This is an original claim shanty from the 19th Century in South Dakota. Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act in 1860 allowing Americans to settle on 270 million acres of land. In South Dakota 97,197 Homesteads covered 15,660,000 acres, or 32 percent of the state's land. One of the requirements of the Act was to live on the claim for five years before it could be "proved up", that is given final ownership of the land. This required a home measuring 12x14, which is the dimensions of this shanty. This particular claim shanty was shared by two families and was placed on the property line between two claims. The Act required families to live on the land at least six months a year, so few families spent winters living in these cabins. To homestead a family had to find 160 acres of unclaimed land, file a $10 filing fee at the county land office, move to the claim, and make improvements to the land. The Homestead Act did not officially end until 1975 in the lower 48 states, and 1985 in Alaska, but most unclaimed land was long gone by 1920. In South Dakota only 40 percent of claims proved up. The other 60 percent could be sold to a new homesteader after a minimum six months of residency, so many homesteaders used land sales to finance other activities.
White settlers, a large percentage immigrants from Europe, were the most common homesteaders who benefited by acquiring ownership of land through hard work. The nation benefited by having vast areas settled, agricultural products added to the economy, towns established, and roads constructed. In South Dakota the railroads were important to the settlement of the state. Homesteaders usually arrived by train, ordered goods delivered by train, and sold their products to markets shipped by rail.
The losers from the Homestead Act were Native Americans, especially the Sioux Nation in South Dakota. The Great Sioux Nation was granted 22 million acres by the Laramie Treaty of 1868. By 1889 this was reduced to five much smaller reservations in S.D. The Dawes Act of 1887 granted each Indian family 160 acres, but these land grants were either sold or leased for very little money to white farmers. In 1908 a land lottery divided the Rosebud Reservation into 160 acre parcels which went mostly to whites. Over 100,000 people signed up for this lottery.