In Florida, homestead grants became vacation spots

With real estate prices going up and up these days, it is difficult to imagine a time when oceanfront or riverfront property was free. In 1862, Congress passed a Homestead Act which offered as many as 160 acres of public land free to someone who occupied the land for five years.

Claimants had to pay the administrative fee in cash in order to complete the transaction. It was also possible just to pay cash at the beginning and forgo the requirement of five-years occupation of the land.

The Act was intended to encourage settlement of the western part of the United States. The law, however, applied nationwide. At the time there was still available unclaimed land in Florida and homestead land here offered a much different picture than in the West.

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