900 Miles from Nowhere: Voices from the Homestead Frontier

By Steven R. Kinnesella

Minnesota Historical Society Press, St. Paul, Minnesota, 2006, 206 pages, hardcover.


A pensive North Dakota homesteader in the doorway of her wind-blown claim shack.

It was on the vast American prairie that people from around the world seized the opportunity for personal and economic freedom promised by free land. Traveling across oceans and continents, these hard-nosed, pragmatic people began arriving in the 1860s with shovels and plows, convinced they were part of something important. They were. Putting hand to plow and breaking the sod for their first crude homes, these hardy settlers left an indelible thumbprint on American history and on the country’s character. Though many of their ventures ended in failure, their risks permanently enhanced the nation’s diversity and its sense of independence and resourcefulness.


A girl fills a barrel with water from a spring at LeRoy, Montana, 1913.

900 Miles from Nowhere is the heartfelt chronicle of the daily lives and personal struggles of Great Plains homesteaders, told in their own voices through many never-before-published letters, diaries, and photographs. Believing absolutely that they could control their own destiny, they bet everything they owned, even in the face of insurmountable obstacles. This is the remarkable and ever-inspiring story of life on the grasslands that stretch from Canada to Mexico.

Former press secretary to U.S. Senator Tom Daschle, Steven R. Kinsella is a news-media consultant and public affairs strategist for conservation organizations. The great-grandson of Great Plains homesteaders, Kinsella was raised on the northern prairie and now lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he also works as a freelance writer.

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Review by Gwen Schock Cowherd


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