There is No Place like HOME
By: Sabrina Gonzalez
American history is enriched because of the lives and stories of individuals from all walks of life. The ability for the Homestead Act of 1862 to grant anyone in the country, even immigrants, to obtain land ownership contains a threshold of history. Here, at Homestead National Monument of America, we research and share these stories with visitors as well as the future generations to come.
The historic accomplishments of women on homesteads can be inspiring for everyone. It has the potential to generate feelings of strength, courage, and respect from learning about their individual efforts. I am thankful to be able to share this history with park visitors every single day.
I am a musical prodigy
Every Wednesday morning at the park, I, and visitors, am fortunate enough to hear lovely music while going about my day. A moderate size group of dulcimers players perform for approximately two hours. This group started playing roughly fifteen years ago by Helen Burger. She has been playing for nearly twenty-five years simply because she wanted to find a new hobby. This group does not have a Facebook page, or any form of media presences. Every week they meet at the park, play beautiful music, have a fun time, laugh a little, and discuss the plans for the following week. I asked the group a few curious questions about how they learned to play the dulcimers and some of their songs. Daryl Doolittle said, “You can learn to play in two minutes, and we can play any song you want as long as you put it on a $20 bill.” I was shocked by this statement. Jane Stokebrand was generous enough to allow me to play her instrument and teach me a song too. I should have believed him because he was right. Before I knew it, I was playing a beginner song with the entire group. It may have not sounded as pitch perfect as everyone else, but I still know that I am a musical prodigy.
History of the Freeman School
Homestead National Monument of America is fortunate to share the history and significance of one-room classrooms on the western frontier at the Freeman School. It educated local children from 1871 to 1967. This site was donated to the National Park Service in 1970. The school is believed to be named after Thomas Freeman, no connection to Daniel Freeman, by his generous brick donation that established the school’s structure. There were multiple Freeman families within the local community and there is no record that provides a definitive answer to whom the school was named after. One-room classrooms provided local children with education and often became a second home for them. Before communities developed a school, the family home was the initial place for learning. The majority of formal schools on the frontier had only one teacher. The local childrens’ ages varied so the teacher would have to conduct multiple lesson plans to cater to the different educational needs.
In 1899, Daniel Freeman intervened in the school teacher’s, Miss Edith Beecher, instructions. She was a woman of strong religious belief that conducted religious activities at the school. The school board approved and defended Beecher’s lessons but Daniel objected to them. He sued the Gage County District Court for allowing biblical education at the public school. He lost his suit at this district court and appealed to the Nebraska Supreme Court, Daniel Freeman v. John Scheve, Et. al.. In 1902, the state’s court ruled that the school violated Article 8, Section 11 of the Nebraska Constitution. It was not until the 1960s Supreme Court cases of Engel v. Viate (1962) and Abington School District (1963) that supported the separation of church and state in public schools.