Homesteaders and Exodusters

Homesteaders and Exodusters
Homestead Act
• The Great Plains were also known as the Great
American Desert because it was so flat, treeless, and
• Pioneers were new settlers to the Great Plains.
• In 1862, Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act
to encourage people to start farms on the Great Plains.
• We needed more farms to feed our growing
• Many wanted to homestead because it provided a
chance to have land, home, freedom, & prosperity.
How to qualify for Homesteading:
• Men over 21 (or women who were head of
the family- single or widowed)
• Claim 160 acres of land for a small fee of $10.
• Farm the land and live there for 5 years.
• Before the Civil War, many traveled to their
land claims by covered wagon. After the Civil
War, more and more people moved west by
Sodbusters and Exodusters
• Sodbusters were homesteaders who had to
bust up sod (grass and soil) to build their
homes (no trees for building).
• Exodusters were freed slaves who moved to
the Plains to get the same things sodbusters
wanted: land, home, freedom, and prosperity.
What made life difficult?
• Harsh weather and natural disasters- floods,
droughts, tornadoes, hailstorms, blizzards
• Insects- grasshoppers could eat an entire crop
in a day
• Sod houses- snakes and dirty conditions
• New inventions and farming techniques made life
better for the homesteaders.
• Steel plow- stronger, didn’t break like iron plows
• Windmills- pumped water from underground
• Barbed wire- fences were cheap and easy to
build, kept cattle and wild animals from trampling
• Dry farming- dug long, narrow ditches to plant
crops, reduces need for rain