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A Union Army scout had to have guts to do his job…what with the looming threat of death by cannon fire and bullets. It also took guts to homestead out in the unclaimed West…what with the looming threat of death by bears, poisoned wells, and that Oregon Trail favorite, dysentery.
Good thing Daniel Freeman had guts for days. (Hmm. That's a nasty-sounding expression.)
Allegedly a Union scout, Daniel Freeman was so looking forward to the challenge that he took out the very first claim in nearly the very first hour on the very first day the Homestead Act went into action.
The place: Gage County, Nebraska Territory.
The date: New Years Eve, 1862.
The setting: a New Year’s party that just happened to include some Land Office workers as guests, along with Daniel.
After possibly over-indulging (or just high off the festive atmosphere), Daniel managed to talk one of the clerks into opening up the office just past midnight with a story about having to leave the next day to report to St. Louis for duty. The Homestead Act didn’t take effect until January 1, 1863, otherwise known as New Years Day. Somebody was an eager beaver. (Source)
Whether that story is actually true or not, Daniel’s effort paid off. On January 20th, 1868, five years and a couple of weeks after the claim was filed, the Land Office accepted Daniel’s proof of improvements and granted him the patent to the land on his claim.
Talk about boldly going where no man (at least under the Homestead Act) had gone before.