In 1862, Congress passed and President Abraham Lincoln signed one of America’s most important pieces of legislation: The Homestead Act. This far-reaching law impacted Montana then, and does to this very day. Montana has always been a state marked by boom and bust—the fur trade, cattle on the open range, the gold and silver, coal and oil rushes. But no moment in our history has left a mark like that of the “honyocker” or homesteader. Stearns describes the American West’s last great agricultural land rush and the drought and depression that followed, illustrating his talk with a myriad of signs left on the landscape.
Humanities Montana is Montana's independent, nonprofit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), founded in 1972 by thirteen Montana citizens—academic and civic leaders—in response to Congress' National Arts and Humanities Act of 1965.