Tag Archives: homesteading

A Farm of Her Own

Grace Binks and Magaret Major pose outside a chicken house.
In 1911, thirty-nine-year-old Grace Binks (left) and twenty-nine-year-old Margaret Major (right) came to Sumatra, Montana (northwestern Rosebud County) as part of a group of Iowa homesteaders. The women stayed only a year, paying cash to “commute” their homesteads into purchased land. MHS Photo Archives PAc 92-62 p.19 #C

Historians estimate that up to 18 percent of homesteaders in Montana were unmarried women. Passage of the Homestead Act of 1862 allowed any twenty-one-year-old head of household the right to homestead federal land. Single, widowed, and divorced women fit this description, and they crossed the country to file homestead claims of 160 acres. After the turn of the century, when the Enlarged Homestead Act doubled the acreage to 320, even more women took up free land in Montana. While not all succeeded, those who did proved that women were up to the task. Gwenllian Evans was Montana’s first female homesteader. A widow from Wales, she emigrated to the United States in 1868. Her son, Morgan Evans, was Marcus Daly’s land agent and a well-known Deer Lodge valley rancher. In 1870, Gwenllian Evans filed on land that later became the town of Opportunity; she received her patent in 1872.  She was one of the territory’s first post mistresses and lived on her homestead until her death in 1892. Continue reading A Farm of Her Own