150 Years of the Homestead Act
NCR-SARE grant recipient and Administrative Council member, Edgar Hicks, appeared in a special episode of Nebraska Stories, commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the Homestead Act.
On May 15,1862, the Homestead Act was passed and signed into law. The act established a three-fold homestead acquisition process: filing an application, improving the land, and filing for deed of title. Any U.S. citizen, or intended citizen, who had never borne arms against the U.S. Government could file an application and lay claim to 160 acres of surveyed Government land. For the next 5 years, the homesteader had to live on the land and improve it by building a 12-by-14 dwelling and growing crops. After 5 years, the homesteader could file for his patent (or deed of title) by submitting proof of residency and the required improvements to a local land office.
In 1877, former enslaved African Americans left Kentucky in organized colonies at the end of the of post-Civil War Reconstruction period to experience freedom on the free soils of Kansas. Nicodemus, KS, a National Historic Site, represents the involvement of African Americans in the western expansion and settlement of the Great Plains. It is the oldest and only remaining all Black Town west of the Mississippi River. As an NCR-SARE Research and Education grant recipient in 2003, Edgar Hicks worked on a project called, "Developing a Historical Community-Based Wheat Milling Cooperative," to develop a wheat mill cooperative for Kansas Black Farmers to pursue value added products and diversification of wheat production methods in historic Nicodemus.
"In 1877 people came to Nicodemus believing in themselves and their right to raise crops and build a community. In 1887, the wheat farmers made an effort to establish a wheat mill in Nicodemus however, the mill never materialized." said Hicks. "Over one hundred years later the Nicodemus Flour Cooperative purchased a mill, thanks to SARE funding."
Following the NCR-SARE grant, in July of 2006, the Kansas Black Farmers Association (KBFA) held an event to closely coincide with the Nicodemus Homecoming called “Spotlighting USDA in NW Kansas.” Hicks, President of the KBFA, was on hand to partake in the Nicodemus Homecoming celebration. To read more about the Nicodemus Homecoming event, read a profile of the event here.
The 2012 episode of Nebraska Stories, "Looking for Bliss," tells the story of a mysterious settlement near Goose Lake, NE, now long gone, where a group of former slaves tried to make a living on some of the least productive land in the Sandhills. Nebraska Stories presents new, short-form video segments, highlighting people, ideas, and events that inform Nebraskans' sense of place and their unique perspective on American life as it is lived on the Great Plains. Hicks, a resident of Omaha, stars in the episode as he travels to Bliss to learn more about the historic community from Dennis Vossberg, a retired IRS agent and author of Hector's Bliss, a book based on the life of a settler named Hector Dickson.