Montana Dreamin’: Booster Fantasy and Farm Building in the Twentieth-Century Homestead Boom - 3/28 Environmental History Seminar at the MHS

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Montana Dreamin’: Booster Fantasy and Farm Building in the Twentieth-Century Homestead Boom

Author: Sara M. Gregg, Indiana University-Bloomington

Comment: Sarah T. Phillips, Boston University

Tuesday, 28 March

5:00 PM

with an in-person reception at 4:30 PM

Free, Hybrid Event - hosted by the Massachusetts Historical Society


During the tumultuous first decades of the twentieth century tens of thousands of aspiring farmers swarmed into northeastern Montana, lured by boosters’ claims that the rolling shortgrass steppes were the continent’s most promising “next-year country.” The Great Northern Railway carried Midwestern farmers and migrants from Northern and Eastern Europe enticed by a period of favorable weather, railroad promotion, federal incentives, and global economic conditions. Federal policymakers urged the development of the Northern Great Plains, funding the U.S. Reclamation Service’s irrigation projects and dismantling the last large tracts of reservation lands in Montana and the Dakotas as they opened vast acreages to homestead settlement under revised land laws. Wartime prices and the modified homestead acts contributed to the broad social and economic changes of this era, shaping the trials of many homesteaders on the Northern Plains as drought and economic constriction descended; this paper explores these transformations through the story of how Lily B. Stearns defended her claim to a 320-acre homestead in Tampico, Montana.

The Environmental History Seminar invites you to join the conversation on Tuesday, 28 March at 5:00 PM. The seminar brings together a diverse group of scholars and members of the public to discuss aspects of American environmental history from prehistory to the present day. Presenters come from a variety of disciplines including history, urban planning, and environmental management. 

This session will revolve around the discussion of a pre-circulated paper. After brief remarks from the author and an assigned commentator, the discussion is opened to the floor. All are encouraged to ask questions, provide feedback on the circulated essay, and discuss the topic at hand. Our sessions are free and open to everyone. 

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