History - and a Love Story - in Primary Source Documents
Frameworks for America's Past
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What is a primary source document?

   When historians want to know about an event in the past, they especially look for what are called primary source documents.  These include eyewitness accounts of the event, diary entries by people who were there, legal papers connected with the event, photos of the event, and that sort of thing.

   An online article or library book about a past event, written by someone who wasn't there, is called a secondary source
   The document below is a primary source document.  As you can see, it is a land ownership certificate related to the Homestead Act.  Look it over carefully, and continue reading to learn about the remarkable love story behind it.

Daniel Freeman, about 78 years old, and about 40 years after moving with his wife to Nebraska.
First, find the facts in this
primary source document!

1.  What is the date on the land ownership certificate shown above, which was issued to Daniel Freeman in Brownville, Nebraska?

2.  What is the application number?  (Freeman was, in fact, the first person to file an application under the Homestead Act - on January 1, 1863.)

3.  The document makes a reference to the date when the Homestead Act itself was passed by Congress.  What was that year?

4.  From the wording on this document, does it appear the Homestead Act gave land to anyone who wanted it, or only to people who would actually go settle on the land?

5.  How many acres of land was Daniel Freeman given, according to this document? 

   The Homestead Act was passed during the Civil War.  It was meant to encourage settlement of the West by giving 160 acres of government-owned land to anyone willing to move there, build a house, and stay for five years.  Mr. Freeman filed his application in 1863, and selected land near Beatrice, Nebraska.  Five years later, in 1868, he was given the certificate of land ownership. 

A brother's death led to a new
love and a new life in Nebraska

    Daniel Freeman was in the Union Army during the Civil War when he filed his application for free land under the Homestead Act in 1863.  Daniel's younger brother James had also joined the Union Army, and planned to marry an Iowa school teacher named Agnes Suitor.  James, however, died of an illness during the war.  Daniel had met Agnes, and after they wrote each other many letters in 1864, he wrote one that included these lines: 

   ". . . I love you and would be happy in trying to make you happy if you can love me in return[.]  I would like to make you Misis [Mrs.] Freeman . . ." 

   Agnes agreed, and after being married in Iowa, they moved to Daniel's homestead land in Nebraska in 1865.

   Agnes was interviewed for a newspaper story in 1925, when she was 81 years old and a widow.  You can read the original article, with her memories of her life with Daniel, by clicking here.

   The National Park Service later purchased the land to create the Homestead National Monument of America.  This photo of Agnes is from their collection of historical materials, and they have a web page about the family here.

The photo below shows the Freeman's farm about 20 years after they moved there.
That area of eastern Nebraska gets enough rain that trees are common.
The couple had eight children, seven of whom survived to adulthood.

photo credit: Homestead National Monument of America

Daniel and Agnes lived in a small cabin when they first arrived on the
homestead farm in 1865.  Many years later they built a brick house. 
The photo below shows them with some of their grandchildren.

photo credit: Homestead National Monument of America

The photo below shows the grave site of Agnes and Daniel on the land they farmed.

The land certificate image is from the National Archives.
The photo of Daniel Freeman is from the Library of Congress.
The photos of Agnes Freeman, the Freeman farm, and the brick house are
from the Homestead National Monument of America.
The grave site photo is a public domain image courtesy of
Wikipedia photo contributor "Billdorr."
Some images have been edited or resized for this page.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright 2009, 2016 by David Burns.  All rights reserved.  As a guide to the Virginia Standards of Learning, some pages necessarily include phrases or sentences from that document, which is available online from the Virginia Department of Education.  The author's copyright extends to the original text and graphics, unique design and layout, and related material.