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Ray Norton, Jo McGill and Ken Gough, Eugene, OR, are the winners!

Homestading is the answer for Week 372 of Orofino History Trivia a special feature to celebrate the history and heritage of Clearwater Country. Watch each day for another clue.

When you think you know the answer, drop us an email at: Please, let us know where you are from, if it is out of the area.

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Monday: It took five years.

Tuesday: There was a lot of hard work involved to get the reward.

Wednesday: There were those who tried to do it before it was legal.

Thursday: It cost $10-15.

Friday: 160 was the magic number.

Saturday: Land around Fraser and Weippe was opened for this in 1895.

Monday: People needed to "prove up" keep the land they obtained this way.

In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act into law. According to John H. Bradbury in his history of Clearwater County series the act permitted a person to stake out 160 acres, pay a filing fee of from $10-15, farm the land for five years and at the end of that time 'prove up' on it so the government would grant a title to it.

However, there were problems in the Clearwater area because much of the land that white settlers wanted to homestead was still part of the Nez Perce Reservation. The treaty of 1855 was ratified by the federal government in 1859. It granted the Nez Perce a 5,000 square reservation that included much of eastern Oregon, all of north central Idaho and much of western Montana. It provided that there would not be any white settlements within the area reserved for the tribe. There were those white people who established ranches and homes on the Weippe/Fraser Prairie.

The Nez Perce had resisted the miners entry into the Clearwater, but because Oro Fino Creek did not carry a high value for them and the North Fork-Ahsahka and Kamiah bands had established commercial relationships with the mining district and did not physically intervene.

However, Bradbuy says, Oro Fino Creek which provided neither camas nor salmon, was one thing and the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers at Lewiston, which provided salmon and game and a winter camping site was another. The ranchers that staked out claims between Greer and Pierce City were squatting on or near the camas meadows. Whites were also covetous of the Wallowa Valley and were pressuring the government for access. The conflict grew as the Nez Perce complained bitterly that treaties were not being enforced and the whites kept pushing for reservation land.

The Dawes Act, with its provisions to set up ownership by individual Indian people, along some common land, had by 1895 opened up 73 percent of the reservation for homesteading and other uses. The Nez Perce received $1,626,222 in exchange. It was paid $626.22 to each tribal member upon ratification of the program, Bradbury says.

The effect was 542,064 acres being owned by the government and open for homesteading. When that land became available, it meant that people could legally homestead the Fraser and Weippe prairies.

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Window on the Clearwater
P.O. Box 2444
Orofino, ID 83544
Phone: 1-208-476-0733
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