|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
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
In 1869, he was elected Sheriff, reported the Clarion to the Nebraska Advertiser.
The 1870 US Census for Beatrice,
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 Gage County, Nebraska about 1827. The children
– Eliza, Samuel and James – were all born in Ohio . Nebraska
By the 1880 US Census lists Daniel, Agnes and their children farming in Blakely,
. They now have six
children: Eliza (14), Samuel (12), James (10), John (8), Daniel (2), and Frank
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
Gage County land ownership map not only shows Daniel
Freeman owing 160 acres there but it also notes that his was the first farm in the
County. Cub Creek passes through the north and west sections of his land. Homestead
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,
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. Gage County
Find A Grave confirms that Daniel died on 30 December 1908 in Beatrice. His biography reads:Folk Figure. He field for the first
The Freeman land claim is now the site of the Homestead National Monument of America.
Ownership Maps, 1860-1918 [database on-line]. Indexed County Land : Ancestry.com Operations, Inc.,
2010. Provo, UT, USA
, Sons of the
American Revolution Membership Applications, 1889-1970 [database on-line].
Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Provo, UT,
“Homestead Law in Operation,”
Advertiser, Brownville, NE. 3 January 1863, Page 2. Nebraska
National Archives and Records Administration;
Census; Year: 1885;
Series/Record Group: M352; County: Gage; Township: Blakely;
Page: 10 Nebraska State
“The First Homesteader,” National Park Service.
Census Place: Gage, ; Roll: M593_829;
Page: 666A; Image: 611; Family History Library Film: 552328 Nebraska
Census Place: Blakely, Gage, ; Roll: 749;
Family History Film: 1254749; Page: 98A; Enumeration
District: 348; Image: 0443 Nebraska
Census Place: Blakely, Gage, ; Roll: 928;
Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 0046; FHL microfilm: 1240928 Nebraska
Census Place: Beatrice Ward 4, Gage, ; Roll: T624_846;
Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 0046; FHL microfilm: 1374859 Nebraska
Census Place: Beatrice, Gage, ; Roll: 1281;
Page: 5A; Enumeration District: 0010; Image: 198.0;
FHL microfilm: 2341016 Nebraska
On This Day is a prompt to further explore historical events.
© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2016