Home > Teaching Assistant > Homesteading in North Dakota

Homesteading in North Dakota

Having populated the state with various immigrant groups, per my lecture on Friday, we turned our attention to those hardy souls who dared to gamble with “free” land in North Dakota via the Homestead Act and other measures. I put free in quotations because given the rules and regulations one needed to follow that Dr. Porter elaborated on today, the land hardly seems free, as there was a considerable investment of time and money needed to improve the land per regulation. Many people failed or gave up on Homestead applications, while others bought land outright, or acquired it through illegal means.

One of the more interesting parts of the lecture revolved around the Timber Culture Act (1873-1891), where persons were encouraged to plant specific trees in order to gain additional land. If you have ever been to North Dakota, we do not have a lot of trees, especially in the western part of the state. Our climate is not good for certain trees, which were exactly the ones the government expected to be planted. Needless to say, fraud was rampant and the failed program was quickly repealed. The numbers were amazing, as farmers would have to plant almost three thousand trees on the land to meet requirements. Many were discouraged, as they came to the area to farm wheat, not trees.

We then briefly turned our attention to sod houses, which offered students some interesting pictures of the good, bad, and ugly of sod construction. While such material provided some advantages, there were also drawbacks. If a heavy rain came along, your walls could crumble, as they were made of dirt. Overall, it was an interesting exploration of farm life in North Dakota. Tomorrow, I hope to both discuss happenings in class, as well as thinking about textbooks.

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