Essay On Homestead Act

All were gone after Viola (Craig) Mitchell died at The Dry in 1974. Descendants of homesteaders recognize that their presence was tolerated and not challenged because African Americans were a very small minority in relation to the overall population.

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White homesteaders, ranchers, and others had been in the Manzanola-Rocky Ford area since the 19th century. In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the American West, 1528-1990.

George Swink, a local entrepreneur, had acquired a significant amount of land in the Arkansas River valley, aiming to expand irrigation farming through the construction of a series of canals and dams.

This notion highlights a Euro-American-centered history full of romantic imagery: settlers traveling long distances, leading wagons and family to homestead in a land of open, endless prairie, rolling hills, and tall grass.

Academics have debated this imagery as nothing more than ethnocentric, sexist, environmentally insensitive, and unduly celebratory (e.g., Armitage 1994; Billington and Hardaway 1998; Limerick 1991; Painter 1976; Taylor 1998).

But they had no money to go back and had to stay in Colorado." (Author interview with Alice Mc Donald.) Settlers collectively attempted to build an irrigation system using water from the Apishapa River, but after the system's collapse during the 1923 floods, it was never rebuilt, as homesteaders realized that irrigation farming was an impossible task. As with other rural communities, recollections of the descendants from The Dry seem to indicate a large measure of mutuality among community members and a relaxation of culturally determined barriers, including gender and racial barriers.

In the early 20th century, farm experts (Campbell 1907; Hargreaves 1957) believed that dryland farming, uniquely dependent on natural rainfall and using non-irrigated crops, such as wheat, corn and beans, could be successful and provide profits when practiced on large-scale acreage. It is acknowledged that the homesteading experience enhanced female status and autonomy, with women sharing responsibilities that altered the traditional gender division of labor, and freed them from traditional gender constrictions.

According to oral information, Swink prompted Josephine and Lenora Rucker, two sisters who worked in domestic service in his household, to persuade families and acquaintances to move to Manzanola and homestead their own land.

The first African American settlers started arriving at The Dry around 1915, including the Craig family, which moved from Nicodemus. Exodusters: black migration to Kansas after Reconstruction.

According to Lulu Craig, families were lured by tales of rich grazing and the knowledge that the payment of a fee could temporarily hold a claim.

Soon, between 30 and 50 African American families had made their homes in the bleak landscape of The Dry. Alice Mc Donald (née Craig) recalls her mother, Rolan Dixon's, first impressions in arriving at The Dry: "My mother told us that what she remembered was that there were no trees. Outside America: race, ethnicity, and the role of the American West in national belonging.


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