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Kinkaid Act of 1904

Moses P. Kinkaid
Moses P. Kinkaid, circa 1900.
Courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society, RG2411-2943b

In 1902, U.S. Congressman from Nebraska’s 6th District Moses P. Kinkaid introduced legislation that enlarged a homestead from the 160 acres per the Homestead Act to 640 acres in just thirty-seven northwestern Nebraska counties. Kinkaid originally tried to get more land into the act, but Congress representatives from the crowded eastern states couldn’t fathom why anyone would need so much space.

Read more about it:
Summary of the Kinkaid Act

Scroll down this list of land laws
to find the summary.
Theodore Roosevelt on a special campaign train
Theodore Roosevelt on a special campaign train in Chadron, Nebraska, 1900.
Courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society, RG1255-1-6
The intent of the act was to give both farmers and ranchers more of a chance to be productive in the relatively arid Sandhills. Land that could be irrigated was exempt from the law, because people would pay real money for those acres. President Theodore Roosevelt signed the bill into law on April 28, 1904.
People who took homesteads under the Kinkaid Act were known as Kinkaiders, and there were quite a few of them. From the time the bill was signed until 1917, over nine million acres were distributed. That figured out to be roughly 14,000 individual claims. Kinkaider homestead of George McCreath
"Kinkaider" homestead of George McCreath, Cherry County, made of baled hay & built in the early 1900s.
Courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society, RG3314-10-27

Successful Cherry County, Nebraska rancher.
Courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society, RG2608-3300

It is difficult to gauge the effect of the Kinkaid Act accurately. Much of Nebraska’s Sandhills region was unsuited for farming, and 640 acres was not a large enough piece of land to ranch successfully. Farmers who claimed land through the Kinkaid Act mostly failed, due to the arid dune topography of the affected land. Ranchers, however, profited by taking over land that the homesteaders abandoned.

Reference: History of Nebraska by James C. Olson and Ronald C. Naugle

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