Friends of Homestead National Historical Park
Board of Directors
June 19, 2017
For more information:
Contact: Diane Vicars
Friends of Homestead
Last Homesteader’s Tractor In Alaska Wilderness
To Be Rescued by Friends of Homestead
The Friends of Homestead National Monument of America is bringing home the Allis Chalmers tractor used by America’s last homesteader.
Dr. C.T. Frerichs, a retired Beatrice family physician, is providing the Friends of Homestead a financial donation to rescue this national treasure from the Alaska Wilderness.
The tractor, an Allis Chalmers 1945 Model C, has been sitting on the banks of the Stony River on the site that was homesteaded by Ken Deardorff. Dr. Frerichs’ donation will cover the costs of bringing the tractor from Alaska to Homestead National Monument of America, as well as the costs associated with conservation treatment work on the tractor to ready it for permanent display at the Monument.
Dr. Frerichs is making this financial contribution in memory of his wife Julia F. (Meadows) Frerichs.
Mrs. Frerichs, a native of Georgia, had spent very little time on a tractor. However, during her first trip to Nebraska she sat in the seat of an Allis, and from that moment on her affection grew for the citizens of Nebraska and for Homestead National Monument of America.
“This tractor is a part of our nation’s homesteading history; it is a national treasure,” Dr. Frerichs said. “We are glad to be working with the Friends of Homestead to bring this Allis Chalmers tractor to the Monument.”
Ken Deardorff filed for his 80-acre homestead claim under the Homestead Act in 1974. Five years later in 1979, Deardorff submitted the final proof fulfilling the requirements called for by the Homestead Act. Nine years later in 1988, Deardorff received the patent to his homestead claim. It was the last patent to be issued under the Homestead Act of 1862.
Deardorff’s place in history represents the end of an era in American history, the end of the Homestead Act of 1862.
“When we think of the Homestead Act we often think of the 1800s,” said Diane Vicars, president of the Friends of Homestead. “This tractor represents the contemporary part of this epic American story. This tractor will be a great contrast to the single bottom plows pulled by a team of oxen or horses that can now be found at the Monument. We are grateful to Dr. Frerichs and his family for his donation that will bring the Deardorff tractor to the Homestead.”
The recovery of the tractor includes a series of steps that began with airlifting the tractor by helicopter from the site where Deardorff parked the Allis more than 30 years ago.
The tractor is now in the process of being transported to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s (UNL) Lester F. Larsen Tractor Test Museum, where the tractor will be cleaned up and readied for display by the UNL Tractor Restoration Club under the direction of museum conservators specializing in tractors and motorized vehicles. The Friends of the Tractor Test Museum will also be participating in this project.
A dedication at the Monument is tentatively scheduled for this fall.
As part of compliance with the 10 year CRP-SAFE prairie chicken program it is required to burn the prairie two times and also graze it one time.
Friends of Homestead are carrying out these practices because this is what would have occurred 300 years ago. Prairie fires were started by lightning and sometimes by Native Americans. These fires were good for prairies as it eliminated invasive plants and also allowed small prairie forbs to flourish. The grazing requirement is to mimic the trampling of the prairie by bison.
View the slideshow of the April 2012 Prairie Burn.
PURCHASE OF FIRST 40 ACRES
Prior to 2004, there had been discussions about how the Friends might acquire some land along the south border of Homestead National Historical Park (formerly Homestead National Monument of America). This land was owned by the Charles Ensz family. The Homestead wanted to establish a border to protect the Osage Orange trees on the property line and the primitive bur oak trees in the creek area. At the time, with limited funds in the bank account the Friends could not buy land. On Oct. 13, 2004, the Friends received $101,000 from the Opal Shum estate. The final amount Shum willed to the Friends eventually came to approximately $124,000. In her will Shum asked that these funds be used by the Friends of Homestead for the benefit and support of the Homestead National Historical Park.
Serious discussion then began about buying 40 acres of land that abutted the south boundary of the Homestead. In January 2005 the Friends' board of directors gave authorization to contact the Charles Ensz family to try to secure the first option to buy the land adjacent to the Homestead. In April 2005 a purchase agreement to buy 40 acres of land for $ 00,000 was signed by the Ensz family. Included in the agreement was the right to purchase additional land within a two-year period. The Friends closed on the property in July 2005. Looking to the future, in February 2005 the Friends board of directors had already agreed that if the Ensz family would sell the Friends the first 40 acres and also agree to sell more then the Friends would start the process of securing a $250,000 grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust to buy another 100 acres.
PURCHASE OF ADDITIONAL 100 ACRES
In February 2006 a $ 250,000 grant from Nebraska Environmental Trust was applied for. In early October 2006 we received notice that the Friends had received the grant and that the money was coming in a few weeks! On October 27, 2006, the grant for $250,000 was deposited into the Friends bank account. In August 2006 a purchase agreement to buy 100 acres for $250,000 had been signed by the Ensz family contingent upon the Friends receiving the $250,000 grant. The Friends closed on the land purchase in late October or early November of 2006.
The Ensz family had been renting the land to a local farmer and the Friends continued the same arrangement in 2007 and 2008. The Friends eventually want to give the property to the National Park Service (Homestead National Historical Park) so discussions began about how the Friends could restore the land to its original prairie condition before transfer to the NPS.
The Friends started researching USDA farm programs to see if anything was available that would provide the Friends with an annual payment and also help the Friends with the prairie restoration. In April 2008 the Friends discovered the CRP-SAFE Prairie Chicken Program. In May 2008 the Friends approved researching the program. In September 2008 the board approved signing the application to enroll the Friends' land into the program. In October 2008 the application was signed and in December the FSA approved the application and on December 24, 2008, a 10-year contract was signed.
The 10-year program was "tweaked a little bit" so that the NRCS, Prairie Plains Resources Institute and the Nebraska Game and Parks would be able to provide the seed and seeding at no charge (a savings to the Friends of approximately $45,000). The overall goal is to restore the land to its original prairie condition and at the same time provide excellent habitat for the prairie chicken.
The deal provides an advantage to the Friends because the Friends will be able to eventually turn the property over to the NPS in its original prairie condition, establish prairie chicken habitat and receive an annual income for its efforts.
In May 2009 the seed was planted. Over 160 native prairie grasses and forbs along with some bushes for prairie chicken habitat were planted. Not all of the 140 acres was seeded to original prairie. Only 114.1 acres qualified because under this program only land that had been farmed for the last five years was approved. This took out the pasture in the southwest corner, the buffalograss buffer strip along the south edge of the Homestead and a few small miscellaneous areas. During the 10-year contract the land must be burned twice and grazed once. On March 25, 2012, the first burn of the prairie was successfully carried out.