“The Go-Backer” with author and historian Peter Decker
Library Hall (1289 Lincoln Ave.)
After the Civil War, thousands of Americans and Europeans trekked west to secure a new home and farm under the provisions of the Homestead Act of 1862. But as historians have discovered, only three out of ten of these adventurers succeeded in achieving their dream. The other 70 percent—called the “go-backers”—either turned back toward home after one or two years, or if they “proved up” on their 160-acre homestead, they quickly “starved out.” It took courage and determination to survive on the western frontier. Homesteaders endured diseases and injuries without medical attention, Indian attacks, catastrophic natural disasters, lack of roads, and lonely isolation.