Homestead Act: Who Were the Settlers?
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The Immigrant Experience

German Settlers
"My little German home across the sea."
Custer County, Nebraska, 1888.
Courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society, RG2608-1436

Imagine what it would be like for your family to move to a new country. You would have to learn a new language and adjust to different customs. You would most likely have to leave many of your relatives behind.

What Factors Pushed People from their Homeland?
Emigrants were pushed out of their homelands for a variety of reasons. Some were discriminated against because of their religious and political beliefs. Others weren’t able to buy land, either because they didn’t have enough money or because there were too many people and not enough land.

What Factors Pulled People to Nebraska and the Plains?
Even if someone decides to leave his or her homeland, it’s a big world, and emigrants could choose to go almost anywhere in it. So, in addition to the push away, there had to be a pull toward the new land of Nebraska.

The Homestead Act of 1862 was a major pull that lured immigrants westward. The promise of "free" land proved to be a real inducement to peasants who had to eke out an existence on inadequate land holdings back in Europe. One requirement of the Homestead Act was that you had to be a U.S. citizen; however, you could also qualify by declaring your intention to become a citizen. Some Midwestern areas were anxious to increase their populations and encourage immigration from Europe by publishing pamphlets and newspaper advertisements about the wonderland on the American prairies. Some states like Nebraska even created an Immigration Bureau to "sell the state" to people living in foreign nations.

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