Homestead Nebraska

Newtork Analysis and Mapping of Nebraska Homesteads


A companion site to a larger book project invesitgating potentially fraudulent homestead claims, this interactive archive of homesteaders, their social connections, and the spaces they occupied on the central and western Nebraska plains examines the dynamics of community and "neighborhood" formation. Under the Homestead Act, 1862, settlers claimed forty-five percent of Nebraska's land area–more than anywhere else in the country. Using a study area of ten townships across Custer and Dawes counties, Nebraska, the supplemental data and visitualizations on this site include network analysis on leadership and community, which reveal patterns of influence and collaboration among the network of homesteaders. Additionally, the spatial maps include interactive, searchable geographic maps developed in ArcGIS, as well as georeferenced community network maps.

The geographic maps used the legal descriptions derived from each individual homestead record and linked them to the corresponding tracts of land on the original township survey maps. The network analysis of homesteaders use the "proofs of posting" included in successful homestead claims. These proofs are essentially brief newspaper blurbs that list four people who agreed to testify aon behalf of the claimant. While the "proofs" typically included four names, the Land Office only required two witnesses to testify. This investigation utilized all four connections to demonstrate the breadth and extent of homesteader networks, as in the case of David J. Caswell.

Figure 1

When we include witnesses for Caswell's witnesses, the network builds outward. Often, members of the community would mutually witness for one another, or share common witnesses. Keystone individuals emerge based on in-degree, or the frequency with which they testify for other homesteaders. When Caswell's indirect connections are added to the network, he loses his centrality and importance as the network expands.

Figure 2

We encourage you to explore our colletion of maps, all of which are interactive and searchable. You can also find out more about our manuscript here.