places.  Jay staked his nearly 127-acre homestead in 1952, and received patent to it in 1958.  It is one of only two patented homesteads in the beautiful but remote Lake Clark area.  Shortly after he staked it, Jay started building the first of the 23 buildings and structures, which are on the homestead today, intending it to be the family's permanent home.  However, his budding political career, first with the Bristol Bay Borough and then the Territory and State of Alaska, kept Jay Hammond and his family from living full-time at the homestead until his second term as Alaska's governor ended in 1982.  Jay wrote much about the homestead in his memoirs and he is buried on the property. His widow, Bella, an Alaska Native, lived at the homestead until 2017.  According to the National Register listing, the buildings and structures of the Hammond Homestead show how people lived outside of Alaska's villages and towns in the late twentieth century.  They also reflect Jay's skills and those of talented local craftsmen using logs and stone from the surrounding area to create what is now officially an important part of our nation's heritage in the "Last Frontier" state of Alaska.

May 2019 Artist-in-Residence: Jeffrey A. Lockwood

Dr. Jeffrey A. Lockwood joins Homestead National Monument as the Artist-in-Residence from May 14th through May 27th. Jeffrey is a professor and author at the University of Wyoming. His background, including a Ph.D. in entomology, lead him across Asia, Africa, Australia, and back to the prairies of North America. His work with grasshoppers lead to a book of essays and creative non-fiction, as he transitioned into the Department of Visual & Literary Arts and the Department of Philosophy. 

We look forward to hosting Dr. Lockwood as he explores in his writings the communal changes on the Great Plains to humans and animals alike through the Homestead Act of 1862. In addition to exploring philosophical themes on the ecology at Homestead National Monument of America, he will provide a writing workshop for visitors. This workshop will be on Sunday, May 19th at 2 p.m, and is free of charge.

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

Contact Us
Homestead National Monument of America
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)

May 1 - May 10: Archaeological Survey by National Park Service Midwest Archaeological Center

May 1 - May 29: Hands-On Astronomy with GeoAstroRV, daily at 11 a.m. and 9 p.m.

May 3 and May 4, 7 a.m.: Birds and Bagels

May 4, 2 p.m.: 50th Anniversary of the Midwest Archeological Center

May 5, 2 p.m.: Un-driving the Golden Spike with author Jim Reisdorff

May 16, 7 p.m.: Book Discussion - One Book, One Nebraska (This Blessed Earth) in partnership with Beatrice Public Library (Education Center)

May 19, 2 p.m.: Artist-in-Residence Program: Dr. Jeffrey Lockwood 

May 25th, 10 a.m.: Tallgrass Prairie Fiddle Festival

To learn more about events visit:


2019 Tallgrass Prairie Fiddle Festival at Homestead National Monument of America!


Come out to Homestead National Monument of America for the annual Tallgrass Prairie Fiddle Festival and Acoustic Band Contest! The Fiddle Festival is Saturday May 25, 2019, starting at 10 a.m. With free fiddle and harmonica workshops in the morning, a luthier on-site, jam sessions erupting throughout the day, and over $3,000 in award monies, it is sure to be an event you will want to get on your calendar. The Tallgrass Prairie Fiddle Festival and Acoustic Band Contest is the place to be for musicians and music enthusiasts of all ages. The event is free of charge and held at the Homestead Education Center.

It is a day for fiddlers of all experience levels to come together much like when the first pioneers arrived in the 1800's and began settling. The sounds of fiddling were often heard drifting above the prairie whenever homesteaders got together and those same sounds will be heard on May 25, at the annual Tallgrass Prairie Fiddle Festival and Acoustic Band Contest.

The festival starts at 10 a.m. with a free fiddling workshop. Following the workshops, participants will break for an early lunch. The competition itself begins at noon. The one rule which makes this competition unique is that all songs must have been in existence by 1936, when Homestead National Monument of America was established.

Winners are announced at the end of each division. Trophies are given to the top three finalists in the Junior, Senior, Legends, and Acoustic Band divisions. For more than a decade, the Coffin Family Foundation has provided funding for the cash prizes. This event is possible through the generous support of Humanities Nebraska and the Friends of Homestead.

Bill Moos, Homestead Legacy Banner unveiling:

Did you know? Bill Moos, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Director of Athletics is the descendant of homesteaders from Cherry County, Nebraska!

Moos is now featured on a Homestead Legacy Banner at Homestead National Monument of America's Education Center, along with such notables as Pulitzer Prize winning author Willa Cather, famed aviator Charles Lindbergh, Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne, singer Jewel Kilcher and scientist and inventor George Washington Carver. The banner was unveiled in a special ceremony earlier this month.

The Homestead Legacy Program, which was established through the help and support of the Gage County Foundation nearly 20 years ago, highlights notable Americans and their connection to America's epic homestead story.

Photo: Homestead National Monument of America Superintendent Mark Engler with Bill Moos at the Homestead Legacy Banner unveiling.

NPS Photo  

"We are honored to have Athletic Director Moos as a participant in the Homestead Legacy Program," Homestead Superintendent Mark Engler said. "His participation is helping us to bring the history of homesteading alive and to make the story of homesteading relevant to today's global citizens."

The Bill Moos Homestead Legacy Banner was unveiled at a recent event hosted by the Friends of Homestead. During the ceremony, Moos shared stories tied to his Nebraska homestead history. 

His family traces its roots through eastern Montana, Nebraska, and Washington State. His great-grandfather homesteaded in Cherry County on a quarter section of land. Moos grew up on a ranch in Washington State. 
The Moos Homestead Legacy Banner can be seen at the Homestead National Monument of America Education Center, located four miles west and north of Beatrice along Nebraska Highway 4.

Happy Birthday to the Homestead Act!

On May 20th, the Homestead Act turns 153! We are partnering with the Bureau of Land Management to produce a special "StoryMap" to celebrate the Homestead Act of 1862 and the Land Ordinance of 1785, which share a birthday on May 20. A StoryMap is an online tool to combine maps and narrative in a geographic information system (GIS) framework. Stay tuned to the park's social media accounts to see this special StoryMap. 

T he Land Ordinance of 1785 established the Public Land Survey System (PLSS), and allowed settlement of public domain lands for the first time. The majority of the public domain in the United States was surveyed and mapped out under the Public Land Survey System, which was established under the Land Ordinance of 1785. The western lands of the United States were surveyed on a grid system which included 36 one square mile "sections"  per township - a six mile by six mile grid. A section contained 640 acres of land. Under this ordinance, the public domain lands went up for sale at $1.00 per acre, and an entire section had to be purchased. The high requirement of purchasing a full section kept many farmers from being able to purchase land directly, and many speculators purchased enormous parcels then sub-divided the land while profiting immensely. Debates over land policy ensued for decades - in the early American Republic Federalists such as the first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, sought to sell off large parcels of land at high prices to relieve the debts the young nation had accumulated in the Revolution. By contrast, Thomas Jefferson and others sought a republic of yeoman farmers based upon individual land ownership. Several land acts passed in the mid-19th century sought land reform, including the Homestead Act of 1862.

The Homestead Act of 1862 was a revolutionarily democratic piece of legislation - 
The Homestead Act of 1862 was a revolutionarily democratic piece of legislation - public lands in 30 states which had been surveyed according to the Land Ordinance of 1785 were now able to be settled by citizens, or those who had filed their declaration of intent to become a citizen. Heads of household could claim up to 160 acres per head of household, almost completely free!

In a very real sense, the Land Ordinance of 1785 and the Homestead Act of 1862 helped build the United States as we know it today. The distribution of American land under the Land Ordinance of 1785 and the Homestead Act of 1862 changed immigration and migration patterns for the whole world. The federal efforts to promote American westward settlement and cultivation of the land hastened the Industrial Revolution. As farms sprouted across the country, they needed equipment and machinery, creating a market and demand. These farms changed the tallgrass prairie of the Great Plains into the breadbasket of the world - the agricultural production of the lands that were opened up by these two laws enabled the massive growth of the United States of America cities into an industrial and agricultural superpower.
Creature Corner: 2019 Spring Live BioBlitz

On April 20th we had a bioblitz here at Homestead.  A bioblitz is an event where participants try and record and identify all the species in a given area.  The BioBlitz and conservation fair were held to celebrate the upcoming premiere of PBS's new Nature episode "Spring LIVE".  

During the bioblitz 47 observation were recorded in iNaturalist.  The 36 species observed included species from American Robin's, to termites.  Everytime we do a bioblitz (the first at Homestead was held in 2016) we find new species to add to the park iNaturalist list.    

In iNaturalist you can create projects.  The overall project for Homestead is titled Flora and Fauna of Homestead National Monument of America.  That project automatically adds any observations that are made within the boundary of the monument.  Currently there have been 981 observations and a total of 340 different species identified.  The most observed species is the Painted Lady butterfly.  For Ranger Jesse's favorite species that has been encountered at Homestead during a bioblitz visit

Everyone is encouraged to visit Homestead and contribute to the natural resource knowledge base by uploading photos of individual species to iNaturalist.  Once they are uploaded the iNaturalist application will suggest potential identifications and other users can also participate by identifying the species as well.  In fact  many of the 981 observation loaded into iNaturalist for Homestead still need to be identified to the species level so you can become a part of the citizen science movement from the comfort of your computer chair. 

So get out and enjoy nature while contributing to science at Homestead!

2019 Events Calendar Published

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

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

2019 Schedule of Events

Special Exhibits at the Education Center

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


1-10 10-3 p.m. Archeological Survey by Midwest Archeological Center
3 & 4 Fri-Sat 7:00 a.m. Birds & Bagels
4 Fri 2 p.m. - Midwest Archeological Center 50th Anniversary Public Archeology Event 
5 Sun 2 - 3 p.m. 150th Anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad with author Jim Reisdorff, "Undriving of the Golden Spike"
May 16, 7 p.m.: Book Discussion - One Book, One Nebraska (This Blessed Earth) in partnership with Beatrice Public Library (Education Center)

19 Sun 2 - 3 p.m. Artist-in-Residence Program: Dr. Jeffrey Lockwood
25 Sat 10:00 a.m. Tallgrass Prairie Fiddle Festival - Free Workshop
25 Sat 12:00 p.m. Tallgrass Prairie Fiddle Festival - Competition 
30 Thurs 7:00 p.m. Musical Quilters Play in Partnership with Area Arts Groups

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 Heritage Campfire Program

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