Historic Homesteads

Congress passed the first Homestead Act in 1862. It opened millions of acres for Americans to settle outside of cities. The plots were generally 160 acres, and the opportunities west of the Mississippi seemed endless. As long as homesteaders built a home, improved the land, and lived on it for five years, they could file for a deed of title. Tens of thousands of people responded to this opportunity and moved westward. This flood of homesteaders, combined with the advent of railroads, mining towns, and ranching, led Frederick Jackson Turner to declare the end of the Western Frontier in 1893. Now that the West was covered in little houses on the prairie, the American public no longer viewed it as the Wild West. Homesteading remained relevant through the 1930s when Franklin D. Roosevelt instituted subsistence homesteading under the New Deal. Though there was less land available, people were still drawn to the independent lifestyle that homesteading provided.

Some homesteads were established in beautiful places that eventually became protected by National Parks. Some homesteads were the birthplace of outlaws, such as Butch Cassidy. Some lasted late into the twentieth century. The environments and families of these homesteads were diverse, yet they all shared common elements of hard work and rugged beauty.

Butch Cassidy’s Childhood Home

Robert Leroy Parker’s teenage years transpired on this homestead. Born on Friday, April 13, 1866, he would become known as the infamous Butch Cassidy. Butch’s parents, Maximillian and Annie Parker, moved Butch and his five younger siblings to this…

The Larson Homestead in Kolob Canyon

Gustive O. Larson was born in Holladay, Utah in August 1897. He met Virginia Bean while teaching in Richfield, Utah and married her on February 12, 1926. She supported him as he conducted extensive research into Utah history and participated in the…

The Wolfe Homestead

John Wesley Wolfe was born on February 17, 1829 in Tennessee. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, John joined the Union even though his home state joined the Confederacy. He fought in several major battles as a member of the 17th Ohio Battery. At…

The Meeks Homestead

Priddy Meeks joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 1840. He moved with other members of the church to Salt Lake City in 1847 when he was fifty-one years old. When Brigham Young encouraged the Saints to spread across the West,…

The Swett Family Homestead

The Swett Homestead was established in Greendale, Utah at a time when few eligible spots for homesteading were left. Oscar Swett and Emma Eliza Oziek were among the last generation of homesteaders in the United States. Living in the mountains near…