In the 1850s, the idea that the United States government should provide free land titles to settlers in order to stimulate westward growth gained traction. The Homestead Act promoted western migration by offering settlers 160 acres of property in return for a small filing fee. Before this act was passed, it was difficult for individuals to secure title to land they had occupied because the government didn't want to upset existing land arrangements or create large tracts of empty territory without economic use. By settling claims under the Homestead Act, many people obtained title to valuable farmland that was otherwise unavailable.
The Homestead Act also provided financial assistance to farmers who wished to improve their land by clearing trees and shrubs, building houses, and other developments necessary for farming.
Finally, the Homestead Act encouraged settlement because applicants were required to prove that they had lived on the land for at least two years to be eligible for a grant. People wanted to move out to the West and establish new lives, so this act made it possible for them to do so with no money down.
Settlers used the funds received from the federal government to pay for their travel expenses and the first years' worth of rent or mortgage payments on their farms. This incentive was important in attracting people to the rural frontier where jobs were scarce and investment opportunities limited.
Its requirements included a five-year requirement of continuous residency before acquiring title to the property, and the settlers had to be U.S. citizens or in the process of becoming such. The act also provided for a school district and community center to be built by each farmer who settled upon public land.
Immigrants responded to this offer by going west in large numbers. Between 1866 and 1890 more than 1 million people migrated under the auspices of the homestead act. After the initial rush, further immigration slowed down as more fertile lands became available. By the end of the 19th century almost half of all farmers in California were born outside of the country.
How did this influence agriculture? At first, farmers tried their hand at various crops until they found something that worked well on the land they owned. When they discovered there was money to be made in selling their crops, they began planting specific varieties of wheat, corn, and other grains which could be shipped east across the continent.
This led to another important development for American agriculture: commercialization. Before the advent of factories to make goods right here in America, most items needed for daily life had to be imported from overseas. This is why merchants went out of their way to bring in new products from abroad; they knew these exports would help pay for the imports.
The Homestead Act granted acres of western land to anybody who agreed to work it for five years. Many immigrants were urged to come to the United States and assist establish the West as a result of this. Land was offered at $1.25 an acre with a guarantee that farmers could buy their own land for less than half-price.
This act is considered one of the most important factors in helping to shape the history of the United States because it encouraged people to move out into the west where there were few inhabitants already. Before this act, very few Americans had ever lived outside of the original thirteen states because it was thought to be too expensive to settle the west. The Homestead Act showed that government assistance could make large areas of land available for occupation by reducing the price far below what would have been possible without federal aid.
In addition to helping settlers build new lives, the Homestead Act provided federal money to support schools and churches in rural areas. It also allowed farmers to rent out part of their land, which provided them with additional income when they needed it. This act proved so successful that another version of it was passed six years later. By then, over one million acres (4km) had been taken up under its provisions.
Why would the Homestead Act encourage individuals to relocate to the Great Plains? It provided settlers with a legal way to establish clear title to property in the west. Previously, people could claim land as their own by claiming it under someone else's name - this is known as "adverse possession". The government wanted to stop this practice, so they created several hundred thousand acres of public land where anyone who settled there for five years could register ownership of that land.
The Homestead Act also had another purpose: it encouraged farmers to move away from the traditional agriculture industry and into the western lands. Since most farms at the time were less than ten acres, small farmers couldn't afford to buy land themselves. This law gave them the opportunity to rent land from the government for a percentage of its value (set at 100% for new entries). These farmers then became dependent on the success of one crop a year - the popular fruit of the area - for their survival. If the crop failed, they would have gone bankrupt. By renting land, they were able to keep farming even after one bad season.
There were two types of homesteads established under the Act: agricultural and mineral. Agricultural homesteads were required to be used for farming or ranching activities, while mineral homesteads could be claimed for mining purposes.
Because there was limited farming land in the north, farming people came west to obtain land under the Homestead Act. The family saved money by paying a minimal price for their land in the West rather than paying more money for land in the north. Unmarried women were urged to relocate west in order to find husbands and start families.
The government's goal was to encourage settlement and development of the western lands so that they could be made available for agriculture and commerce. Between 1866 and 1890, over one million acres were entered into federal records as homesteads.
During this time, people also moved west because there were no jobs in the northern states. Since there was nothing to stop them from taking what little property they had on hand and going to another state if they felt like it could happen, this is why so many people went west alone or with friends. There was no police force to protect you from thieves who would take everything from you if you weren't looking out for yourself.
In addition, people moved west because they heard there was free land waiting for them. Although this wasn't exactly true, the government did offer free land to those who entered it into record as well as to immigrants who came directly from Europe. This is where people got the idea that free land was waiting for them out here in the west. However, since most of these people were single men, this didn't help increase population density in areas where it was needed most.