Date of Award

Spring 2013

Document Type

Thesis

Department

History

First Advisor

Robert Swartout

Second Advisor

Gilian Glaes

Third Advisor

Lynette Zuroff

Abstract

This thesis argues that the frontier, if defined as the availability of free land, was in fact not closed in 1890 as proclaimed by the famous Turner thesis. Furthermore, this paper reinforces historian Brian Q. Cannon’s work, which argues that the federal homestead program did not end in the 1930s—as many prominent western historians assert—but rather, in 1976 in the lower 48 states and 1986 in Alaska. To strengthen these claims, this essay uses the agricultural experiences of Joe and Ercell Flood as a case study of those who took advantage of the post-World War II homestead law which allowed veterans to farm on newly-expanded reclamation projects throughout the West. The thesis uses materials obtained from family sources, including oral histories, government documents, videos, and memoirs, as well as information from newspaper archives, federal statutes, and magazine archives. The thesis begins in chapter one by introducing the topics of the frontier, homesteading, and reclamation, in addition to the historical background that led up to this postwar homesteading experience. Chapter two looks at the Flood family’s undertakings from 1941—the United States’ entrance into World War II—to 1956—the attainment of a land patent to their farm on the Minidoka Project in Idaho. Chapter three picks up the story after the Floods obtained title to the land in 1956—looking at the struggles that farmers faced and what it took to survive—and ends in 1976—the year Joe and Ercell retired and the homestead law was repealed. Chapter four concludes the work as it delves into the historical significance of homesteading into the latter half of the twentieth century.

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