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The Homesteading Act of 1862 + How to Get Land for Free in 4 US States


Did you know that you can get land for free in several states in the United States?

Homesteading Act of 1862, Signed into Law by President Lincoln

In the mid 1800's, with economic and social changes gripping the developed eastern states of the union, people were increasingly looking west to the vast underdeveloped lands and the romantic vision of a new opportunity. The US government had tried in the past to make land in the west available for private purchase but the costs were still prohibitive for many families and settlement of the west had been slow. The idea to provide free land to homesteaders willing to develop the land was eventually introduced and met with some resistance, but finally in 1862 president Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act into existence and the law took effect on January 1st 1863. The new legislation made 160 acres of land in one of the western states or territories available to people willing to live on the land for 5 years, develop the land for agriculture and build a house on the land. At the end of 5 years, if those requirements had been accomplished, that person could then receive full ownership of their 160 acre parcel. This opportunity would continue for over 123 years and prove instrumental in not only developing the western states but allowing millions of Americans to own their own private parcel of land.Rural land was used as a growth incentive by the United States government for over 100 years. In exchange for five years of farming on the land while living in a house they built, families could obtain full ownership of the land they were homesteading.

When the Homesteading Act of 1968 was repealed, approximately 10% of the land in the United States had been given out to homesteaders! This places the number of homesteading descendants at over 93 million people!

Four States Still Offer Free Land

Today this practice is no longer taking place at the federal level, but there are four states that offer free land to homesteaders.

How to Get Free Land in Iowa

free land in iowa

When I began writing this article I imagined free land in Iowa to look like the above picture. Big. Farm. Nope, in this situation you are actually getting a parcel lot in a small town. How big you ask? 7,000 square feet is the smallest!

free land in marne iowa

The City of Marne, Iowa offers free lots to people looking for a small community to live in. They do not allow chickens, and do have building guidelines for the types of houses that will be permitted. For example, they should not be more than 2 stories and must have at least a partial basement.

The lot comes with access to electricity, high speed internet, water, and all the modern amenities one could ask for. This is not a rugged homesteading site like the ones offered by the Homesteading Act of 1968. This is a small Midwest town looking for more people to join their community!

Simply visit their website, read and agree to their terms, and submit the application!

Additional cities include Manillaia.

How to Get Free Land in Kansas

free land in kansas

Marquette, Kansas has a similar program to Marne, Iowa. They offer free land to individuals looking for an active small town community. The city’s website proudly lists their annual activities and local shops / attractions.

free land in kansas

The city of Marquette will remove as many costs as possible to ensure your excitement about moving to their town. No building permit fee, no utility hook up fees, etc…. Once you arrive you are perfectly located for road trips to Denver, Kansas City and Oklahoma City.

how to get free land in kansas

This quirky town seems to offer a lot. They make the process very simple. Just visit their website, and follow their step by step instructions!

You can also get land in Lincoln, Plainville, Osborne, and Mankato, Kansas – Click Here for more information.

How to Get Free Land in Minnesota

land for free minnesota

New Richmand, Minnesota is another small town offering free land as an incentive for growth and community. This move will require an expense of $14,000 paid over 15 years to cover the cost of sidewalks, roads and utilities.


The area boasts biking trails, lake beaches, and a golf course. One area where this programs stands out is some of their lenders will allow you to use the free land as equity for a down-payment on a new home!

They simply ask that you send them an email if you would like more information about joining this small Midwest town.

How to Get Free Land in Nebraska

Are you noticing a theme? Historical homesteading plots were given with acreage to live off the land – moderns homesteading plots are given in a subdivision setting to encourage growth in small towns. No longer are we populating the wild west, we are trying to keep people in the Heartland!

free land in nebraska

Curtis, Nebraska is yet another such city offering free land to people who want to join their small town. They offer plots in two neighborhoods, one overlooking a golfcourse. IN fact, its a very popular golf course that is allegedly known as “Nebraska’s Best Kept Secret”.

This would be a wonderful town to retire to. Other Nebraska towns include Elwood and Loup City, Nebraska.

Origins of Free Land


how to get free land in alaska

Alaska was the last state offer land under the 1862 Homesteading Act. The last homestead was given to Kenneth Deardorff who originally filed for his 80 acre parcel on the Stony River in Alaska in 1974. He finally received the title to the land in 1988.

Homesteading in Alaska Although the Homestead Act was enacted in 1862, it was not until 1898 that special legislation extended the provisions of the act to the territory of Alaska. Even with the lure of free land however, homesteading in the remote territory was slow to start due to poor weather and poor soils and by 1914 less than 200 homestead applications had been filed in Alaska. A surge did come however in Alaska homestead applications after WWII and the Vietnam War. Those 20th century pioneers were looking for the same land ownership opportunity that had lured settlers out to the western states 100 years before. They also encountered many of the same hardships as their homesteading brethren of the 19th century such as lack of transportation, harsh weather, and even the danger of local wildlife. The Homestead Act was finally repealed in 1976, but a provision of the repeal allowed for homesteading to continue in Alaska until 1986. The last Homestead to be awarded under the provisions of the Homestead Act was in 1988. The owner of that land, Kenneth Deardorff originally filed for his 80 acre parcel on the Stony River in Alaska in 1974. He and his family built a life in the remote roadless Alaska wilderness through persistence and by subsisting off the local landscape. By the time Kenneth Deardorff finally received the patent for his land in 1988, 3,277 homesteads had been conveyed in the state which equaled over 360,000 acres or less than 1% of the total land in Alaska.

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7 years ago

Informative article – Thanks! There’s a typo in the name of the Minnesota city listed though…it’s New Richland (not New Richmond). Cheers!