How Did Homesteaders Get Free Property in Alaska in 1862?

How Did Homesteaders Get Free Property in Alaska in 1862?

Homesteaders could not get free property in Alaska in 1862. The Homestead Act of 1862 was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln but did not take effect until Jan. 1, 1863 and did not include the Alaska territory until it was amended in 1898.

The provisions of the Homestead Act allowed for the head of a family or a single person over the age of 21 to claim 160 acres of unoccupied land. The homesteader had to live on the land for five years, develop it for agriculture and build a house on it. If all of these provisions were met, the homesteader received full ownership after the five-year period.

Homesteading in Alaska got off to a very slow start, mostly due to agricultural conditions due to poor soil and weather. By 1914, only 200 applications had been submitted. A surge of homesteaders did come after both World War II and the Vietnam War with a wave of returning veterans looking for the same land ownership opportunities that their predecessors had received. They also got many of the same hardships, including bad roads, harsh weather and dangerous wildlife.

The Homestead Act remained in effect until 1976 when it was repealed, but a provision kept it in effect in Alaska until 1986.