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Homesteading and History - Creating experiences for learning

Posted Oct 24 2012 12:00am

Took a little road trip to Homestead National Monument near Beatrice, Nebraska, which celebrates The Homestead Act of 1862.  By giving government land to individuals in 30 states, this law allowed nearly any man or woman a chance to live the American Dream, including our Great Grandfather.  Over 1.6 million people rose to the challenge and claimed 270 million acres. 

One of the first people to file a claim under the Homestead Act of 1862 was Daniel Freeman, in Beatrice, Nebraska.  We were able to see his homestead, as well as the Freeman school.  

An important judicial decision regarding the separation of church and state took place in 1902 in Nebraska. Daniel Freeman made a public grievance over the use of the Bible in public school instruction.  He requested that the teacher cease using the Bible as a textbook and reference during her classes.  Edith Beecher, the teacher, refused saying she had permission from the school board.  Daniel freeman took his case to the school board.

The school board defended Beecher saying her 10 minute lesson was in the best interests of the children, and it was Freeman who was guilty of hounding the teachers and school board.

Freeman pursued the case taking it to the Gage County District Court where he lost and then on to the Nebraska Supreme Court who found that the school was in violation of the U.S. Constitution's separation of church and state.  Interestingly, this happened a number of years before the U.S. Supreme Court ever addressed the issue.  Who knew all this happened so close to home.  

And to make a connection to hearing, can you tell the acoustics in this one-room classroom are horrible. Imagine wood floors, plaster walls, squeaky chairs, squeaky desks, squeaky chalk, and a metal stove burning corn cobs.  Can you imagine?  The only positive is that the classroom was small and the Kindergarten table was right up front.  

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