It was on this day in 1863 that Daniel Freeman filed the first claim for a homestead under the Homestead Act. Abraham Lincoln had approved the act in May of 1862, making it possible for anyone who was at least 21 years old or the head of a household to file a claim for a homestead of 160 acres outside the 13 colonies. It only cost $18 worth of fees, as long as you lived on it for five years, built a house, and farmed at least 10 acres.
Daniel Freeman is generally accepted as the first person to file a claim. The law went into effect on January 1, 1863, and Freeman convinced someone in the local land office to let him file a claim at 12:10 a.m. He claimed his land near Beatrice in south-central Nebraska.
In 1864, he began exchanging letters with a woman named Agnes from LeClaire, Iowa. Agnes had been engaged to Daniel's brother James, but James had died when both brothers were fighting for the Union in the Civil War. So Agnes and Daniel started exchanging letters Â initially, they addressed each other as "Miss Agnes" and "Brother Dan," but soon they started calling each other "Friend Agnes" and "Friend Daniel." After months of letter-writing, they were married, and Agnes came to live with Daniel on his homestead near Beatrice. They had eight children, some of whom built their own homes on the original 160 acres.