Many eastern families who longed for the opportunity to own and farm a plot of land of their own were able to realize their dreams when Congress passed the Homestead Act in 1862. That landmark piece of legislation provided 160 acres free to any family who lived on the land for five years and made improvements. Combined with the completed transcontinental railroad, it was now possible for an easterner yearning for the open space of the West to make it happen. Unfortunately, the lives they found were fraught with hardship.
There were tremendous economic difficulties associated with Western farm life. First and foremost was