Homestead National Monument of America
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October Newsletter
News from the Homestead
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This October, we take time to appreciate the beauty of the Great Plains prairie in Fall: a season when homesteaders came together to bring in the harvest and celebrate as a community. At Homestead National Monument of America, we will be celebrating with some wonderful events, including: a Prairie Seed collection you can volunteer at, a Family History Month program, and our annual Howling Homestead Day.

For more information on upcoming events and programs, visit our website here.  

We hope you'll join us this Fall to remember the importance of the harvest season, and to participate in all the fun activities we'll be hosting here for friends and visitors to the park.

Mark Engler, Superintendent

Ann Weisgarber, author of The Personal History of Rachel Dupree, to visit Homestead National Monument of America

Homestead National Monument of America will be hosting Ann Weisgarber this month! Ann is the author of several published novels. Her debut novel, The Personal History of Rachel DuPree, takes place in 1917, and details the experiences of an African-American homesteader family in the South Dakota Badlands.
Viola Davis's production company JuVee Productions is in the process of adapting A Personal History of Rachel Dupree in a major motion picture. Ann will also discuss the adaption process for guests at her Sunday, October 27, presentation.
Ann will be detailing the process of writing a fictional book about an authentic historic experience and how her book was inspired by real places and historical documentation. 
Thursday, October 24, 7:00 p.m., Author Insight Event-Beatrice City Library
Saturday, October 26, 6:00 p.m., Meet and Greet at Howling Homestead-Homestead National Monument of America's Heritage
Sunday, October 27, 2:00 p.m ., Presentation on writing, the Personal History of Rachel Dupree, and adapting the novel for film.
Sunday, October 27, 300 p.m., Book Signing and Writing Party. Go explore Homestead National Monument of America to inspire your own writing

The Story of Isaac Potts (1844-1926), Confederate Homesteader

The saga of the 1866 Southern Homestead Act was in last month's Newsletter. It focused on this most unusual and ill-fated homestead law that was in force for a decade during post-Civil War Reconstruction period. One of its results, however, was enabling former Confederate soldiers the right to homesteaded like anyone else in the nation. We will now trace the story of one such former Confederate soldier, Isaac Potts, who got a homestead in Arkansas, a former Confederate state, in the mid-1890s.

First, it is important to realize that there is no way to rapidly identify which homesteaders in the USA were former Confederate soldiers or once actively supported the Confederacy-actions that under the original 1862 Homestead Act disbarred their ability to receive homesteads. Notably, the standard application form filled in by all prospective homesteads starting in the 1860s never required that they supply such information -- just as no racial information was required to be recorded. Consequently, it usually takes specific research on individual homesteaders to learn their stories. And while some of the many homesteaders in the former Confederate states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi had been Confederate soldiers or supporters, not all were. Some had fought for the Union.
One such case of a proven former Confederate soldier homesteading on public lands in the former Confederate state of Arkansas only came to my attention recently. I happened to purchase his original homestead certificate in an on-line sale, and in researching his history, I discovered that he had served in the Confederate Army in his youth. His story is probably both typical of how some former Confederates got homesteads, but also unusual as I'll soon reveal. In telling his story, I will also include my sources showing how I found his history as a help to others who may wish to do similar research.

On January 10, 1896, Isaac Potts (1844-1926) received a homestead patent for 40 acres of land in Fulton County, in north-central Arkansas. It was located in the hilly Ozark region that extended north in southern Missouri. The property Potts claimed had been administered through the Harrison, Arkansas land office, about 60 or more miles to the west of where he settled, which occurred sometime in the year 1890 or more likely in the later 1880s. This is deduced from his needing to have lived on his homestead for not less than 5 years before receiving title to it in early 1896. (The specific date of Potts' settlement on his land would in his homestead casefile in the National Archives in Washington, D.C., which I plan to see later this year.)

The homestead certificate that Potts received in January of 1896 was of the same style as all others of this period going back to the first issued in the 1860s. His, like all other homestead certificates through the early 20th century, was signed in the General Land Office in Washington, D.C. by a secretary authorized to sign the President's name. In Potts' case, the sitting President in early 1896 was Grover Cleveland -- a man whom Isaac Potts apparently like as he named a son for him.

As to Isaac Potts, he was born September 4, 1844 in Missouri, and died December 10, 1926, apparently in Fulton County, Arkansas, according to Arkansas death records found in He is buried in the Mount Calm Cemetery, Fulton County, Arkansas, near two of his children and other relatives, per Find A Grave. That website also shows a picture of his gravestone, which reported that he was born in 1840. However, census records instead suggest a more likely birth year of 1844.

Isaac Potts was married at least twice. He first married about 1869 probably in Arkansas to Phoebe Langston (1843-1885). She was born November 11, 1843 in Arkansas, and died June 29, 1885 probably in Izard County, Arkansas where they lived in 1870 and 1880, per the federal census. She was buried in Flat Rock Methodist Church Cemetery at Calico Run in Izard County, Arkansas, per Find A Grave. They had 6 children all born in Arkansas: John Mason Potts (1870-1884); Sarah Jane (Potts) Dodd (1871-1955), wife of Joseph L. Dodd (1868-1936); George Washington Potts (1874-1944); William Potts (ca. 1876-after 1880); Rebecca Ellen (Potts) Horn (1878-1908), wife of Claudius Caesar Horn (1878-1971); and Mary Meta Potts (1880-1882). Records in suggest that some of these children likely have living descendants today.

After Isaac Potts' first wife Phoebe died, he remarried about 1888 probably in Arkansas to "Lou." She was born in July 1855 in Alabama, and died after 1910 when they lived in Fulton County, Arkansas. Both are reported on the 1900 census as having been married twice. In 1900 and 1910, she was listed as having had 5 children with 2 alive in 1900, but "3 alive" in 1910, so there is an error in those records. Isaac and Lou had at least 2 children together who were living with them in 1900 and 1910: Ella Potts (born Oct. 1888 in Arkansas, who died after 1910) and Grover C. Potts (born March 1893 in Arkansas, who also died after 1910).
In 1920, Isaac Potts might have had a 3rd wife. In 1920, he was listed as "age 70" and married to a wife recorded as "Sarah E. Potts," "age 60" (thus born ca. 1860), but born in Arkansas, while "Lou," his second wife, had been born in Alabama. Both Isaac and Sarah E. Potts were living together with no others in their household in Fulton Township in Fulton County, Arkansas in 1920. This was the same place Isaac had been living with "Lou" in 1910. It might be that "Lou" and "Sarah" are the same person (maybe Sarah Louise?), with the age differences in the census listings perhaps being a case of older people sometimes claiming to be younger in later life, or the census taker simply making an error.

In further examining the federal census, in 1870, Isaac Potts was farming with his first wife Phoebe in Union Township in Izard County, Arkansas. In 1880, they were farming with their children in Guthrie Township in Izard County, Arkansas. In 1900, Isaac and his 2nd wife "Lou" and family were farming at Bennet's Bayou in Fulton County, Arkansas (Fulton County adjoins Izard County on the north, with both being in the Ozark Mountains). In 1910, they were farming in Fulton Township in Fulton County, Arkansas, while in 1920, Isaac and "Sarah E. Potts," his wife, were farming in the same township.

Confederate Army records on report that Isaac Pots served in Company G of the Arkansas 16th Infantry Regiment as a private. His grave listing in Find A Grave also notes his service in this unit. includes an article in the December 24, 1862 issue of "World Telegraph" paper (p. 2) from Washington, Arkansas noting that an Isaac Potts, then of Company I of the Arkansas 20th Regiment, had deserted. It is unclear if this is the same Isaac Potts, but it may be. (And the "desertion" just might have been him taking longer to return to his unit than first anticipated after visiting friends or relatives.)
So far, the story of Confederate soldier and homesteader Isaac Potts is probably pretty typical, but it takes an unusual turn. He also got a second homestead. This was possible due to a change in homestead laws that took place around the time he filed for his first 40-acre homestead that was granted to him in early 1896. Under the 1889 Homestead Act, passed March 2, 1889 (25 Stat. 854), homesteaders who had filed on less than 160 acres could make another homestead entry on contiguous land and obtain a second homestead. However, both added together could not exceed a total of 160 acres.

So, that's what he did sometime in the 1910s: Isaac Potts indeed filed for an additional homestead of 32.30 acres, which, for some reason, was still unclaimed federal land that adjoined his original 40-acre homestead. On December 7, 1922, Potts was granted his second homestead. It is likely that he continued living on his homestead land in the Ozarks of northern Arkansas until his death in his early 80s in 1926. (If only we could talk to him now and hear his tales of being a Confederate soldier and homesteader-twice!)

Family History Month Presentation!

Have you ever wondered about your family's story? Do you know when and where your great-grandparents married, settled down, and lived? Did you know that an estimated 93 million Americans today can trace their roots back to homesteaders? Are you one of them?

Come find out with Monument Historian Jonathan Fairchild, who will be giving a special Family History month presentation on the basics of genealogy research, followed by an interactive session with Homestead National Monument of America's research computers, before ending with a behind-the-scenes tour of the monument's museum collection of artifacts and documents. The event will be held Sunday, October 13th at 2:00 p.m. at the Homestead Heritage Center.

October has been celebrated every year as "Family History Month" since it was named so by Congress in 2001. It is a time of the year to reflect on where we have come from. 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. Staff and volunteers are available to assist visitors with their research.

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

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Homestead National Monument of America
Upcoming Events

Special Events at Homestead National Monument of America:

April - October - Promontory Point Exhibit (Homestead Education Center)

July -  October - Smoke Over Oklahoma Exhibit (Homestead Education Center)

Sunday, October 6th, 2:00 p.m. - Judge Paul Korslund on the Court Case of Daniel Freeman vs. John Scheve, et al (Homestead Education Center)

Saturday, October 12th, 1:00 p.m. - Prairie Seed Collection (Meet at Homestead Education Center)

Sunday, October 20th, 2:00 p.m. - Artist-in-Residence Program : Benjamin Bohnsack (Homestead Education Center)

Thursday, October 24th, 7:00 p.m. - Ann Weisgarber Meet the Author Event at the Beatrice City Library

Saturday October 26, 6:00 p.m. - Howling Homestead (Homestead Heritage Center)

Saturday, October 27th, 2:00 p.m. - Ann Weisgarber Presentation, Book signing, and Writing Party. (Homestead Education Center)

To learn more about events visit:
Howling Homestead!

It's time for Howling Homestead at Homestead National Monument of America! This exciting, fun, and family-friendly event will be held at the Heritage Center on Saturday, October 26, 2019, starting at 6:00 p.m. We will provide a variety of stations to entertain and delight. Join us to learn about the night sky, have fun with the "mad scientist," observe snakes and raptors and take a night hike through the tallgrass prairie, plus so much more! There is no fee for this event and  the first 100 children receive a free pumpkin to take home from the Friends of Homestead, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the monument.
Harvest time on a homestead brought a bounty of crops, including pumpkins and apples. There will be hot apple cider and cookies for everyone. Howling Homestead is funded in part by the Friends of Homestead, and Eastern National, the bookstores at the monument.
Many of the evening activities will be outdoors, so visitors are advised to dress for cool weather. We won't try to be scary. The event is appropriate for all ages. Please leave your costumes at home.

U.S. Presidents on the Homestead Act

"Now, let me start with a story, a bit of history -- 1862, the middle of the Civil War. And on May 20th of that year, Abraham Lincoln sat down with pen in hand and signed into law the Homestead Act of 1862. And that bill gave 160 acres to any family who wanted to make a go of it in the wilderness and reach for the American dream.

It is one of the most successful endeavors in American history, causing the great land rush to the Wild West and forming the vision for a new homesteading program in urban America today. Because Abraham Lincoln's Homestead Act empowered people, it freed people from the burden of poverty. It freed them to control their own destinies, to create their own opportunities, and to live the vision of the American dream."

- George H.W. Bush, November 28, 1990


Learn about a Landmark Historical Court Case at the Freeman School!

The Honorable Judge Paul Korslund will be giving a program at Homestead National Monument  of America's Education Center, Sunday, October 6th, 2019 at 2:00 p.m. on an important historical  court case over the separation of church and state that originated right at the Freeman School in  1902!

Beginning in 1899, Daniel Freeman, one of the United States' first homesteaders, objected to the  use of the Bible in public school instruction at the Freeman school near Beatrice. He requested  that the teacher in question, Edith Beecher, cease using the Bible as a textbook during her  classes. Beecher refused, stating that she had been granted permission by the school board to  read passages from the Bible, offer prayers, and sing hymns from a gospel hymn book.

Undaunted, Daniel Freeman took his case to the school board.  The school board defended Beecher, noting that the ten-minute exercises she conducted were " the best interests of the students." The state superintendent of schools, William R. Jackson,  suggested that Bible should not be considered as a sectarian book, but as a classic from which  moral lessons could be learned.

Freeman pursued the case, first to the Gage County District Court. When that body did not find  to his liking, he then appealed to the Nebraska Supreme Court. The case, known officially as  Daniel Freeman versus John Scheve, et. al. (Scheve was an officer of the school board), was  decided on October 9, 1902. The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled in favor of Daniel Freeman,  stating that the actions of Edith Beecher and the school board did indeed violate the Nebraska  Constitution's provisions regarding the separation of church and state. Interestingly, the State of  Nebraska brought to conclusion this issue many years before the United States Supreme Court  ever addressed it.

Today, visitors to Homestead National Monument of America can visit the Freeman School,  where Edith Beecher's instruction led to Daniel Freeman's lawsuit and, eventually, a landmark legal decision in the United States. Come see Judge Korslund's presentation in the Education Center, Sunday, October 6th at 2:00 p.m, then visit the Freeman School to see where history unfolded!

Homesteading in the News - Many Americans today pursue a modern homesteading lifestyle of self-sufficiency and sustainability, just like Americans homesteading under the Homestead Act of 1862. Various publications, television shows, and conferences chronicle their experiences and invite others to join the lifestyle. - Much like Homestead National Monument of America's demonstrations and events, Fort King in Ocala, Florida, is leading classes on "Historic Homesteading" to teach visitors about some of the techniques homesteaders used to craft the essentials they needed to prove up.  - Dolores Mosser penned this article about homesteaders in eastern New Mexico around the turn of the twentieth century, noting the trials and tribulations many homesteaders faced!,21121 - Homestead National Monument of America and the Beatrice Chamber of Commerce aren't the only ones celebrating Homestead Days! The Homesteader Museum in Powell County Wyoming celebrated it's Ninth Annual Homesteader Days last month. 
Natural Resources Corner - 
Seed Collection on the Prairie!

Did you know that Homestead National Monument has one of the oldest restored tallgrass prairies in the United States?

You can help rangers protect and preserve this valuable natural resource at an event to collect seed from Homestead National Monument of America's tallgrass prairie. Interested volunteers are invited to meet at Homestead's Education Center on October 12, 2019 at 1 p.m. for a short orientation to learn about the species that will be collected before heading out to the prairie to harvest seed. All ages are welcome; please bring gloves and wear long pants and long sleeve shirts along with sturdy shoes as you will be walking through the prairie.

The seed will be used to restore disturbed areas and increase species diversity where needed.

"Volunteering is a great way for you to get connected to your National Park Service site, so please join us for t his exciting event and learn more about the wonderful diversity of the tallgrass prairie and what you can do to help protect this vanishing resource," stated Homestead Superintendent Mark Engler.