Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Great Plains Quarterly 33:1 (Winter 2013)


© 2013 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


In 1870 on the southeastern Nebraska prairie near Beatrice, a young Bohemian woman, Ann Schleiss, set up housekeeping on her homestead claim near Beatrice. At twenty-two years of age, Schleiss staked her claim on 160 acres of the American public domain. She established her residence there in April, moving into a “very poor dilapidated [sod] structure” that was already on the land. Her family lived only a half-mile away and, after planting her first crops with the help of locally hired men, she returned home. Schleiss at times hired out as domestic help in the area. In July, she returned to her own claim where she worked to cultivate nineteen acres, five of which were sown in rye. She also began building a new domicile on her homestead, starting work on a block house to replace the decaying soddy. Ann Schleiss was one among hundreds of female homesteaders in the nineteenth century. Assistant Attorney General Walter Smith described Schleiss as “just the person that the homestead law in its spirit grants a home.”