After the Homestead Act of 1862 was passed, the U.S. government gave up to 160 acres of land to interested parties. In exchange, the homesteaders had to agree to live on and farm the land for at least five years. Here in Nebraska, the Homestead Act led to the settling of wild prairie land, which would become the foundation of our agricultural success. Given the homesteaders’ impact on the state and the nation, it only makes sense that we would dedicate a national monument to that very important time in American history.
Homestead National Monument of America is located in Beatrice, Nebraska. It sits on the site of the Freeman homestead, the first parcel claimed under the Homestead Act of 1862. President Franklin Roosevelt signed legislation designating this land as a National Monument in 1936.
The monument consists of more than 100 acres of tallgrass prairie, the Homestead Heritage Center, and an assortment of historic buildings, farm implements, and other items. The parking lot at the Homestead Heritage Center measures exactly one acre, a nod to the agricultural history of this place.
While the monument was once dedicated only to the homesteaders who settled in Nebraska, the focus became wider in the early 2000s. Today, exhibits throughout the monument commemorate the Homestead Act all over the U.S. This "living wall" leading up to the Heritage Center features the shape of every state that offered free land under the Homestead Act, each with a hole that represents how much of the state's land was given away.
Inside the Heritage Center you'll find exhibits related to the Homestead Act and to pioneer life. Historical artifacts and displays tell the story of the brave folks who staked their claims out here on the untamed prairie.
The immersive learning environment surrounds visitors with educational material relating to homesteading, farming, and the history of our area. Get up close to household items, tools, advertisements, and even a full-size windmill right in the building. Everything is accompanied by educational material that will illuminate some part of our shared history.
Take a step into the past and imagine what it must have been like to inhabit this wild and unfamiliar land so long ago. How would you have fared as a homesteader?
Another on-site attraction is the Palmer-Epard cabin, a mixed hardwood home that George W. Palmer built in 1867. The two-story cabin is just 14X16 feet, Palmer lived there with his wife and 10 children for many years.
Step inside and take a look at how pioneers lived in the late 19th century. Authentic furnishings and other items set the stage for visitors to experience a little slice of homestead life. It's hard to imagine living in this tiny cabin with a large family!
Also on site is the Freeman School, the longest continuously used one-room schoolhouse in Nebraska. Children attended classes in this building from 1872 to 1967, and visitors to the Homestead National Monument can now go inside to explore.
While visiting this unique monument is always a good idea, going during Homestead Days in the summer is an outstanding experience. You'll see people in period dress and watch demonstrations of homestead-era jobs and activities. There are also more modern activities like a car show and 5K/10K/1-mile run.
Leave some time during your visit to walk part or all of the 2.7 miles of walking trails. This walk through open prairie and wooded areas is absolutely beautiful.
Everywhere you go at this remarkable monument is an educational experience just waiting to happen. Whether you're indoors gazing at the fascinating exhibits or outdoors enjoying the waving tallgrass prairie, this is one unforgettable destination.
Address: 8523 W, NE-4, Beatrice, NE 68310. The monument is open year-round except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. There is no fee to visit.
OnlyInYourState may earn compensation through affiliate links in this article. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.