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Westward Expansion

Homestead Act and Land Rush

History >> Westward Expansion

With much of the east coast of America already developed, the United States government wanted to encourage people to move out west. They decided to help people out by offering them free land through a law called the Homestead Act.

A New Law

The Homestead Act became law in 1862 when it was signed by President Abraham Lincoln. Under the new law a U.S. Citizen could get 160 acres of unoccupied land west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains. They could keep the land if they lived on the land for five years and made improvements to the land.

Homestead Act by Unknown


Homesteading was a great opportunity for many people, especially immigrants just moving to the United States. Anyone who was over 21 years old could own land. This included former slaves, immigrants, and single women.

The Land Rush

Different areas of land were opened for homesteading at different times. This often created land rushes where people would race in to claim the best plots of land.

Land Rush
Oklahoma Land Rush
by the McClenny Family Picture Album


One of the major land rushes occurred in Oklahoma on April 22, 1889. Around 50,000 people lined up to claim around 2,000,000 acres of prime land. At high noon they were allowed to enter the area and claim the land. Some people snuck onto the land early and hid in order to lay claim to best areas of land first. These people were nicknamed "Sooners". Today the mascot for the University of Oklahoma is the Sooner.

Around 10,000 homesteaders settled around the area that is today Oklahoma City. The next day, April 23, 1889, the city was established with a population of over 10,000 people. It would later become the capital of the state of Oklahoma.

Interesting Facts about the Homestead Act and The Land Rush
Westward Expansion
California Gold Rush
First Transcontinental Railroad
Glossary and Terms
Homestead Act and Land Rush
Louisiana Purchase
Mexican American War
Oregon Trail
Pony Express
Battle of the Alamo
Timeline of Westward Expansion
Frontier Life
Daily Life on the Frontier
Log Cabins

People of the West
Daniel Boone
Famous Gunfighters
Sam Houston
Lewis and Clark
Annie Oakley
James K. Polk
Thomas Jefferson
Works Cited

History >> Westward Expansion

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