The last homesteader returns to Beatrice

2012-09-01T06:00:00Z The last homesteader returns to BeatriceBy Emily Deck/Daily Sun staff writer Beatrice Daily Sun
September 01, 2012 6:00 am  • 

Ken Deardorff, the last American homesteader, is back in Beatrice for the second time.

The Homestead National Monument of America invited Deardorff to be part of its Labor Day weekend programs.

“Exhibits like this are an important thing to preserve, so future generations get a sense of where they come from,” Deardorff said Friday.

In 2000, the Bureau of Land Management in Anchorage, Alaska discovered Deardorff as the last man to receive land filed under the Homestead Act of 1862.

Deardorff’s homestead was located in Stony River, Alaska. His claim was filed on May 16, 1974.

“I have a lot of mixed emotions about that time,” Deardorff said. “It was certainly enjoyable and certainly frustrating, but all in all absolutely rewarding, and something I would do again.”

Deardorff, who now lives in McGrath, Alaska, 90 miles north of his homestead, has since had to sell the plot.

He made his first visit to the Homestead National Monument  in 2007. It was then that he saw the exhibit dedicated to him.

“I was glad that I was able to shed some kind of light on how things were in that part of the country at that time,” Deardorff said.

No one at the Homestead National Monument was more happy to welcome Deardorff than historian Blake Bell.

“This has been a very unique experience for me,” said Bell who just recently met Deardorff for the first time. “As a historian to be able to interact with history like this is very exciting.”

Deardorff is “grateful” to be part of history, but calls it a “fluke.” Everyone has a part in history, he said.

Deardorff will be speaking Sept. 1 at 1 p.m. at the Education Center. He also will participate in a panel of living homesteaders who will share their experiences and answer questions.

In addition to Deardorff speaking, Homestead has several family-oriented events offered throughout Labor Day Weekend, including a spelling bee on Labor Day.

Copyright 2015 Beatrice Daily Sun. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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