Friday, May 30, 2008

Evelyn Sharp: A Special Homesteader of Her Time

By Lisa Roberts
Southeast Community College

How many of you wanted to fly when you were kids?

I 'm sure many of you have heard of Daniel Freeman? But have you heard of any female homesteaders? Evelyn Sharp was a special homesteader of her time.

I would like to pay tribute to Evelyn Sharp a woman whose family Homesteaded in Ord, Nebraska. I would like to honor Evelyn Sharp who was a homesteader in Nebraska, and a female pilot who started lessons in 1935 when she was 16 (Pappas, 2001) and later flew in WWII with the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) (Bartels, 1996).

Evelyn Sharps first years as a homesteader.
The Sharp family moved to Ord, Nebraska in 1924 on land they claimed under the Homestead Act (Pappas, 2001). But the Great Depression forced the Sharp family to move into town and sell their farm in 1929 (Pappas, 2001).

Evelyn attended a two room school house that was a long way from her house. So she rode her horse Chalky to school. Evelyn’s days at Ord High School were spent enjoying athletics. Her favorite school activity was the Girls Athletic Association that met twice a week. She especially liked soccer . In 1937 when she graduated, she won the distinction of being the “best girl athlete” in her class. As Evelyn was growing so was her interest in flying (Pappas, 2001).

Evelyn Sharps first years as a pilot.
During the years that Evelyn studied aviation she began to figure out what she wanted to use her skills in flying for. Have any of you watched air shows? Those shows and tricks are what first spiked Evelyn’s interest in flying. Her first flying lesson was when she was 16 years old in 1935 (Pappas, 2001).

According to Pappas in the 2001 book More Notable Nebraskans Jack Jefford was a barnstormer, who first taught Evelyn to fly as a way to pay his room and board to her father for staying at their boarding house. At age 18 she was one of the youngest people to earn her commercial pilot’s license. She could now fly other people around (Pappas, 2001).

During Evelyn’s journey to get her first plane from Omaha NE the town of Ord NE chipped in money to help her pay. Her parents could not afford to buy her a plane, so her father John Sharp went around town and asked if anyone would chip in. The plane would benefit everyone not just Evelyn she could help others (Pappas, 2001).

In the fall of 1937 Evelyn and her father went to Omaha and picked up her first plane. She was the first to fly into Grand Island Airport when it opened. She entered the Lincoln School of Aviation in 1938 (Pappas, 2001).

She did many things from instructor to mail transporter until the WWII began. Once she joined the war, Ms. Sharp added many contributions; her thousands of hours of flying time were only one. Some of the planes Evelyn flew were much like the planes in the movie Flyboys about WWI.

Evelyn Sharps first years in the WAFS.
In 1942 Evelyn Sharp joined the WAFS. But the women did not receive the same pay or death benefits or insurance as the men. She had flown over 3,000 hours and was the most experienced pilot to join the WAFS (Bartels, 1996). Over 1,000 women pilots joined the WAFS to do transport, they were not allowed to go into battle. On April 3, 1944 Evelyn took off in a P-38 from Pennsylvania, headed out to California (Bartels, 1996).

She went through her check list as she started up the plane and received the ok to taxi down the runway. She lifted off the runway at 10:29 A.M. As soon as the plane lifted off, the left engine of the planed failed (Bartels, 1996).

According to Bartels in the 1996 book Sharpie the Life Story of Evelyn Sharp she had three places to land: in Harrisburg over homes, in Susquehanna a river, or try for Beacon Hill. The plane went down over Beacon Hill. The clock in the cockpit stopped at 10:30 A.M. Evelyn died in that mission in 1944.

Now that we have paid tribute to a Nebraska homesteader Evelyn Sharp lets review: she was a Homesteader since age 5, she was best girl athlete in her class, she was one of the youngest pilots to get her commercial license, and she was a transport pilot for WWII.
She achieved many things in a short time. Many of us, as kids, probably watched pilots, or barnstormers, much like Evelyn Sharp—if you have a dream go for it.


Bartels, D.R.A. (1996). Sharpie the life story of Evelyn Sharp. Lincoln, NE: Dageforde Publishing.

Pappas, C. (2001). More notable Nebraskans. Lincoln, NE: Media Production and Marketing, Inc.


Homesteading Legacy Banners

Evelyn Sharp Bio

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Check Row Planters

Corn planting has been in full swing. Many modern corn planters plant 16 rows at a time and some of the most modern planters use the Global Positioning System [GPS] technology to keep their rows straight. Technological advances are ever present in agriculture.

About 1890 one of the technological advances was planting corn with a two row check planter which was pulled by horses. This type of planter was manufactured from 1890 to 1941 and was used well into the 1950’s only by then farmers or the manufacturer had converted them to be pulled by tractors.

On Saturday May 17, 2008 the Heritage Center Farm Field at Homestead National Monument was planted to corn using a John Deere two row check planter that had been manufactured between 1908 and 1910. About 20 to 25 people watched as Gary Higgins used his team of horses and two row check planter. Mr. Higgins was assisted by Glen Brinkman and Ranger Jesse Bolli who moved the “trip wire.”

The “trip wire” which has knots in it every 42" was strung across the field. The wire was fed through a lever and rollers which are attached to the planter. When a knot hits the lever, the lever is pushed down and the corn is dropped.

The rows planted by a two row check planter are 42" apart and a hill of corn is planted every 42" with usually 4 or 5 seeds per hill. Cultivating [tilling the soil between the rows to remove the weeds] could occur with the rows and across the rows in a checker board pattern. The rows had to be 42" apart to allow the horse to walk between them to cultivate and harvest. Today, the corn rows are 30" apart.

In order to keep the rows straight a marker arm drags in the dirt creating a furrow to be used to center the planter on for the next trip across the field. Today, a few farmers are using the GPS technology, but most still use the marker arm with a single disc on the end to mark where to go next and keep their rows straight.

The planting that occurred at the Homestead Heritage Center on May 17 took about 2 hours to plant 1 acre of corn. About 10,000 to 15,000 kernels of corn were planted. Modern farmers with 16 row planters, on average, plant about 13 acres in an hour and about 30,000 to 40,000 seeds are planted per acre.

A good yield of corn planted using the two row check planter was about 60 bushel per acre with the average closer to 30 bushels per acre. Today 150 bushels per acre is average with some fields producing over 200 bushel per acre.

The two row check planter was amazing to some in 1890 just as using Global Positioning System technology in planting corn is amazing to some of us today.

In June, if conditions allow, Gary Higgins may be cultivating the corn at Heritage Center Farm Field at Homestead National Monument using his team of horses and late 19th or early 20th century technology. Look for an announcement.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


During President Abraham Lincoln’s first term in office the 37th Congress passed five monumental pieces of legislation. Princeton Professor and renowned Civil War Historian James McPherson argues that these five pieces of legislation constitute a "second American Revolution." This legislation included:

The Homestead Act
The Land-Grant College Act [Morrill Act]
The Pacific Railroad Act
The creation of an income tax
National banking and legal tender acts

Of these five acts, the Morrill Act and the Homestead Act were important in creating social mobility. Social mobility is the degree to which an individual's social status can change throughout the course of his or her life or the degree to which that individual's offspring and subsequent generations move up and down the class system. Social Mobility is the promise that lies at the heart of the American Dream.

This short piece will concentrate on the Morrill Act.

The Morrill Act was first proposed by Representative Justin Smith Morrill of Vermont, in 1857, and was passed by Congress, in 1859, but it was vetoed by President James Buchanan. In 1861, Morrill resubmitted the act with the amendment that the proposed institutions would teach military tactics as well as engineering and agriculture. The Morrill Act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on July 2, 1862.

Since colonial times, basic education had been a central tenet of American democratic thought. By the 1860s, higher education was becoming more accessible, and many politicians and educators wanted to make it possible for all young Americans to receive some sort of advanced education.

The act gave to every state that had remained in the Union a grant of 30,000 acres of public land for every member of its congressional delegation. Since under the Constitution every state had at least two senators and one representative, even the smallest state received 90,000 acres. The states were to sell this land and use the proceeds to establish colleges in engineering, agriculture and military science. Over seventy "land grant" colleges, as they came to be known, were established under the original Morrill Act.

A second Morrill Act in 1890 was also aimed at the former Confederate states. This act required each state to show that race was not an admissions criterion, or else to designate a separate land-grant institution for persons of color. Some of the colleges and universities which eventually evolved from the Morrill Acts are several of today's Historically Black colleges and universities. Though the 1890 Act granted cash instead of land, it granted colleges under that act the same legal standing as the 1862 Act colleges; therefore, the term "land-grant college" properly applies to both groups.

Later on, other colleges such as the University of the District of Columbia and the "1994 land-grant colleges" for Native Americans were also awarded cash by Congress in lieu of land to achieve "land-grant" status. With a few exceptions, nearly all of the Land-Grant Colleges are public.

The importance of the land grant colleges cannot be exaggerated. Although originally started as agricultural and technical schools, many of them grew, with additional state aid, into large public universities which over the years have educated millions of American citizens who otherwise might not have been able to afford college.

Perhaps your alma mater can be found in the list below.

Land Grant Colleges
[* denotes Historically Black colleges and universities]

Alabama A and M University*
Auburn University
Tuskegee University*
University of Alaska System
American Samoa Community College
University of Arizona
University of Arkansas—Fayetteville
University of Arkansas—Pine Bluff*
University of California System
Colorado State University
Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
University of Connecticut
Fort Valley State University*
Delaware State University*
University of Delaware
University of the District of Columbia
Florida A & M University*
University of Florida
University of Georgia
University of Guam
University of Hawaii
University of Idaho
University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign
Purdue University
Iowa State University
Kansas State University
Kentucky State University*
University of Kentucky
Louisiana State University System
Southern University*
University of Maine
University of Maryland—Eastern Shore*
University of Maryland
University of Massachusetts—Amherst
Massachusetts institute of Technology
Michigan State University
University of Minnesota
Alcorn State University*
Mississippi State University
Lincoln University*
University of Missouri
Montana State University
University of Nebraska
University of Nevada—Reno
University of New Hampshire
Rutgers—The State University of New Jersey
New Mexico State University
Cornell University
North Carolina A & T State University*
North Carolina State University
North Dakota State University
The Ohio State University
Langston University*
Oklahoma State University
Oregon State University
The Pennsylvania State University
University of Puerto Rico—Mayaguez
University of Rhode Island
Clemson University
South Carolina State University*
South Dakota State University
Tennessee State University*
University of Tennessee
Prairie View A & M University*
Texas A & M University
Utah State University
University of Vermont
University of the Virgin Islands
Amer. Indian Higher Ed. Consortium
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Virginia State University*
Washington State University
West Virginia University
West Virginia State University*
University of Wisconsin--Madison
University of Wyoming

For further reading:

Allen Nevins, The State Universities and Colleges, 1962
Fred F. Harderoad, Colleges and Universities for Change, 1987
Ralph D. Christy, A Century of Service: Land-grant Colleges and Universities, 1890-1990, 1992

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Devoted wife, mother and eternally lovable grand-mother

The warmth of the log cabin….

The comfort and the warmth of a residence do not always depend on its price tag. The homesteaders considered their housing satisfying. They knew that a skillful housewife brings happiness.

Lulu Ware Midlleton raised seven children in a tiny log cabin. Her family remembers her with great fondness as a devoted wife, mother and eternally lovable grand-mother:

We will never forget her lovely smile, her patience, or her devilish sense of humor…

She always set the standard very high with her homestead soup, pies and bread. Grandma Lu was always ready to set one more place at the dinner table for stoppers-by and remained a gracious hostess a great lady throughout her long life.

In this memoriam to Lulu Ware Midlleton we see the characteristics of a pioneer woman and the attributes of today's modern woman. Homestead Congress salutes mothers of all ages and eras on this day of tribute to Mothers.

This excerpt is from the obituary August 7, 2007 Anchorage Daily News.
Lulu Ware Midlletonwas born in 1909 and passed away on August 1st, 2007.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Homesteaders' Schooling

Last week we posted how the homestead public education system began with the allocation of two sections in each township. This week we hear from the voice of one that experienced that schooling.

Manuel Hastings’s parents homesteaded near Pie Town, NM in the early 1930s. Manuel remembers his elementary school. It seems that he was then a third grader.

When boarding school was only a tent….After arriving to the homestead, we drove up to the Divide schoolhouse which was about three miles northeast from the foot of the Alegra Mountain. Daddy talked to the schoolteacher, Miss Margarite Robertson. She lived in a little one-room log building that was just south of the Holley’s. She was happy to have me stay with her. I remember that year. I stayed with her for a while. Then she bought a tent and moved it u by the schoolhouse. It had a board floor and four 12-inch boards high around the room with a door. The tent was about 8x12 feet long. We each had a bed and a little stove to keep warm and cook our meals. We were only 100 yards from the schoolhouse. By then the snow started to come. It would be so heavy on the tent, we’d have to stand on the underside and bump the snow off the tent so as to not collapse the tent.

Basic education and home schooling.... That winter of 1936, the snow was deep and I was unable to get to school. Imogene and I were taught by our mother from what teaching material she could come up with. She would read stories from the Old Testament and had pictures. I learned many of those stories that have come back to me many times.