Tucked away in a grassy corner of southeastern Nebraska is Homestead National Monument of America, site of one of the first claims staked under the Homestead Act of 1862. The quiet, 160-acre site preserves a small remnant of the streamside woods and tall-grass prairie that pioneers encountered on the Great Plains.
©National Park Service
The Homestead Act of 1862 is remembered and honored
at the Homestead National Monument of America.
Daniel and Agnes Freeman claimed the quarter-section and began to "improve" the land, as the Act directed. They busted sod, cultivated the land, and built a brick schoolhouse. After five years of hard work, the land was theirs.
The one-room schoolhouse, built in 1871, still stands. It was used until 1967 and also served as a church and polling place. In 1899, Daniel Freeman took the school board to court because the teacher was giving Bible lessons at school. The case went all the way to the Nebraska Supreme Court, which ruled in Freeman's favor, upholding the principle of separation of church and state.
The site also contains the Palmer-Epard cabin, relocated to the monument from a nearby homestead. Built in 1867, it is typical of frontier houses in the region, erected when timber was available. When it wasn't, homesteaders cut blocks of densely packed sod to construct homes called "soddies," or they lived in hillside dugouts.
A 21/2-mile trail winds through the restored prairie and past the Freeman family cemetery.
Homestead National Monument Information
Address: 8523 W. State Hwy. 4, Beatrice, NE
Hours of Operation:
- 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., weekdays and summer
- 9:00 a.m. to 5 p.m., winter weekends
- Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day
Learn about these other national monuments:
Find out more about travel destinations in North America:
- National Monuments: Learn more about America's national monuments.
- National Memorials: Discover national memorials in the U.S.
- National Historic Sites: Read about American national historic sites.
- Nebraska State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Nebraska as well as other recreational activities.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Eric Peterson is a Denver-based freelance writer who has contributed to numerous guidebooks about the Western United States.