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Alaska Homesteads

In 1862, Congress passed the revolutionary Homestead Act that sent thousands of Americans west in pursuit of free land. Any man 21 years of age or over was eligible to stake out 160 acres of land for less than $20. After filing their intentions, homesteaders were required to live on the land, build a residence, and farm at least 10% of it within five years before a legal patent for the land was issued. After Alaska was purchased by the U.S., homesteaders began claiming land in Alaska. Homesteaders ranged from dairy and agricultural farmers to miners and wilderness pioneers living a subsistence lifestyle. Though homesteading in most of the U.S. began to rapidly diminish in the early 20th century, it remained a viable method of settling Alaska. The Homestead Act was finally repealed in 1976, though Alaska was granted an extension until 1986. In its 114 active years, 10% of U.S. land was settled under the act, including significant portions of Alaska. Document extending the Homestead Act in Alaska.

Since the 1986 repeal, there has been no federal homesteading program in Alaska; the State of Alaska, however, created public land disposal programs starting with statehood in 1959. Initially, the state sold land primarily through auctions and then through land lotteries after 1978. In 1977 the Homesite Law provided for “free land” with provisions similar those of the federal Homestead Act. In 1984, the Homestead Program was initiated, allowing for the claim of 40 non-agricultural acres or 160 agricultural acres of land. The requirements for homesteaders eventually came to include U.S. citizenship and residency in Alaska for one year prior to filing as well as certain surveying, clearing and building obligations. After 1988, all parcels eligible for homesteading were first staked out by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.

So, now that we own, in partnership anyway, some remote land, one location being an outright purchase from the state and another from the State of Alaska Remote Recreational Cabin Site program, I have to start thinking about building a cabin or two. I figured I’d start an ongoing posting of the progress we make in getting a trail brushed out and the platform area ready for the cabin. This ought to be fun, so keep an eye on this part of the site as I write about and post some pictures of our labor in building a cabin off the roadway and in the Alaska Bush.

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