01 January 2016

On This Day: Freeman files first Homestead Claim

Daniel Freeman, Courtesy NPS
It was On This Day in 1863 that Daniel Freeman, a farmer, submitted the first claim under the new Homestead Act. The property was located near Beatrice, Nebraska.

Just two days later, the Nebraska Advertiser, ran an article stating the “Land Officers are now, for the first time for many months, busy …” The article encourages anyone who wanted to take advantage of the Homestead Law by settling in Nebraska should do so promptly. The thought was that once the War was over, many men would be claiming land.

The Homesteaders could lay claim for up to 160 acres for $10. That fee, according to one inflation calculator site, would be worth $188.68 today. Many found that too small an amount to make an adequate living and many of the original homesteads abandoned their claims before they actually received the title.

So who was Daniel Freeman?

Daniel came to Nebraska from Illinois by himself. His brother James had died in the Civil War and Daniel had started writing James’ betrothed. In time, Daniel proposed to Agnes Suiter through their correspondence. She joined him in 1865, according to the National Park Service.

In 1869, he was elected Sheriff, reported the Clarion to the Nebraska Advertiser.

The 1870 US Census for Beatrice, Gage County, Nebraska lists 43 year old Dan Freeman, his 27 year old wife Agnes and their three young children. He lists his occupation as both sheriff and farmer. He was born in Ohio about 1827. The children – Eliza, Samuel and James – were all born in Nebraska.

By the 1880 US Census lists Daniel, Agnes and their children farming in Blakely, Gage County. They now have six children: Eliza (14), Samuel (12), James (10), John (8), Daniel (2), and Frank (1).

By 1885 Nebraska State Census, they have an additional son Bennie. However, Eliza, John and young Daniel are not listed. They also have a nine year old adopted daughter, Della.

A fire destroyed the majority of the 1890 US Census in 1921. Hence, the next we see Daniel on a US Census, he is 74 and has been married to Agnes now for 35 years. She bore him eight children, seven of whom were still living at the time of the census. Three children - John (28), Le Claire (15), and Agnes (10) – still lived at home. Home was still in Blakely. Their son Frank, now 21, lived next door with his wife and two children: Frances and Daniel. Frank and Goldie had been married three years at that time.

1906 Gage County Land Ownership Map
showing Daniel Freeman
The 1906 Gage County land ownership map not only shows Daniel Freeman owing 160 acres there but it also notes that his was the first Homestead farm in the County. Cub Creek passes through the north and west sections of his land.

Daniel died in 1908, according to an application to the Sons of the American Revolution filed by his great grandson. The great grandson sought to claim membership through Daniel’s first wife (this would explain the age difference between Daniel and Agnes). The first wife was Elizabeth Wilbur who, according to document, lived 8 April 1837 to 6 August 1876. She and Daniel had married in July 1852.

I did find a 66 year old widow Agnes Freeman in the 1910 US Census. She has moved back to Beatrice, Gage County. Living with her is a young boarder and her 20 year old daughter Agnes. Young Agnes lists her last name as Inactenlmch (or at least that is what it looks like) and states she is married with no children. The National Park Service offers that her married name is Quakenbush. In the column that asks how long one was married, she responded 0/12. She was a school teacher.  The widow Agnes notes she had eight children but only one was living at that time. However, the 1930 US Census lists her living with her son Frank and his family. She died in 1931.

Find A Grave confirms that Daniel died on 30 December 1908 in Beatrice. His biography reads:
Folk Figure. He field for the first Homestead in United States on January 1, 1863 near Beatrice, Nebraska. Resided there until death in 1908. Served as Sheriff, Doctor, etc. in Beatrice, Nebraska. Their home is now a US National Historic Site. Buried at edge of Homestead acreage.

The Freeman land claim is now the site of the Homestead National Monument of America.

A Nebraska farmer files the first homestead claim. This Day In History 1863. History.com

Ancestry.com. U.S., Indexed County Land Ownership Maps, 1860-1918 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

Ancestry.com. U.S., Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications, 1889-1970 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

Homestead Law in Operation,” Nebraska Advertiser, Brownville, NE. 3 January 1863, Page 2.

National Archives and Records Administration; Nebraska State Census; Year: 1885; Series/Record Group: M352; County: Gage; Township: Blakely; Page: 10

The First Homesteader,” National Park Service.

Year: 1870; Census Place: Gage, Nebraska; Roll: M593_829; Page: 666A; Image: 611; Family History Library Film: 552328

Year: 1880; Census Place: Blakely, Gage, Nebraska; Roll: 749; Family History Film: 1254749; Page: 98A; Enumeration District: 348; Image: 0443

Year: 1900; Census Place: Blakely, Gage, Nebraska; Roll: 928; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 0046; FHL microfilm: 1240928

Year: 1910; Census Place: Beatrice Ward 4, Gage, Nebraska; Roll: T624_846; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 0046; FHL microfilm: 1374859

Year: 1930; Census Place: Beatrice, Gage, Nebraska; Roll: 1281; Page: 5A; Enumeration District: 0010; Image: 198.0; FHL microfilm: 2341016

On This Day is a prompt to further explore historical events.

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2016
Locations listed are located in Pennsylvania (USA), unless otherwise noted in post.