Learn American History through 50 pop songs

Homesteaders

Synopsis

The Homestead Act was issued by President Lincoln on May 20, 1862. It stated that any American citizen, could receive up to 160 acres of undeveloped land outside of the original 13 colonies. The law required three steps: file an application, improve the land, and file for deed of title. Anyone who had never taken up arms against the U.S. Government, including freed slaves, could file an application.

Lyrics

© Copyright 2010 by Mr. and Mrs. Gillenwater

We headed west on a Wednesday, March of 1872
East of Ole’ Miss the land’s used up
Jobs’ all gone we had nothing to lose
Ooh, we had nothing to lose, nothing…

Daddy came home five years before, late in1866
A Union vet, he was brave and bold
Lincoln blue, bum leg not quite fixed
Nothing to lose, nothing to lose, ooh…

Daddy soon found a town moved on, don’t need old soldiers
Grizzled and gimpy, mill closed down
Prices gone up he took Mama and told her
Got nothing to lose, nothing to lose, nothing to lose…

I saw a bright red flier, tacked up in our local store
It said, 160 acres if you settle out West
Farm some land, so we can expand
Homesteaders, homesteaders
Nothing to lose… we got nothing to lose

So we headed out West in a wagon, on Uncle Sam’s dime
Gonna be farmers, gonna be homesteaders
Leavin’ a life of nothing behind
Nothing to lose… we got nothing to lose

Journey was rough, took nearly all Spring, June the first we arrived
Got our land, oh so flat
Dirty gaunt neighbors stared with empty eyes
Nothing to lose, we had nothing to lose

Slowly they said, “we came here too, we were homesteaders
Dusty was the air and thick was the land
We had to break through, now we are sodbusters
We had nothing to lose, ooh we had nothing to lose”

I saw a bright red flier, tacked up in our local store
It said, 160 acres if you settle out west
Farm some land, so we can expand
Homesteaders, homesteaders
Nothing to lose… we got nothing to lose

We headed west on a Wednesday, oh so very long ago
West of Ole’ Miss a land transformed
A struggle only homesteaders know
We had nothing… to lose

Vocabulary

Homesteaders— The name given to people who traveled west under the Homestead Act to claim 160 acres of land from the federal government in return for improving the land.

Ole’ Miss— Informal name for the Mississippi River. Generally, areas west of the Mississippi were considered ‘the West’.

Sodbusters— In the Great Plains much of the land was dry and hard. Farmers used special ploughs to break though. The ploughs and the farmers were referred to as sodbusters.

Tiered Questions

Tier 1 Questions

What was the Homestead Act?

Tier 2 Questions

Why do you think the government passed the Homestead Act? What did they gain?

Tier 3 Questions

Create a poster aimed to convince people in the east to pick up and leave their lives to resettle in the West under the Homestead Act.

Test Prep Questions

1) In 1862, the Homestead Act and the Pacific Railway Act were passed primarily to

  • (1) achieve Northern victory in the Civil War
  • (2) develop the Midwest and western parts of the country
  • (3) improve the lives of freed slaves
  • (4) expand overseas markets to Asia and Europe

2) The Homestead Act (1862) attempted to promote development of western lands by

  • (1) creating a system of dams for crop irrigation
  • (2) providing free land to settlers
  • (3) removing all restrictions on immigration
  • (4) placing Native American Indians on reservations

3) Which region of the United States was most directly affected by the passage of the Homestead Act?

  • (1) Atlantic Coast
  • (2) Rocky Mountains
  • (3) Appalachian Mountains
  • (4) Great Plains

DBQ 1

Historical Context: During the 1800s, the federal government promoted westward expansion in a variety of ways. This expansion changed the shape and character of the country.

Task: Using information from the documents and your knowledge of United States history, answer the questions that follow each document.

  • Describe the actions taken by the federal government that led to westward expansion during the 1800s
  • Discuss the impact of westward expansion on the United States

According to this document, how did the Homestead Act encourage the settlement of the West?

Thematic Essay 1

Theme: Influence of Geographic Factors on Governmental Actions
Actions taken by the United States government have often been influenced by geographic factors. Some of these factors include location, climate, natural resources, and physical features.

Task: Identify two actions taken by the United States government that have been influenced by geographic factors and for each

  • State one reason the United States took the action
  • Describe how a geographic factor influenced the action
  • Discuss the impact of the action on the United States

You may use any action taken by the United States government that was influenced by a geographic factor. Some suggestions you might wish to consider include the Lewis and Clark expedition (1804–1806), issuance of the Monroe Doctrine (1823), Mexican War (1846–1848), Commodore Perry’s opening of Japan (1853), passage of the Homestead Act (1862), purchase of Alaska (1867), construction of the Panama Canal (1904–1914), entry into World War II (1941), passage of the Interstate Highway Act (1956), and involvement in the Persian Gulf War (1991).

Thematic Essay 2

Theme: Geography and United States Government Actions
Geographic factors often influence United States government actions, both foreign and domestic. Some of these factors include location, physical environment, movement of people, climate, and resources.

Task: Identify two actions taken by the United States government that were influenced by geographic factors, and for each action:

  • Discuss the historical circumstances that resulted in the government action
  • Discuss the influence of a geographic factor on the action
  • Describe the impact of the government action on the United States

From your study of United States history, you may use any federal government action that was influenced by geography. Some suggestions you might wish to consider include the Louisiana Purchase (1803), issuance of the Monroe Doctrine (1823), passage of the Homestead Act (1862), decision to build the transcontinental railroad (1860s), acquisition of the Philippines (1898), decision to build the Panama Canal (early 1900s) and passage of the Interstate Highway Act (1956).

Thematic Essay 3

Theme: Territorial Expansion (1800–1900)
Various events or developments have influenced the territorial expansion of the United States. In 1800, the United States was a new nation of approximately 895,000 square miles of territory. By 1900, the nation had grown to about 3,000,000 square miles of territory.

Task: Identify two events or developments that had a significant impact on United States territorial expansion between 1800 and 1900 and for each event or development identified:

  • Discuss the historical circumstances surrounding the event or development
  • Evaluate the importance of the event or development on the growth of the United States

You may use any example from your study of United States history. Some suggestions you might wish to consider include Louisiana Purchase (1803), completion of the Erie Canal (1825), War with Mexico (1846–1848), Homestead Act (1862), completion of the first transcontinental railroad (1869), and Native American Indian policies (1800–1900).