"Well, I was 21 and had no prospects of doing
anything. The land was there so I took it... There were wild herds of horses that roamed
over the prairie... I remember one time a herd of cattle came and rubbed on the shack... I
thought they were going to tip it over... To begin with, we had just a little pond that we
had to use for drinking water... Finally we dug a well, and it was real good water... The
road to Shell village went past our place... Indians would stop in the fill their cans...
They were so pleased and would bring us berries... We had a lot of Indian friends in those
Nora was one of the thousands of women in North Dakota who took advantage of the government's offer of "free land" and filed on a claim in her own name. With her family, she came from Iowa in 1911 when her father drew a number in the land lottery for a claim on the Fort Berthold Reservation. In 1913, a claim near her father's became available, and she decided to become a land holder herself. Nora's homestead adventure took place near the end of the settlement in North Dakota since most of the available land had been taken. Settlers began coming in the 1870s. The flow increased in the 1880s, 1890s, and early 1900s. Then the numbers tapered off.
People came from many points of origin. Immigrants came from many countries of Europe and from Canada. A few traveled from states east of the Mississippi, but many more moved from the neighboring states of Minnesota, Iowa, or South Dakota. In the later settlement period, many homesteaders either had been born in Dakota Territory or had come as young children.
The number of women filing for land varied with the area and time of settlement. About 8% filed on claims in Grand Forks County which was settled largely before 1890, while around 18% filed in the northwestern county of Williams which was settled mainly after 1900. Indeed, some northwestern townships recorded percentages as high as 32%.
Many "would-be" homesteaders came to Dakota with high expectations, but soon became disillusioned and left. The women pictured in this series experienced success. They persevered, working to build new communities, and thus became an integral part of North Dakota's rich heritage. Even though some eventually left the state, most maintained ties with friends and family members who remained here.
for Regional Studies