The Homestead Act and the Closing of the Frontier


U.S. History Gilded Age The Homestead Act and the Closing of the Frontier
Students learn about the Homestead Act of 1862 and how the new law affected western migration. Then they learn about the challenges that farmers faced and the alliances they established to overcome these challenges. Finally, students analyze how the Homestead Act contributed to the closing of the western frontier.

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Overview

In this experience, students learn about the Homestead Act of 1862 and how the new law affected western migration. Then they learn about the challenges that farmers faced and the alliances they established to overcome these challenges. Finally, students analyze how the Homestead Act contributed to the closing of the western frontier.

Objectives:

  • Analyze the massive westward migration following the Homestead Act.
  • Identify challenges western farmers faced and the political alliances created to improve conditions.


In 1862, Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act into law. This act provided settlers with 160 acres of land as an incentive to move to the western United States. By 1900, 80 million acres of land had been distributed to new settlers.

Objectives:

  • Analyze the massive westward migration following the Homestead Act.
  • Identify challenges western farmers faced and the political alliances created to improve conditions.




Emigrants Crossing the Plains, 1872


Why do you think people wanted to move to the western territories?



Students’ answers will vary and may include:

  • People couldn’t find work in the East.
  • They couldn’t find land to farm in the East.
  • The East had become crowded; industry was taking over and cities were growing.
  • People were told about the good life in the West by others who had moved there already.
  • They wanted an opportunity to own their own land.
  • They saw the opportunity to make money.


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