Homestead National Monument of America
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May  Newsletter
News from the Homestead
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May is a very special month for Homestead National Monument of America - on May 20th, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act into law. This year marks the 158th anniversary of the Homestead Act, and its tremendous impact and legacy continues to be felt even today. In honor of Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month, our featured column by Bob King explores the story of a Japanese homesteader in Idaho. May also marks the celebration of National Teacher Week, and Preservation Month. 

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

Mark Engler, Superintendent

Education on the Homestead: Celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week!

Homesteaders took education very seriously - in fact, schoolhouses were often one of the first permanent structure built in a homesteading community. Land was set aside in each township for the purpose of constructing a schoolhouse (Section 16). Many homesteaders, including the Ingalls family of Little House on the Prairie fame even left the homestead in winter months to pursue an education for their children, if a schoolhouse was not near enough.

With the high priority on education, it is no surprise that teachers at one-room or country schools were more than just teachers. The teacher's responsibilities often included (but were not limited to) opening and preparing the schoolhouse, gathering water and firewood, and dealing with everyday problems such as sick children, or snake in the schoolhouse. Some teachers were hardly older than their oldest students!

Despite all this extra work, teachers continued to help students of all ages and grades get an education while living on their homestead.

Just as these individuals helped to provide  education in remote areas, teachers today continue to adapt and provide engaging and educational opportunities for their students, often digitally or remotely. On this Teacher Appreciation Week, we salute and send our sincere thanks to all of the teachers out there working each day to impact their student's lives.

Thank you Teachers!!

The Story of a Japanese-American Homesteader of the Mid-20th Century

In several of my past columns, I have enjoyed telling about various homesteaders of the later 1800s and early 1900s.  Their stories not only allow us to understand more about the lives of individual homesteaders (both men and women), but also realize that homesteading occurred differently at different times and under different federal laws.  These changes were largely in response to solving various problems faced by homesteaders in different parts of the nation at different times.  But also, such changes reflected evolving national policies for public land use including its transfer into private ownership, which is much less frequently done today.  
This month's article continues this series of examining various ways that homesteading occurred in the United States from the 1860s into the 1980s, by again focusing on a single homesteader's story.   This time, it is the unusual case of a Japanese American World War II veteran who received two special types of homesteads in the 1950s, under a law passed 40 years after President Lincoln signed the original homestead act in 1862.  The law used was the 1902 Reclamation Act, sometimes called the "Newland Act."
First, let me introduce you to Mr. John Yoshio Kobayashi (1921-1998).  According to his obituary found in, he was born on May 28, 1921 in Idaho Falls in southeastern Idaho of Japanese immigrant parents.  He grew up on a nearby farm in the Ucon Precinct, with the 1930 federal census listing him as a nine-year-old boy and fourth son in the family of Kyutaro Kobayashi and his wife Matsu (Endo) Kobayashi, successful farmers in the area.  His father had arrived in the United States in 1901 and his mother in 1915, with neither naturalized in 1930. 
After graduating from high school in Ucon, Idaho, John attended college for two years before serving in the U.S. Army during W.W. II.  He was a member of the famous 442nd Infantry Regiment, which remains today as the most decorated unit in U.S. military history.  This remarkable regiment was composed almost entirely of second-generation American soldiers of Japanese ancestry ("Nisei") who served in World War II with great acclaim for their valiant and significant accomplishments that helped win the war.
John's time in the army took him to Europe, where other Japanese Americans served rather than fighting in the Pacific, which was not possible for them at this time.  Instead, the 442nd saw heavy combat during World War II in Italy and elsewhere and was not inactivated until 1946.  According to John's World War II registration card found in, he was demobilized on October 21, 1946.
After returning from the war, John married in 1949 in Chicago to an American-born Japanese woman whom he met there named Sumiko Dorothy Yagi (1920-2006), called "Sumi."  While her experiences during World War II were much different than her husband's, they were also very harrowing.  She had been born in Seattle in 1920, also of Japanese immigrant parents.  According to federal census records, in 1930, she was a nine-year-old girl living with her family in Seattle, where her father, Genji Yagi (1892-1976), was a driver for an express company.  Sometimes during the mid-1930s, they moved to the small farming community of Mesa in eastern Washington, where he apparently operated a small grocery store by 1935. 
By 1940, the Yagi family was back in Seattle where Sumi's father again owned or rented a small grocery business with the family apparently prospering.  However, in early 1942, the lives of all members of the Yagi family, including Sumi, dramatically changed for the worst.  Within months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and war being declared against the Empire of Japan, all members of the Yagi family, along with thousands of other people of Japanese heritage in America (especially in Pacific coastal states  and the Territory of Alaska), were forced to leave their homes after given very short notice, and transported for internment at virtual prison camps under guard far from their homes.  This is now regarded as a great national mistake but was justified at that time by concerns for national security.  (In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 for the unjust wartime internment of people of Japanese heritage.  It included an apology on behalf of the United States and authorized a payment of $20,000, equivalent to $44,000 in 2020, to each camp survivor.)
Records in tell of the Yagi family's lengthy internment with up to 9,000 other West Coast Japanese heritage people (both US citizens and non-citizens) at the Minidoka Relocation Camp in southcentral Idaho.   Documents report that the family arrived there on August 19, 1942, with members subsequently released at different times.  Mr. Yagi and his wife Ume were detained until September 28, 1945, after which they left for Chicago.  Their oldest child, Sumi (the future Mrs. John Y. Kobayashi), was discharged July 11, 1944 and had gone earlier to Chicago.  Her younger sister, Sachiko Yagi, had previously left on March 30, 1943 for employment at Rupert, Idaho, while their brother George, the youngest in the family, was sent to Fort Douglas, Utah on September 15, 1944.  Several other young men held in the Minidoka Relocation Camp also went to Fort Douglas around this time.  The likely reason was for them to join the army, although the records I found lacked such details.  Also unclear is whether the Yagi family was held in another internment facility prior to August 19, 1942.
Soon after John Y. Kobayashi and Sumi Yagi married, they moved to Riverton, Wyoming, where they had learned that semiarid land would soon be opened to a form of homesteading.  It was part of a largescale federal irrigation district, called the Riverton Reclamation Project area, where federal dollars were spent to bring water to land otherwise too dry to farm.  Afterwards, the "reclaimed" land was to be opened to homesteading under terms of the 1902 Reclamation Act and supplemental legislation passed in 1912.  Reclamation homestead law specified how such reclaimed semiarid land could be patented to homesteaders.  While like some parts of the original 1862 Homestead Act, there were also notable differences.
At any time after complying with requirements for residency, reclamation, and cultivation, homesteaders could apply for patent to the land.  Yet such patents came with a lien reserved to the United States, with the lien also involving the water-right certificates that all homesteaders in reclamation areas were required to purchase.  These liens obligated reclamation area homesteaders to making yearly payments to help repay the federal government's expense of reclaiming the land.  (In some reclamation areas, notably the Columbia Basin Reclamation in Washington State during 1948-1966, instead of patenting the land to settlers under reclamation homestead law, it was instead sold to them under terms of different legislation.  Yet other requirements for reclamation homesteading still applied, including annual payment for water.)
"Reclamation homesteading," as it was sometimes called, began in the early 1900s in certain federally withdrawn areas where farming was impossible without the establishment of largescale water containment and delivery infrastructure, which was beyond the ability of individual homesteaders to finance.  These typically required the construction of large dams and extensive irrigation systems including establishing miles of ditches to bring water into dry regions often covered by sagebrush with annual rainfall insufficient to support normal farming.  Consequently, such areas required substantial federal money and planning to build the necessary expensive infrastructure, with that cost prorated and passed along to the homesteaders who then made annual payment for the water needed for their farming.
What drew the Kobayashis to Wyoming soon after their marriage was the impending third opening of what had once been Indian reservation land, later ceded to the government.  These semiarid lands were being reclaimed after World War II in the Riverton Reclamation Project area in Fremont County, Wyoming.  A third opening attracted the Kobayashis and was referred to as the Third Division of the project.  It was to make another 159 homestead tracts available.  As a veteran, John received preference in a lottery drawing for land and won rights to a 160-acre homestead.  It was patented to him on January 31, 1952, per records found in the BLM website: .  This was after John successfully "proved up," following fulfilling all requirements of reclamation homestead law.  However, seepage and other issues soon arose within the Third Division area resulting in the Kobayashis and many others selling their patented homesteads back to the federal government.
As a result, John and his family left Wyoming in 1954 and came to Rupert, Idaho, where another opening of reclaimed homestead land nearby was soon to occur.  This was a further development, called the Northside Project, within the Minidoka Reclamation area north of Rupert begun in the early 1900s.  John was again lucky in a drawing that also gave preference to veterans.  He received title to a second reclamation homestead of 126.67 acres in the new Northside Project area located in Minidoka County, Idaho, with the land patented to him on April 7, 1955.  His new homestead was about 20 miles north of Rupert, Idaho and about 100 miles southwest of where he had grown up near Idaho Falls, Idaho.  It was also about 50 miles east of where his wife and her family had been held in the Minidoka Relocation Camp during World War II. 
Sumi Kobayashi's obituary described their second reclamation homestead experience as: "John and Sumi drew a farm on the Northside Project, where they farmed and raised their family and where Sumi resided until her passing" in 2006. 
John's 1998 obituary in a Twin Falls, Idaho newspaper stated that he had engaged in farming at his second reclamation homestead and later resided in Rupert, Idaho.  It also reported that he was well-connected in Rupert, having been a member of the Royal Arch Masons, the Cryptic Masons, and Twin Falls Commandry No. 10 Knights Templar.  Additionally, it told that he was a member of the United Methodist Church in Rupert and the United Methodist Men organization.  At his burial in the Rupert, Idaho cemetery on May 2, 1998, four days after his death on April 28th, graveside rites were jointly conduced by the Masons and the American Legion, with the latter participating in honor of his notable service during World War II.  His widow, Sumi, was also very active in various social groups at Rupert including the Order of the Eastern Star and Methodist church.  Some surviving members of their family, which include two sons and a daughter and their families, still farm in the Rupert area, where John Y. Kobayashi was a successful and well-respected Japanese American homesteader starting in the mid-1950s
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). 

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

Stay in touch with us all the time! 

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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:

Preservation Month and the National Register of Historic Places

May is Preservation Month, which was first established in 1973 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation to promote and celebrate historic places, instill a pride in our shared heritage and history, and showcase the benefits of historic preservation. Homestead National Monument of America and the National Park Service take their responsibilities for stewardship and preservation of America's cultural and natural resources very seriously. The National Park Service manages the National Register of Historic Places, which is the official list of America's historic places worthy of preservation. Created by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Register of Historic Places is part of a program to coordinate and support efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archaeological resources.

Homestead National Monument of America was placed on the register in 1966, for its significance in American history. Historic structures on the listing include the Palmer-Epard Cabin, the Freeman School complex, the Freeman family cabin sites, a D.A.R. monument, and the Osage Orange Fence Row.

Image: Park staff take an active role in preserving and maintaining Homestead's natural and cultural resources, as seen here during the 2009 move of the Palmer-Epard Cabin.

Do you know of a site that may be worthy of preservation? Check out this page: 

To learn more about Preservation Month and the National Register of Historic Places, visit 

Work at Homestead with the American Conservation Experience! 

Are you looking for a fun summer job? Are you interested in history?  American Conservation Experience, a Non-Profit Conservation Corps, in partnership with the National Park Service is seeking a candidate for a Historian Position willing to dedicate 11 weeks in support of the National Park Service at Homestead National Monument of America. This position is part of the Cultural Resources Diversity Internship Program, and applicants must be between the ages of 18-35, and either  in pursuit of a higher education degree, or within two years of graduating.

This position will involve working with Homestead's historian on researching the role of women homesteaders in the suffrage movement, as well as creating content to promote the project. 

This excellent opportunity is ideal for an enthusiastic young professional who is deeply committed to historical research. Applicants must have strong interest in Women's history. Follow the link below to learn more and to submit your application.

Happy 158th Birthday to the Homestead Act! 

May is a very important month here at Homestead National Monument of America. President Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act  into law on May 20th, 1862! 

In fact, the Homestead Act shares that birthday with another very important document in United States History - do you know what it is? Here's a hint: it predates the ratification of the U.S. constitution!  On May 20th, 1785 Congress adopted the Land Ordinance Act of 1785, which enabled the federal government to begin distributing public domain lands, and established the Public Land Survey System. 

Check out this ESRI StoryMap that Homestead National Monument teamed up with the Bureau of Land Management-Eastern States to create on the history of these two very influential parts of American Federal land policy!

Homestead Trivia - Barbed Wire Telephones

These days, we have found many creative ways to stay in touch with our family and friends. Through video conferencing, interactive messages, and social media, we can "hang out" with loved ones digitally, in different ways.

Even though homesteads were often very distant from their neighbors, h omesteaders were finding creative ways to stay in touch as well. The telephone was invented during the 1870s, as the number of claims filed under the Homestead Act began to explode. However, the installation of certain technologies and utilities to rural, isolated areas was very expensive. But homesteaders found an ingenious solution, utilizing another invention from the 1870s: barbed wire! Using barbed wire fences and telephones, homesteaders were able to phone their friends and catch the latest news (or gossip!).

Image of barbed wire in the Homestead museumcollection.

Because this method of communication was not limited to a certain amount of minutes each month, homesteaders began to "hang out" on the phone, often times reading the newspaper or playing instruments through the line. This became a community affair as some fences had as many as 20 phones wired into them.

Ranger Jesse's Natural Resource Musings

May means garlic mustard. Garlic mustard is a non-native, invasive species which was introduced to the United States for its medicinal and food value. The earliest record comes from New York state in 1868. What exactly is an invasive species? The National Park Service defines them as a non-native organism whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm, or harm to human, animal, or plant health.
As part of the ongoing efforts to maintain native vegetation in the prairie and woodland, Homestead National Monument of America monitors invasive plant species. These species are controlled in a variety of ways, including mowing, selective use of herbicides, and  prescribed burning. The goal is to present a landscape that is as historically accurate as possible. 

Garlic mustard was first noted at Homestead in 2010. Since then natural resource management staff has been working to control it every spring by hand pulling. Progress has been made on the first patch that was discovered, however it does continue to spread on the west side of Cub Creek.

While the damage done to the woodlands of the United States is staggering, because of garlic mustard hundreds of people are brought together to experience the woodland in all its spring glory: the first violets blooming, the birds signing, and the first butterflies emerging, all while helping to pull this woodland invader. Spring is a busy time here at the monument, between  school groups, increased vegetation, and growing grass; pulling garlic mustard gives you time to slow down and enjoy the scenic beauty. If you are interested in finding the meditative state of weeding visit with Resource Manager Jesse Bolli and he will be able to point you in the right direction.

Maintenance Corner - Plexiglass Installation

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!
Even though the buildings at the monument are currently closed, the Maintenance Division has been doing a great job of keeping the grounds ready for visitors. As a reminder - the grounds of the park, and the trails, are still open.

They've also been preparing the monument to be ready to operate once the park reopens, by installing plexiglass barriers at the front desk of both the Education Center and the Heritage Center. The National Park Service and Homestead National Monument continue to prioritize public health and safety, and these barriers will promote social distancing measures. 

Other social distancing measures in the park include the temporary removal of most chairs in the auditorium and theater, leaving a six foot distance between all remaining chairs. In addition, plexiglass barriers have been installed at the research computers, and multiple computer stations have been temporarily removed.