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        The Homestead Act and the Populating of the Great Plains

        In 1862, at the height of the US Civil War, Abraham Lincoln took advantage of the absence of the slave-owning southern states to sign into law the Homestead Act of 1862. This revolutionary act opened up huge amounts land in the American Great Plains to private settlement. As a result of this act, 270 million acres of land was claimed and settled. Under the act, if someone was either the head of a household or at least 21 years of age, they could claim a 160 acre parcel of land. Once claiming the land, the homesteaders had the responsibility of building a home and farming the land for 5 years before they could “prove up,” or take the land officially. This may sound easy, but it took its toll on many a settler that tried it. The immigrants that lived these lives provided their families with volumes of stories about the difficult life of settling these western lands. Watch the videos below to learn about some of these settler immigrants. Think about the stories they told and the struggles they went through as you watch.

        European Emigration to the U.S. 1871 - 1880s

        The shaded areas of this map indicate the regions that experienced the highest levels of emigration from Europe and to the United States during the 1870s and 1880s.

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        Homesteading - Homesteading Act and Northern Plains

        Originally overlooked as unproductive, the Northern Plains offered opportunity for any determined person to own free or inexpensive land by homesteading.

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        Elisa Korenne: Mail Order Bride | MN Legacy Shorts

        Hear Minnesota singer songwriter Elisa Korenne sing about a russian immigrant homesteader and a mail order bride named Rachel Calof in this video from Prairie Public.

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        Homesteading - Boosterism and Immigrants

        Advertising resulted in a flood of northern European immigrants to the plains.

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        Homesteading - George and Barbara

        George Schreiber, from Alsace-Lorraine, and Barbara Schmidt from Hungary typify the experiences of immigrants to the northern prairies.

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