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.