The Homestead Act of 1862 was a means for the United States government to quickly seed new states, such as Iowa and Kansas, and territories, such as Colorado, with American citizens. It was also considered at the time to be a powerful step towards preserving and advancing democracy by enabling even those of limited means to own a substantial plot of land.
As time passed, the federal government added additional homesteading acts to meet specific needs. In 1866, the Southern Homestead Act was passed. During Reconstruction in the South, land ownership inequity was increasingly seen as a problem. Homesteading was a means of redistributing land to those that were willing to put in the sweat equity required to make the land productive.
In 1875, the Timber Culture Act was passed. This homesteading option was created specifically with the arid West in mind. Nevada had joined the Union in 1864 and Colorado would be joining in 1876, so the problem of these vast tracts of land that were ripe for development, but lacked the necessary rainfall to consistently produce good crop yields, was weighing on people’s minds. It was thought that since the East had plentiful forests, and it also had plentiful rainfall, that perhaps the one had lead to the other. (And, for whatever reason, the idea was that the trees had brought the rain and not the other way around.) So the Timber Culture Act was enacted to encourage the planting of trees throughout the West in order bring the rainfall that farmers needed.
John and Fanny Bee moved from Iowa to Colorado in 1882. Fanny’s sister, Lizzie, and her husband, Al Morse, joined them in 1884. Ten years later, Al and Lizzie claimed property just off of East County Road 58 (a bit southeast of Wellington) through the Timber Culture Act. The requirement was that they plant 40 acres of their 160 acre claim with trees. The rest of the land could be used for raising livestock or growing crops.
John and Fanny’s son, Arleigh, inherited the farm after his aunt and uncle’s passing. The land has stayed in Arleigh Bee’s family through the generations and the current owners have turned it into a museum that honors not only the family’s history, but also that of local agriculture, and the joys, trials, and tribulations of homesteading families in Northern Colorado.
Learn more about the Bee Family and local history by visiting the farm any Friday or Saturday between now and the end of October. The entrance fee is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors 60+, and $3 for children 3-12. Under 3 are free. In addition to lots of agricultural and local history, there are also farm animals and hands on activities for the kids.
Learn more at the Bee Family Centennial Farm Museum website. The Bee Museum is a non-profit sponsor of Forgotten Fort Collins.
If your business or organization would like to learn more about becoming a sponsor, you can learn more in our 2016 Press Kit. (Please let me know if you have any trouble accessing the press kit.)
Information on the Homesteading Acts came from Wikipedia.