Homestead National Monument of America
Activities & Programs
A diverse, detailed and complete picture of homesteading and the Homestead Act are presented at the Homestead Heritage Center. This multipurpose facility brings the epic homestead story to life for visitors of all ages and demonstrates the true scope and importance of the Homestead Act of 1862. State-of-the-art exhibits present homesteading in an interactive setting. The 22 minute video "Land of Dreams" is shown in the auditorium. The vista from the main balcony provides visitors with a view of the tallgrass prairie much like early pioneers would have seen from the hilltop. The 1867 Palmer-Epard Cabin is located near the Heritage Center.
The 22-minute video "Land of Dreams" is also shown in the in the Education Center where there is a display of 19th century and early 20th century farm implements.
The Freeman School serves as a reminder of the role the schoolhouse played in the history of settlement on the prairie.
Ask the National Park Ranger at the desk in either the Heritage Center or the Education Center about all the Indoor and Outdoor Activities available at Homestead National Monument of America.
Homestead National Monument of America provides many opportunities to experience the outdoors as our forefathers found it, hosting the second oldest restored tallgrass prairie in the nation.
The 244-acre monument abounds with plant and animal life rarely seen all in one place. The prairie is alive with varied plants and grasses providing refuge to many species of animals. The park also includes a large woodland area with a creek meandering through it, which is habitat for a large variety of wildlife. Many scenic views can be seen while walking the extensive trail system enables numerous activities in this special environment.
Homestead Heritage Center
The Homestead Heritage Center brings the epic homestead story to life for visitors of all ages and demonstrates the true scope and importance of the Homestead Act of 1862.
State-of-the-art exhibits present homesteading in and interactive setting. Such topics as the Act's influence on immigration, agriculture, industrialization, native tribes, the tallgrass prairie ecosystem and Federal land policies are presented in an educational and thought-provoking manner.
A diverse, detailed and complete picture of homesteading and the Homestead Act are presented at the Homestead Heritage Center. The building is designed to represent the Homestead Act of 1862 with its spectacular views and unique roof line resembling a single bottom plow moving through the sod. Along the sidewalk entrance to the building is the "Living Wall," a physical representation of the percentage of land that was successfully homesteaded in each state. Even the parking lot is educational in nature; it is one acre in size.
The Heritage Center includes an area used as a repository for microfilm copies of every homestead case file produced throughout the life of the Act. The approximately two million microfilmed case files will be stored in this facility. These records, as they are microfilmed and indexed in partnership with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, will be available to visitors, scholars, genealogists and historians. As they come on-line, visitors to the Monument will be able to learn about the hardships and joys homesteaders experienced through museum exhibits and the primary homesteading documents in the records center. The records center will play a vital role in presenting a complete view of homesteading history.
Hands-On Arts and Crafts Demonstrations
Special events and programs engage the public in homesteading folk life. Try your hand at a new craft, take your children and grandchildren back to the earliest days of settlement, or learn about the American Indian cultures that predated the Homestead Act.
Students and visitors participate in such diverse annual activities as the Heartland Storytelling Festival (May), Homestead Days (June), and Pioneer Days (October).
The Homestead National Monument of America trails are hard-packed walking trails. The longest prairie trail includes a low hill.
An easy hike onto the Tallgrass Prairie gives a close-up view of the habitat for a variety of wildlife. Enjoy the homesteaders views of the wide open spaces.
The 100 acres of Tallgrass Prairie at Homestead National Monument of America has been restored to approximate the plants and animals that once covered the central plains of the United States. This restoration has been managed by the National Park Service for over 60 years, making it the second oldest restoration of tallgrass prairie in the nation, and the oldest in the National Park System. It is a monumental task to re-create wilderness, and a restored prairie will never exactly repeat the original mix and variety of plants a native prairie would have. However, this bit of land supporting the ancient flowers and grasses that once covered the plains gives visitors a glimpse of the landscape of past centuries. This is a landscape and ecosystem that is very rare today.
At either the Heritage Center or Education Center you can talk with a National Park Ranger about the meaning of this unit in the National Park System, enjoy the video "The Free Land," or browse the book store.
Learn about the Homestead Act of 1862 and the struggles of the pioneers while visiting the museum at the Heritage Center.
Don't miss the Palmer-Epard Cabin near the Education Center. Imagine living in the cabin with ten children.
Be sure to see the restored Tallgrass Prairie and ask the Ranger about the Freeman School.
There are many things to do: explore the historical exhibits and watch the video in the Heritage Center; go picnicking; ask about school programs and special events; explore the Farm Implement Exhibit and the Palmer Epard Cabin at the Education Center; observe tallgrasses, wildflowers, and wildlife on the restored prairie, and ask about activities for children.
Homestead National Monument of America currently has over 9,000 archeological artifacts, over 7,000 historical objects, almost 1,000 scientific specimens and over 43,000 archival documents or 26.9 linear feet. The total collection size for Homestead National Monument of America is over 60,000 items!
The historical objects at Homestead range from plows used in the 1800s to modern hunting and trapping equipment from Alaska homesteads. Although there is only a little over 100 years difference between the first homesteader, Daniel Freeman and the last homesteader, Kenneth Deardorff, the last homesteader the equipment and needs of the homesteader did not change dramatically.
The museum collection at Homestead National Monument of America has some fantastic donations given by family members of Daniel Freeman as well as significant personal items from the last homesteader himself, Kenneth Deardorff.
Ken Deardorff's documents relating to his homestead include his original patent, dog sled, pelt stretcher, draw knife and his rifle. The park is planning on acquiring the Allis-Chalmers tractor that Mr. Deardorff used on his Alaska homestead. More to come on this exciting story!
A relative of Daniel and Agnes Freeman, Betsy Menzel from Ohio donated Daniel Freeman's sword, a family wedding dress, and photographs. All of these donations have the Homestead National Monument of America Museum Collection a fantastic representation of homesteading life.