A companion site to a larger project, this interactive archive of homesteaders, their social connections, and the spaces they occupied on the central and western Nebraska plains seeks to explain community formation. Using ten townships across two counties (Custer and Dawes) in Nebraska, the networks included here on leadership and community reveal patterns of influence and collaboration among the network of homesteaders. The spatial maps include interactive, searchable geographic maps developed in ArcGIS, as well as georeferenced community network maps.
Network analysis of homesteaders relies on the "proofs of posting" included in successful homestead claims. These proofs are essentially brief newspaper blurbs that list four people who agreed to testify as to the validity of a claim on a homesteader's behalf. While the list of witnesses typically included four names, only two witnesses were required to testify. For the purposes of this investigation into the extent of homesteader networks, all four connections were used, as in the case of David J. Caswell.
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 degree, or the frequency with which they testify for other homesteaders. When Caswell's indirect connections are added, he loses his centrality and importance, and the network expands.
We encourage you to explore our colletion of maps, all of which are interactive and searchable. You can also find out more about our publication here.