DescriptionFour miles northwest of Beatrice on SR 4 following signs, Homestead National Monument of America was one of the first quarter sections of land to be claimed under the Homestead Act of 1862. The act provided a process by which citizens (or intended citizens) could acquire their own homestead. After filing an application, prospective landowners could claim 160 acres (a quarter of a square mile) of surveyed federal land. If the homesteader lived on the land for the next 5 years, built a dwelling and cultivated crops, he could file the necessary paperwork and be granted ownership of the land.
The Homestead Act eventually turned 270 million acres of federal land to private ownership. Authorized by Congress in 1936, Homestead National Monument of America was established to commemorate the lives of the pioneers and the changes in the country brought about by the Homestead Act of 1862.
The Homestead Heritage Center offers an orientation film and a museum that looks at homesteader life and the evolution of the Homestead Act. Nearby is the Palmer-Epard Cabin, an original homesteader's cabin furnished with pioneer artifacts. The Education Center often hosts special programs and temporary exhibits. The Freeman School, a one-room prairie schoolhouse, is a quarter-mile west of the Education Center.
A 2.5-mile, self-guiding trail traverses 100 acres of restored tallgrass prairie. In late summer prairie grasses up to 9 feet high give visitors a sense of the Great Plains as the settlers saw them.
Picnicking, hiking and cross-country skiing are permitted. Allow 1.5 hours minimum. Grounds daily dawn-dusk. Heritage center and buildings open daily 8:30-6, Memorial Day-Labor Day; Mon.-Fri. 8:30-5, Sat.-Sun. 9-5, rest of year. Closed Jan. 1, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Free admission. For more information, phone (402) 223-3514.