Students watch a video about homesteaders in the 19th century, and learn about some of the 372,000 families who made the move.
This lesson is part of "Great States: Montana | Unit 5: European Settlement" where students will evaluate the conditions that made Montana a destination for settlement.
4.1: Identify and use various sources of information (e.g., artifacts, diaries, photographs, charts, biographies, paintings, architecture, songs) to develop an understanding of the past.
4.3: Examine biographies, stories, narratives, and folk tales to understand the lives of ordinary people and extraordinary people, place them in time and context, and explain their relationship to important historical events.
- Video: Homesteading – Homestead Act and Northern Plains
- An interactive whiteboard, projector, or another type of screen to show videos to the class
- Notebooks or loose-leaf paper (optional)
- Explain to students that after the Homestead Act of 1862 was passed, people moved to the lands that would become Montana and other Northern Plains states. The Act provided land to newcomers, allowing people to own on a set number of acres. Roughly 372,000 families came from the eastern parts of the United States, as well as Scandinavia, Europe, and some Asian countries.
- Instruct students to take notes on video, notice the supplies, and have them think about what they would need if they were a settler looking to move west.
- Play the video, Homesteading – Homestead Act and Northern Plains. [5:02]
- As a class discussion, have students answer the following questions:
- What was the primary reason that motivated people to move west?
- How much land could a homesteader claim?
- According to J.G. Towle’s account, what did the land cost?
- Explain that homesteaders had to bring all their own supplies for the journey west, and needed to carefully prepare a list of what to bring. They’d also need supplies to start working the land once they arrived. Have students to think of what types of supplies would be important to have. Ask: “What would be on your packing list if you were a homesteader?” (Alternate: Working quietly and independently, instruct students to create a packing list in their notebooks or on a sheet of paper. The list can then be discussed in class or handed in.)
- Land [2:10, 4:35]
- 160 acres [2:43]
- $18 [3:43]
- Answers will vary, but should include: clothes, food, water, money, tools, weapons, livestock, and seed.
For more information about homesteading and frontier life aimed at a slightly older audience, check out the Frontier House lesson plans.