Midwest Living Review
History buffs shouldn't miss this national monument, which provides an in-depth look at our nation's Homestead Act of 1862. The Homestead Act gave Americans up to 160 acres of land anywhere outside the 13 original colonies--free of charge--if they broke at least 10 acres of the land annually. Although many believe homesteaders settled mainly in the Midwest, Americans homesteaded in 30 states and could still file claims in Alaska until 1986. The monument is comprised of three main components: a Heritage Center, Education Center and Freeman School. The plow-shape Heritage Center interprets the homestead legislation, the numerous challenges of homesteading and its impact on Native Americans. It also contains an original homesteader's cabin. The Education Center contains a Farm Implement Museum and demonstration space for arts and crafts, science experiments and distance learning. The one-room Freeman School was the area's first local school, instructing pupils from 1872 to 1967. Daniel Freeman is credited with being America's first homesteader, and the monument is sited on his original 160 acres--a nice touch. Additionally, the site contains a trail through 1 acre of prairie land. Exactly the width of the plows originally used to break up the land, the trail gives a sense of how difficult it must have been for homesteaders to break 10 acres. Here's an example of the type of expertly crafted information that dramatically imparts the back-breaking labors of the homesteaders: Every single acre had to be painstakingly crossed at least three times before the soil was broken up enough to accept seed; it's estimated homesteaders walked 10 miles to plow just one acre of land. Freeman's grave, and that of his wife, is also on the site.