Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest

home historical context lesson plan timeline.html resources

Legislative Chronology

Deciding to Go and Getting There

Proving Up

Life on the Homestead

Proving Up

  •  Outside Employment

Making a homestead into a cash earning enterprise was a difficult task. Money to support life on the homestead often came from other sources of employment, depending on what was available in the area. In forested regions, homesteaders took jobs as loggers, mill hands, and timber cruisers. Government provided other opportunities, such as mail carriers, surveyors, or United States Forest Rangers. Some worked as miners, commercial fishers, bounty hunters, packers, or on road construction crews. William Taylor supplemented the homestead he purchased with funds brought in from operating a general store; his wife Fanny was the local Post Office Mistress. Near his homestead claim, Robert Getty founded a town that within a few years boasted a hotel, warehouse, boat house, school, cemetery and US Post Office. Similarly, after receiving title to his homestead claim in 1895, Frank M. Ackerley divided his land and sold lots as the future townsite of Sappho. In areas more dominated by farms, homesteaders worked as hired hands.

Although the creators and supporters of homestead law conceived of homesteads as sufficient in themselves to support a farming family, finding extra work could determine their success or failure. Most of those who took homesteads in the Wildwoods area of Lewis County in the 1880s, wrote one local resident, abandoned them by 1900 because "there was no opportunity to earn money, necessary to supplement Nature's bounty." Whether farming for subsistence or the market, homesteaders needed funds for a variety of items, from sugar to agricultural implements. Because proving up required a certain percentage of residence on the land, homesteaders were theoretically limited to the hours they worked off the homestead, but insufficient residence requirements were notoriously difficult to prove.

« Previous page      Next page »