Smithsonian

The Homestead Act

May 20, 1862

AN ACT to secure homesteads to actual settlers on the public domain. Be it enacted, That any person who is the head of a family, or who has arrived at the age of twenty-one years, and is a citizen of the United States, or who shall have filed his declaration of intention to become such, as required by the naturalization laws of the United States, and who has never borne arms against the United States Government or given aid and comfort to its enemies, shall, from and after the first of January, eighteen hundred and sixty-three, be entitled to enter one quarter-section or a less quantity of unappropriated public lands, upon which said person may have filed a pre-emption claim. . . . Provided, that any person owning or residing on land may, under the provision of the act, enter other land lying contiguous to his or her said land, which shall not, with the land already owned and occupied, exceed in the aggregate one hundred and sixty acres.

Source: United States. Statutes at Large, Vol. XII, 1862, pp.392-394 (12 Stat. 392).