Homestead National Monument of America
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November Newsletter
News from the Homestead
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This November, we remember and honor the brave men and women who have served in our nation's Armed Forces. November 11th is Veteran's Day, first celebrated one hundred years ago this year as Armistice Day. On November 11, 1919, Woodrow Wilson honored the sacrifices of Americans during World War I, as the nation "with splendid forgetfulness of mere personal concerns, remodeled our industries, concentrated our financial resources, increased our agricultural output, and assembled a great army... and sacrificed without limit in the cause for which we fought." This day is forever filled with a solemn pride.

In this month's newsletter, we remember some of America's homesteading veterans. From the very beginning, the Homestead Act encouraged veterans of American wars to take up a homestead. Indeed, both the nation's first (Daniel Freeman) and last (Ken Deardorff) homesteaders, were veterans. Freeman served in the Civil War, and Deardorff served in the Vietnam War. 

November also brings Thanksgiving. Here at Homestead National Monument of America, we are thankful for all of the volunteers, partners, neighbors, and communities nearby who throughout the year have made our programming and daily operations possible. We are also thankful for the staff and interns who keep the park operating daily year round.

As always, we hope you will join us this month for our programming and activities.  For more information on upcoming events and programs, visit our website here.  

Mark Engler, Superintendent
Homestead National Monument of America Salutes and Thanks Our Veterans

Every year on November 11, we celebrate and honor the service of all military veterans

Homestead National Monument of America is pleased to welcome Michael Smiley as our new Education Technician. Michael Smiley is from San Francisco, California. As we celebrate Veteran's Day this month, we are honored to salute our troops for their service - including Michael! 

Michael is a veteran of the Air Force, enlisting in 1992 and serving for six years, before being honorably discharged as a Senior Airman. He served in Misawa Air Base in Japan, as well as Beale Air Force Base in northern California. He shared that living a foreign country and getting to experience the culture there was one of his favorite experiences during his time in the service. He considers himself fortunate to also have had the opportunity to serve so close to home once returning to California.

Michael received an MA in Philosophy from the University of Nevada - Reno, and joined the National Park Service here at Homestead National Monument of America when he was seeking a teaching position in the federal government. He has particularly enjoyed being able to educate the public on the importance and impacts of the Homestead Act of 1862, and in learning new aspects of American history!

Winter Hours and Holiday Closures

Homestead National Monument of America will be closed
Thanksgiving Day, November 28th, 2019.

The monument closes early on December 24th, 2019, at 2:00 P.M. We will remain closed on  December 25, 2019. 

The monument will also be closed January 1, 2020. 

All other days:
The Homestead Heritage Center and Education Center will be open Monday to Friday, 8:30 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. and Saturday / Sunday from 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.

The trails and grounds are open from dawn until dusk 

The Story of Forster Tappan Howland, World War I Veteran and Homesteader

Did You Know?
In the last issue of the Newsletter, I wrote about a man, Isaac Potts (1844-1926), who served as a soldier in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, but was able to get a homestead under the 1862 Homestead Act.  That was due to an amendment to that law passed as part of the 1866 Southern Homestead Act.  Before that, persons who had borne arms against the nation or had actively supported the Confederacy, were unable to homestead.
Now, I will tell the story of another soldier-homesteader, Forster Tappan Howland (1890-1939).  He was a soldier in the U.S. Army during World War I, and his homestead was also done under terms different than the original 1862 Homestead Act.  His homestead patent, signed by a secretary for President Woodrow Wilson on June 3, 1920, was for 320 acres of land in Iron County in western Utah, and it took him under 2 years of residency on the land to gain rights to it.   
Specifically, this World War I veteran got his homestead due to two additional homestead laws that passed in the early 1900s that further changed the 1862 Homestead Act.  One was the 1909 Enlarged Homestead Act (35 Stat. 639) that allowed for 320-acre homesteads in some states.  The other was the 1912 Three-Year Homestead Act (37 Stat. 123) that decreased the required residency time for homesteaders to live on a homestead from 5 years down to 3 years.  And unlike Isaac Pitts who served in the Confederate Army, this World War I soldier-homesteader in Utah was able to substitute time he served in the army for some of the residency time required to qualify for his homestead.

Forster Tappan Howland was born December 31, 1890 in Denver, Colorado, and died December 13, 1939 in Los Angeles, California, just short of his 49th birthday, due to a car accident.  He was struck while crossing E. Washington Boulevard in the 600 block in Los Angeles, according to his obituary found in  He was buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, Los Angeles, County, California.  Later, his wife, who also died relatively young, was buried in the same cemetery in 1944.  
Forster married about 1921 to Anna C. Shoemaker (1886-1944).  She was born July 21, 1886 in Kansas, and died January 1, 1944 in Los Angeles, California.  In 1940, she was listed by the federal census as a widow living with their only son in Temple City, Los Angeles County, California.  This son was: John Dare Howland (1922-1987), named for Forster's father, with the younger John D. Howland serving in World War II.  (That made 3 generations of the Howlands war veterans: Forter's father in the Civil War, Forster in World War I, and Forster's son in World War II.)
According to his obituary in a Los Angeles paper found in, Forster T. Howland "...enlisted September 8, 1917 at Mitchel Field, Long Island, New York, and served as a corporal with the 322nd Field Signal Corps at such historic battles as the Marne, Champagne, Meuse-Argonne and St. Mihiel." includes his W.W. I draft registration card dated three months earlier, June 5, 1917, with his residence then in Los Angeles where he worked for the Hammond Lumber Company.  It also noted that he was of medium height, medium build, with blue eyes and a full head of sandy colored hair, though had some "rheumatism."
Another record reported that on May 10, 1918, after about 8 months of training, he held the rank of Corporal and was transported to fight in Europe on the ship "Wilhelmina" along with numerous other soldiers.  But not all of his companions on the ship fared as well as he did.  And in his case, he was able to return to the United States in late 1918 or 1919, and to his homestead claim in western Utah.
As for getting this homestead, before enlisting in the army, Forster had made entry on a 320-acre tract of land in western Utah on March 10, 1916.  Why he did this is unclear, but getting land and then selling it to make money was common at this time and it seems likely that this may have been his motivation.  With Forster born and raised in urban Denver, he hadn't grown up as a farmer, so real dedication to farming for the rest of his life seems unlikely. 
In Forster's case, he was able to prove up his claim much faster than Isaac Potts did, which also may have motivated his homestead venture.   Forster was able to substitute some of his time in military service for time needed to meet the 3-year residency requirement to prove up his homestead.  I cannot determine the exact amount of time he lived on his homestead, but it appears to have been less than two years, with one year the minimum amount possible for such soldiers depending on their length of time in service. 
On November 7, 1919, less than a year after the end of World War I, Forster gave notice at the U. S. Land Office in Salt Lake City of his intention "to make final his three-year proof to establish claim," and he did so successfully.  Subsequently, he received patent to his 320 acres of land in Iron County, Utah on June 3, 1920.  
Just before that, on January 20, 1920, Forster was reported by the 1920 census as working as a laborer on a section crew in Lund Precinct in Iron County, Utah.  At that time, Forester, age 28, was single and was reported as the head of the household with his younger brother, Chaffee Howland, age 26, also single, living with him.  Chaffee's occupation was "artist," thus following after their father's footsteps.  Presumably, they were living at that time in Forster's dwelling on his homestead (probably a rather hastily built small cabin, often called a "homestead shack" at this time with some justification).
But by sometime in 1921, life changed for Forster.  The Denver, Colorado City Directory of 1921 (also on reported that Forster was back living in Denver with his then-widowed mother in relatively fine circumstances.  He occupation was "battery man," which might mean that he was involved in the production or selling of batteries for automobiles and certain machinery of the era.  But soon he would marry and return to the Los Angeles area.  Sometime in the 1920s or 1930s, he likely sold his Iron County, Utah homestead, but learning the specific date would involve research in the records of Iron County.  
What is known from other records is that by 1922, Forster T. Howland was married and living in the Los Angeles, California area.  A 1927 Directory for Inglewood listed him and his wife living at 4519 119th, with his occupation being a chauffeur. 
In 1930, however, the census reported that Forster had moved with his wife and son to Santa Anita, Los Angeles County, California.  This would have been sometime after about 1927.  His occupation was reported in 1930 as a tile setter in a department store, but he apparently also had some employment at least part-time by the early 1920s with "Los Angeles Times" newspaper as a "transportation employee."  This means he apparently worked as a driver for some of the paper's needs though exactly what he did is not documented.  Forster's obituary printed in the "Los Angeles Times" on December 17, 1939, called him a "veteran Times employee," and that "Howland was with this newspaper for 17 years."  This obituary also stated that: "His casket [was to be] decorated with the American flag under which he fought in nearly every major battle participated in by American troops in France in 1918...." 
Other interesting records also found in about Forster T. Howland include his party affiliation in California Voting Registrations rolls.  In 1930, he was a registered Republican, but by 1932 he was listed as a registered Democrat.  The 1938 City Directory of Los Angeles (also indexed in reported Forster to be a driver for the California Rotogravure Company.  He was then living with his family in Temple City in the great Los Angeles area.  And it was also there where he and his family resides when he was accidentally struck and killed by a car.  
And so ends the "enlarged" story of a World War I veteran homesteader, Forster Tappan  Howland, who had an "enlarged" homestead.    It illustrates the sometimes rich and quite unexpected stories that can be reconstructed about their lives of homesteaders and their family members using genealogical techniques employing some of today's remarkable on-line sources and databases. 

(Editor's Note: To learn more about how to use these online sources and databases, come visit the Heritage Center, where a ranger will be happy to assist!)

Maintenance Division - Upkeep Updates!

The Maintenance Division at Homestead has been busy this Fall!  The Upland Prairie Loop Traill which were flooded in the Spring along Cub Creek has is completely reopened and regravelled, and benches have been reinstalled. After four weeks, the painting project at the Heritage Center is finally complete. The entire building, as well as as the Living Wall have been repainted or restained, and everything is looking as good as new!   

The Maintenance Division is partnering with woodworkers for a project with desks, windows, and shutters at the Freeman School, working carefully to preserve and maintain that important historic resource for visitors to appreciate the history of one room schoolhouses in America. The project will be leaving the tops of the desks untouched, in order to keep the original graffiti drawn by students in those desks so many years ago!

America the Beautiful Park Passes - Free for Active Military!

To show our appreciation for those who serve in the U.S. Military, the National Park Service has started issuing an  annual pass offering free entrance to all national parks for active duty military members and their dependents. "We all owe a debt to those who sacrifice so much to protect our country," said Homestead National Monument of America Superintendent Mark Engler. "We are proud to recognize these brave men and women and hope that a visit to this or any national park will offer an opportunity to unwind, relax, rejuvenate, and just have fun with their families."

While Homestead National Monument of America does not charge fees or requires park permits, these annual passes can be obtained at the monument.

An interagency pass is your ticket to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites. Each pass covers entrance fees at national parks and national wildlife refuges as well as standard amenity fees at national forests and grasslands, and at lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A pass covers entrance and day use fees for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle at per vehicle fee areas (or up to four adults at sites that charge per person). Children age 15 or under are admitted free.

Current U.S. military members and dependents in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Cost Guard, and Reserve and National Guard members are eligible to receive a free annual pass in person. Come visit Homestead to pick up your pass today!
The Homestead Act, Homestead National Monument of America, and  the U.S. Armed Forces

Last Veterans Day, we introduced readers to two U.S. military properties that shared our name.

The first -- a now lost ship called the S.S. Homestead -- was a a T2 class oil tanker that helped the United States fight the Second World War. More than 500 T2 tankers were built between 1940 and 1945 to meet the needs of the American military in transporting fuel oil, diesel fuel, and gasoline. Tankers like this carried 65 million tons of oil and gasoline from North America to war zones and to America's allies in the war.

The S.S. Homestead was built in 1945 by the Kaiser Shipbuilding Company in Portland, Oregon for the United States War Shipping Administration. It was struck by lightning, caught on fire, and sank outside of Jacksonville, Florida August 5, 1946. Details about the ship can be reviewed here:

A U.S. T2 Tanker, like the S.S. Homestead

The S.S. Homestead  was named after Homestead National Monument of America. Other ships of the class are also named after National Park Service sites, such as Joshua Tree, Kings Canyon, Muir Woods, Scott's Bluff and many more.

The other property still exists today, and is the Homestead Air Reserve Base, outside of Homestead, Florida.

Homestead Air Force Reserve Base, outside of Homestead, Florida

In Florida, there is an Air Force Reserve Base which shares our name. The Homestead Air Reserve Base is located near Homestead, Florida. Homestead earned its name after employees of the Florida East Coast Railway started referring to the region as "Homestead Country," due to the number of claimants in the area under the Homestead Act.  Once it came time to name the burgeoning settlement at the end of the rail, they dropped the "Country" and just called themselves "Homestead!"

You can learn more about this base and its history at:, and at the base's website:

Do you know of any other military installations, ships, planes, or units that might owe their names to the Homestead Act of 1862 or to homesteaders? If so, let us know!

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 at Homestead National Monument of America:

November 29 - December 31 - Winter Festival of Prairie Cultures (Homestead Education Center)

Sunday, November 10, 2:00 p.m. - American Indian Heritage Month Program - "People of the Earthlodge: Lifeways of the Hidatsa" - Virtual Connection with Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site (Homestead Education Center)

Monday, November 11th - Veteran's Day - Fee-Free day across the National Park Service

Thursday, November 28 - Thanksgiving. Park is closed.

Friday, November 29th and Saturday, November 30th - National Junior Ranger Weekend!

To learn more about events visit:
Chief Standing Bear and Native American Heritage Month

November is Native American Heritage Month. Do you know the story of Chief Standing Bear? Just a few weeks ago, his statue was placed in the United States Capitol Building in Statuary Hall. His statue replaced the one of William Jennings Bryan, which had been in the collection since 1937. In 2020, a statue of Willa Cather will replace J. Sterling Morton.

Chief Standing Bear was a member of the Ponca tribe, an Indian nation in northern Nebraska along the confluence of the Missouri and Niobrara rivers. He was born in a time of great change in the Midwest - until the early 1800s, few Americans had permanently settled so far into the heart of the continent.  Nebraska wouldn't become a territory for decades, and held only a few forts and trading posts.  However, over the course of his life, that changed quickly.

The Ponca tribe signed a pair of peace treaties with the United States in the early 1800s, aimed at minimizing potential hostilities with the U.S. and with neighboring tribes, especially the Sioux. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 brought in a much higher number of settlers than ever before, prompting a new treaty in 1858 - the Ponca sold most of their land to the United States, maintaining a reservation along the Niobrara. Ten years later, the government negotiated the Fort Laramie Treaty with the Sioux nation, which mistakenly gave away the Ponca reservation lands to the Sioux.

In 1875, the Ponca Tribe agreed to move to Indian Territory, in present-day Oklahoma, in order to select a new reservation. After taking what has been called the "Ponca Trail of Tears" from Nebraska to Oklahoma, as many as a third of the tribe had died, including Standing Bear's own son, Bear Shield.
Standing Bear had promised his son that he would be buried in the Ponca ancestral homelands along the Niobrara River, and left the reservation with a small party, without permission to do so - an order to arrest him was issued by the U.S. military. 

General Crook, who headed the Army's Department of the Platte (headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, and including Wyoming, Utah, and parts of Idaho) had Standing Bear arrested and detained at Fort Omaha. Standing Bear sued for a writ of habeas corpus, in the landmark case of Standing Bear v. Crook in April 1879.

Standing Bear's lawyers, John Webster and Andrew Jackson Poppleton, argued that the Fourteenth Amendment, which grants citizenship as well as equal protection and due process of the law to all persons born or naturalized in the U.S., applied to Indians who had severed tribal relations. The Defense attorney, Genio Lambertson, argued that an Indian was not a citizen, and not allowed to sue in court, relying on the precedent established in Dred Scott v. Sanford. 

Standing Bear famously made a speech at the trial, stating eloquently, "My hand is not the color of yours, but if I prick it, the blood will flow, and I shall feel pain. The blood is of the same color as yours. God made me, and I am a man."

Judge Elmer S. Dundy ruled on May 12, 1879, that "An Indian is a 'person' within the meaning of the laws of the United States, and has the right to sue in a federal court, as well has possessing the right of expatriation - the Poncas could travel to their ancestral homelands.

Standing Bear returned to Nebraska and lived the rest of his life along the Niobrara River, buried near his ancestors, where his descendants still live.

Celebrate American Indian Heritage Month with Homestead and Knife River Indian Villages
On Sunday, November 10th Homestead National Monument of America will connect virtually with park rangers from Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site who will present their program: "People of the Earthlodge: Lifeways of the Hidatsa". This program with Knife River Indian Villages will take place at the Homestead Education Center at 2:00 p.m.
Visitors will "step inside" the full scale, reconstructed earthlodge at Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site and explore the lives of the Northern Plains Indians on the Upper Missouri River. Park rangers will help visitors explore the roles and responsibilities of the people within the community that served as a trade center for thousands of years and examine the effects of trade, technology, and westward expansion on the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara.
"Modern technology allows us to explore the world and bring subject matter experts into our own living rooms. We are very excited to offer this opportunity for visitors to connect with park rangers at Knife River Indian Villages and learn about the culture and traditions of the tribes of the Northern Great Plains in celebration of American Indian heritage month," stated monument Superintendent Mark Engler. 

Homestead Welcomes Acting Chief Ranger Randall Becker

Homestead National Monument of America is pleased to welcome Acting Chief Ranger Randall Becker. Ranger Randall is on assignment for several months from George Washington Carver National Monument in Missouri.

Randall Becker attended Northern Illinois University for his undergraduate degree, then went to Western Illinois for graduate school, where he graduated in 1998. 

Randall joined the National Park Service after spending a year backpacking in Europe with his then-girlfriend, now-wife. That adventurous spirit saw the two come back, looking for work - they headed off to Boston via train, with backpacks and tents, and not much else! Randall's position was a seasonal park guide at Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site, dedicated to exploring the birthplace of the American iron and steel industry in the colony of Massachusetts in the 1600s.

Randall has been with the National Park Service for 18 years now, serving in four different regions! For the last eight years, he has been at George Washington Carver National Monument, where he is the Chief Ranger. His favorite aspect of the job is the diversity and people he has met along the way, and said that he is "Happy to be here! It's been a wonderful experience so far!"

Welcome to Homestead!!

Unique Holiday Gifts at Homestead's Bookstores

The holiday season is right around the corner! There are unique gift options available at Homestead's National Monument of America's National Park bookstores, located in both the Heritage Center and the Education Center. Potential gift ideas include National Park gear, Homestead memorabilia, books, ornaments, state and National Park quarters, and much more! Also available: a public lands entrance fee pass for your favorite National Park enthusiast!

U.S. Presidents on the Homestead Act

"In July 1862,  in the darkest days of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln signed two acts which were to help to mold the future of the Nation which he was then struggling to preserve.
The first of these, the Homestead Act, provided, in Carl Sandburg's words, "a farm free to any man who wanted to put a plow into unbroken sod."

The second, the Morrill Act, donated more than one million acres of Federal land to endow at least one university in every State of the Union.

Thus even as the Nation trembled on the brink of destruction the vast lands of the American West were open to final settlement. A new America of unparalleled abundance began to grow, and the most ambitious and fruitful system of higher education in the history of the world was developed.

- John F. Kennedy, November 12, 1961


Researching and Presenting the History of Homesteading

Homestead's Historian, Jonathan Fairchild, has been busy lately! Over the past few weeks he has presented at various venues on doing family history research, conducting oral histories, on using the Homestead Land Entry Case Files, and on Czech homesteader immigrants in the Midwest.

Do you have a research topic centered around homesteading? You can visit the monument and receive in-person research and reference assistance! No question is too big or small.  Visitors are welcome to visit the Homestead Heritage Center during regular business hours to conduct their own family research on the monument's research computers.

Can't make it to the monument? Give us a call, or send an e-mail - research services are also available remotely.

Homesteading in the News

  - Ilene White Freedman discusses her vision of modern homesteading: "living with sustainability in mind."

 - Hawaiian Native Homesteaders and the Hawaiian Homestead Act of 1921

- The story of Mittie Moore Wilson, an African-American homesteader in New Mexico in the early 20th century.

 - The importance of the Homestead Act for women in the 19th and 20th centuries. Stay tuned to this topic in 2020 for the centennial of the 19th Amendment!
Natural Resources Corner - 
Prescribed Burn on the Prairie!

Fire is a powerful natural force in the tallgrass prairie. Without fire, many plants in the prairie struggle to reach their full potential. Fire is also a force that many homesteaders feared, for good reason - prairie fires develop and spread quickly. In extended periods of dryness, one strike of lightning could spark a fire that spread for miles.

Because fire is a powerful management tool and a destructive force, NPS Policy states that each park with burnable vegetation will  maintain an approved and current fire management plan. The plan spells out how to respond to wildfires and how to use fire as a management tool. Fire promotes biodiversity, reduces unwanted vegetation, and plays an important role in returning nutrients to the soil.

The park compled a prescribed burn on approximately 30 acres at the park , October 24th, 2019. Visitors  experienced the prairie fire from the safety of the Heritage Center. 

Many thanks to everyone involved in the prescribed burn, including representatives from the National Park Service, local Fire Districts, and other Federal agencies in assisting in setting, monitoring, controlling, and extinguishing the prescribed fire.