Friday, August 21, 2009

New Way To Be a Part of the Homesteading Story: KS, ND, NE, OK

The Homestead Act of 1862 gave people an opportunity to own 160 acres of land.

Now, a new program is under way to give people a chance to support the Homestead National Monument of America, a National Parks Service site, with a gift of $160 that will support activities that will continue to tell the homesteading story.

“It will provide a sustaining source of funds for ongoing projects and enhancements,” said Dr. Don Weldon, president of Friends of Homestead. “We want to build partnerships to continue to grow the ways in which we can tell the homesteading story.”

Homestead National Monument, located west of Beatrice, Nebraska, is the only National Park Service site dedicate d to the commemoration and interpretation of the Homestead Act of 1862 and the many changes it initiated in the United States and the world. Ten percent of U.S. land was given away under the Homestead Act, and there is an estimated 93 million homestead descendants alive today.

Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Oklahoma are four of the 30 states where homesteaded land is located. According to Homestead National Monument records:

• There were 89,945 successful homesteading claims in Kansas, responsible for developing 25 percent of the state’s land.

• There were 104,260 successful homesteading claims in Nebraska, responsible for developing 45 percent of the state’s land.

• There were 118,472 successful homesteading claims in North Dakota, responsible for developing 39 percent of the state’s land.

• There were 99,557 successful homesteading claims in Oklahoma, responsible for developing 34 percent of the state’s land.

Anyone interested in becoming a $160 donor (single or couple) will be known as a Homestead Innovation Congress Participant. All gifts of $160 or more provided during 2009 will be known as Charter Participants. Gifts will be recognized on the Levels of Giving Recognition Board at the entrance of the Homestead National Monument Heritage Center.

A recognition dinner is being planned for those participating. Checks should be made to Friends of Homestead and sent to the Friends of Homestead National Monument of America, 8523 West State Highway 4, Beatrice, NE 68310.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Venture Crew 82 is Forming Now

Young adults from the Beatrice area seeking new challenges may find just what they are looking for with Venture Crew 82.
Venture Crew 82 is for young men or women ages 16 to 21 who enjoy socializing, camping, travel and educational opportunities and are interested in high adventure and electronic communication with other National Parks.
This program brings together the resources of the Homestead National Monument of America, Friends of Homestead National Monument, Cornhusker Council Boy Scouts of America and local area adult advisers to provide an opportunity for expanded knowledge and enjoyment of public lands and cultural areas of the nation.
The membership of Venture Crew 82 will provide their own leadership and will choose which activities they want to get involved with.
Venture Crew 82 is forming now. To register or for more information, contact Ranger Allison La Duke at Homestead National Monument of America at 402-223-3514.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Friends of Homestead National Monument of America

In 1934, a group of citizens from Gage and nearby counties organized themselves as the National Homestead Park Association. Their purpose was to lobby Congress for establishment of a national park commemorating the Homestead Act. As a result, Homestead National Monument of America was established in 1936. In 1994, another group of citizens joined to form the Friends of Homestead in support of the only national park area in eastern Nebraska.

You are invited to join our group in our efforts to preserve and protect Homestead National Monument of America.

Why was this group formed?
Citizen groups have always been an instrumental part of national parks. Many national parks have support organizations know as “friends groups.” These groups undertake projects that the park cannot accomplish on its own due to legal restrictions or limitations of staff and funding. Friends organizations can increase community awareness of the park, organize fund raising campaigns, serve as advocates for park programs, or seek volunteers to assist park staff.

How does such a group function?
Friends groups are comprised of interested community members who support the goals of the park. Membership methods, organizational structure, and finances are the decisions of the organization. National Park Service personnel cannot be members of the group’s governing board or hold executive office.

What can the Friends of Homestead National Monument of America do?
There are a number of programs that we, the Friends of Homestead, undertake in support of the park:

Our target programs include:
Assisting the National Park Service with the 150th Anniversary of the Homestead Act of 1862, including bringing the original Homestead Act of 1862 document to the monument.

Promoting and assisting with the development of a 3.5 mile trail linking the Monument to Beatrice's municipal and regional trail system.

Managing 140 acres of land that is to be donated to the National Park Service thus enhancing the long-term protection of Homestead National Monument of America.

Raising funds for various projects, such as: new exhibits, developing educational materials & programs, research, interpretation equipment and programs, Student Conservation Association sponsorship, and student transportation

Raising visibility of the park by: Buying advertising in tourism publications, Sponsoring booths at fairs and events

Our past success!
The Friends of Homestead have a tradition of success when it comes to supporting Homestead National Monument of America. In 1962 the Homestead Park Association was key to a successful celebration of the Homestead Act’s centennial. Then in 1996 the group again met the challenges associated with funding a new orientation film. For 10 years leading up to the opening of the Homestead Heritage Center, a new world-class visitor center and museum, the Friends again responded by securing over $500,000 to ensure the success of this 10,600 square foot facility. The Friends have also received a major bequest from the Opal Shum Estate and grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust thus allowing for the purchase of 140 acres of farm land adjacent to the monument.

Our group traditionally works with the monument in funding various projects and programs including the Homestead Records Project, Monumental Fiddling Festival and many other activities.

The Friends of Homestead is a 501(c)(3) Organization. Traditionally all funds/property donated go directly towards park specific programs. Our organization spends less than 2% annually on administrative costs. Thus any donation you contribute will make a difference.

What’s in it for you?
Members of a friends group do not receive any financial benefit from their work. However, members do gain tangible and intangible benefits for themselves, the community, and the park:

Participation in preserving a part of the national heritage.

Association with the National Park Service and other Friends groups nationwide.

Pride in assisting with the preservation and recognition of a part of the community’s heritage.

Service to the local and regional business community by increasing opportunities and community development associated with national park visitation.

Service to the local community by increasing awareness of the park and the associated opportunities for the recreation, learning, and the general quality of the life associated with the presence of a national park.

Fun and friendship in working with other people.

You can Help
If you have any questions, or would like to join in, please contact us by writing:

Friends of Homestead,
8523 West State Highway 4
Beatrice, NE 68310

or you can contact the park at (402)223-3514
or email us at

Homestead National Monument of America would not be a national park if not for community involvement. By Helping Homestead National Monument of America you are participating in preserving your heritage for your children and all Americans of the future.

Are you a descendant of Homesteaders?

If you are a descendant of Homesteaders, send you name and address along with any family histories to the Friends of Homestead. The Friends of Homestead are collecting the names and addresses of all descendants. This information should be sent to:

Friends of Homestead
8523 West State Highway 4
Beatrice, NE 68310

or email

Homestead National Monument to be Featured on US Quarter in 2015