Homestead Act (1862)
Passed on May 20, 1862, the Homestead Act accelerated the settlement of the western territory by granting adult heads of families 160 acres of surveyed public land for a minimal filing fee and five years of continuous residence on that land.
The Homestead Act, enacted during the Civil War in 1862, provided that any adult citizen, or intended citizen, who had never taken up arms against the U.S. government could claim 160 acres of surveyed government land. Claimants were required to live on and improve their plot by cultivating the land. After five years on the land, the original filer was entitled to the property, free and clear, except for a small registration fee. Title could also be acquired after only a six-month residency and trivial improvements, provided the claimant paid the government $1.25 per acre. After the Civil War: Union soldiers could deduct the time they had served from the residency requirements. The act was included in the Republican Party platform of 1860.