How Did they Get the Free Land?
Getting free land from the government was amazingly simple. The first thing you had to do was fill out an application form that stated several facts:You were twenty-one years of age or the head of a family.You were a U.S. citizen, or had declared intention to become a citizen, and had never borne arms against the U.S. (Confederate soldiers could not apply.)
You acknowledged that you did not already own over 320 acres of land within the U.S., or that you had not quit or abandoned other land in the same state or territory.
You told the government the homestead would be for your exclusive use.
Finally, you paid a $10 fee and told the land office which quarter section of land you wanted.
That was it for the first step. Next, you had to move onto the land, live on it for five years — unless you were a Union veteran — farm it, and make “improvements” like a house, barn or fences. Finally, after five years, the homesteader had to file a form labeled “Final Proof” indicating you had resided upon and cultivated the land for five years, and made some improvements. Certain special acts extended the residency period in the event of grasshopper devastation or drought.