Homestead Act in Brown County, Nebraska History
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In 1904 a new law was passed permitting a homestead of 640 acres to be acquired by five years residence thereon and placing improvements upon it to the value of $800. This was called the “Kinkaid law,” honoring the congressman from this district who secured its enactment Hon. Moses P. Kinkaid of O’Neill.
This law proved of great value to all of northwest Nebraska and its passage resulted in the settling of the sand hills in a very few years. Again new settlers, sometimes called “Kinkarders,” came into our county, and a most prosperous period followed their coming. The population was greatly increased, live stock, grain and other personal property was almost doubled in a very short time. Small but prosperous cattle ranches with a few acres in grain and other produce soon covered the sand hills sections. The dairy business sprung into prominence and has proved to be a source of great revenue for this county.
Several new precincts were formed, schools and post offices established, roads laid out and a few bridges built. What had been regarded by some as a hopeless wilderness became a region of comfortable homes. Even the land itself, underwent a change in character and appearance due to the fact that prairie fires no longer were allowed to sweep over it. Vegetation still increases yearly and by its decay the soil is changed and enriched. As these deposits increase the appearance of the sand hills is changed and the soil becomes more productive.
Thus did the Empire of Brown have its beginning and thus has its growth and development been brought about. No events of great public importance have been staged within her borders, yet all events which have here transpired have a vital meaning to us, her people. Only the bare facts of her history are here inscribed. Her life’s story, (as noted in the first paragraph of this brief outline), is to be found only in the hearts and minds of those hardy pioneers who brought into being this commonwealth in which we should take great pride. We see it now, not as “a sea of, grass” stretching toward the setting sun, but as a well settled farming and grazing country, dotted with homes of contented, law-abiding citizens. A fine highway, U. S. No. 20, has replaced the old “Gordon Trail” and other dim reminders of olden days; well kept County roads and other highways in process of construction intersect at frequent intervals. The lonely road ranch is superseded by neat towns and modern residences; the country post office has been replaced by rural free delivery of mail, keeping our citizens in touch with the rest of the world, this service being supplemented by telephones and radios. We are no longer isolated unless from choice as our transportation facilities meet all needs. Thousands of beautiful shade trees, many groves and parks break the monotony of the prairie landscape and in other ways add to our comfort and pleasure.
It is useless to multiply words. Let us rather note its present value, not only in dollars and cents (which in 1937 was found to be $6,520,915 for purposes of taxation) its suitability for homes, its healthful climate, pure water, resorts for hunting and fishing and many other advantages which may be found if we will but observe them.
One of our most famed Nebraska authors has written of our land: “The land belongs to the future. How many of the names on the county clerk’s plat will be there in fifty years? We come and go, but the land is always here. And the people who love it and understand it are the people who own it-for a little while.” (Willa Cather in “0 Pioneers!”)
As we grow in knowledge of the past our courage to meet the future should be made stronger or our pioneers will have lived in vain.