Montana Historical Society

Big Sky ~ Big History

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Montana: Stories of the Land

Companion Website and Online Teacher's Guide

Chapter 13 - Homesteading This Dry Land, 1905-1920

Learning From Historical Documents

Montana: homestead brochure (The Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway, ca. 1917). Pam 3882. Montana Historical Society Research Center. Library.

Context for the Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway Montana Homesteading Brochure:

In 1909 Congress enacted the Enlarged Homestead Act. That act, which allowed settlers to claim 320 acres, set off Montana's homestead boom in earnest.  Three years later, Congress enacted the Three Year Homestead Law, which greatly expanded settlement of federal lands. The law reduced from five years to three the time necessary to "prove up" a claim and permitted five months' absence from the land each year. For Montana it meant 12,500 homestead entries in the first year alone. Railroads aggressively marketed homesteading along their lines with pamphlets such as this 1917 Milwaukee Road brochure.

About Primary Sources:

Letters, diary entries, census records, newspapers, and photographs are all examples of "primary sources," material created at a particular moment in the past that has survived into the present. Primary sources can provide clues to the past. They are our windows into an earlier time. The Montana Historical Society contains thousands of primary sources. The above item from the Society's collection relates directly to this chapter.

Agriculture Painting
Detail, Agriculture, Marjorie Gieseker Goering, 1935, Montana Historical Society Museum