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Determined Homesteader

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"The one real man in this valley"

"Lord, we cleared this land. We plowed it, sowed it, and harvested it. We cooked the harvest. It wouldn't be here and we wouldn't be eating it if we hadn't done it all ourselves. We worked dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you Lord just the same for the food we're about to eat. Amen."
Charlie Anderson, Shenandoah

A person who seeks to claim land by improving it through agriculture.

This trope came into its own in America with the Homestead Act of 1862, which offered 160 acres of public land "free" if a homesteader filed a claim and succeeded in making a viable farm of the land.

In fiction, the Determined Homesteader is determined to have a place that he owns in his own right, come hell or high water. And generally, every horrible thing that could happen to a piece of land will during the course of the story. Drought, flooding, fire, locusts, hostile natives, land barons who want all the acreage in the valley, and anything else the writer can throw at the homesteader will not be neglected. But somehow, the Determined Homesteader will hold on. Even if a good-faith offer to buy the land at a fair price comes up, he won't sell, no sir.


Often has an equally resolute wife, as well as several children of both sexes.

Even killing a Determined Homesteader doesn't necessarily end the story, since most of them will leave a Determined Widow. Commonly found in Westerns. Usually part of Settling the Frontier.


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    Comic Books 
  • In "Family Reunion" in Creepy Magazine #5 two of the three Cartwright brothers came back from the grave to prevent the third brother from selling the family farm to the local lawyer.
  • Lucky Luke:
    • In Barbed Wire on the Prairie, Luke and a group of these face off against a ruthless Cattle Baron, who objects to the farmers' barbed wire preventing his cattle from roaming where they please.
    • Subverted in one short story, where the Determined Homesteader's Wife is so clearly unsuited for the pioneering life (a simple river crossing takes hours because of all the junk she refuses to throw out, and that's before she learns of the natives in the area) that she convinces her husband to turn back.

  • The Discworld as envisaged by A.A. Pessimal provides a different example. Building on scattered hints of its existence in canon, the Discworld gets its South Africa, populated by hardy Boers and other emigrants from the Central Continent, who Trekked into the interior of a new continent to make homes there. Andreas Smith-Rhodes and his wife Agnetha Smith-Rhodes are typical examples of frontier homesteaders, and between them have five children, five sons and daughters-in-law, and a large number of grandchildren.
  • In Hope for the Heartless, the so-called brush farmers of Prydain are portrayed this way: they make their farms in the country's famously dangerous wilderness and visit civilization only twice or thrice a year. They work with a zest and a zeal not seen in industrial farmers who live close to the cities, and they value their independence much. The brush farmers are known as honest people for readily aiding a neighbor in their time of need, as well as modest and brave.
  • In addition to the canonical Beans, the Rango fanfic Old West includes as one of the main characters Grace Glossy. She's a glossy snake who lives with her son outside the town of Mud in a boar-farm inherited from her father and grandfather. One of the main conflicts of the story is the Big Bad attempting to claim both Grace and Beans' lands anyway he can, though they're both determined to keep him away.
  • The War of the Masters: Much of the cultural conflict between Earth and the border colonies derives from the fact that the borderers are this (especially the Moabites, despite inhabiting one of the least hospitable Class M worlds in the known galaxy), whereas many Earthlings appear to have little comprehension of why the colonists don't just move if their lives are so harsh. The Moabites could have even moved within their own star system to New Saigon, a more Earthlike moon of a gas giant that thawed from an ice age a couple hundred years after their arrival, but largely refused.

    Film - Animated 
  • Beans from Rango qualifies as one, refusing to sell her dad's ranch to the mayor.

    Film - Live-Action 
  • The main character in both the original 3:10 to Yuma and its 2007 remake.
  • Bend of the River: Jeremy, who is absolutely determined to get his farming community started, and refuses to take a large sum of money to sell his winter food stores to the gold miners instead.
  • The townsfolk of Rock Ridge in Blazing Saddles, although this being a comedy, their determination wavers a bit.
  • Ben Dance and his family in Canyon Passage. They have staked out their claim and are determined to hold it against whatever the frontier throws at them.
  • In Ghost Rock, Weng and his family are the only local farmers to stand up to Pickett and his gang and refuse to be bought or driven off their land.
  • Grim Prairie Tales: This is what Arthur initially seems to be in Deeds' story: an honest, hardworking man taking his family west to make a new start after The American Civil War. However, as the tale goes on, it seems there is also a darker side to the man.
  • Brett McBain from Once Upon a Time in the West, who has a very specific dream for his homestead- he's on land that the railroad will have to pass through, and plans to build and own a station for it which a town will eventually grow up around. This doesn't end well for him, as he and his Determined Homesteader's Children are brutally massacred by others who want the land for the same reason. His Determined Homesteader's Wife-to-be, Jill McBain, survives because she is still en route by train when the massacre happens; she arrives at what should be her wedding to find that she's now the Determined Widow.
  • Aaron Edwards and his family in The Searchers, as well as his neighbors.
  • Joe Starrett, the farmer for whom Shane worked and to whom Shane bonded, and leader of the other homesteaders; "The one real man in this valley," as described by Shane himself.
  • Pretty much all the moisture farmers on Tatooine in Star Wars. Tatooine lacks a centralized government, being effectively ruled by a Hutt crimelord who has no interest in settlers. The environment is so harsh that it prematurely ages humans. Finally, they are subject to the constant threat of attacks by native Sand People. Yet only the most recent generation seems to have made a serious effort to seek lives offworld.
  • Kidane in Timbuktu is a Determined Nomad, refusing to leave the river and grasslands around Timbuktu even after a brutal jihadist group takes over in the area. It turns out to be a big mistake.

  • The main character in "3:10 to Yuma" by Elmore Leonard.
  • The Countess Sandriliene fa Toren in Circle of Magic shows this side of herself in The Will of the Empress - she is determined to own and take care of her land no matter how the Empress threatens her. But in the end her friends pressure her into giving it up - fortunately it goes into good hands.
  • Matthew Stark in Cloud of Sparrows was one of these earlier in life, and almost succeeded before his wife was killed.
  • The Pioneers in Dark Life determinedly homestead the sea floor—in jellyfish-shaped houses, no less!
  • Karl Oskar in The Emigrants.
  • The Lermer family in Robert A. Heinlein's Farmer in the Sky are Determined Homesteaders In SPACE, as is Lazarus Long in one part of Time Enough for Love.
  • The Grapes of Wrath details the lives of Determined Homesteaders whose Heroic Resolve is threatened when the Dust Bowl obliterates their crops and the modernization of agriculture defiles the Good Old Ways.
  • Many examples in Mercedes Lackey's ''Heralds Of Valdemarbooks/stories on the borders of the Pelagirs.
  • A depressing version in Jean De Florette and its sequel Manon Des Sources: a City Slicker inherits a plot of land in the countryside and decides to take up pumpkin farming, which requires a lot of water. His neighbors, who were wanting that land for themselves because they know of a hidden spring on it, "kindly" come to his aid while secretly blocking the spring, culminating in the man losing his money and using dynamite to find the spring, which gets him killed. In the sequel, his daughter comes back and gets revenge on said neighbors, with the elder one finding out the dead man was in fact his long-lost son.
  • Pa Ingalls of the Little House on the Prairie series. Although in real life he was somewhat less determined, and the family did move back East for a while in between homesteads.
  • Pretty much all the protagonists of the novel The Octopus, with the antagonists largely being affiliated with the railroad company that still owns half the homesteaders' land.
  • Sarah in Patience and Sarah dresses as a man to move to New York in the early 1800s. She plans on starting a farm and then bringing her lover Patience with her.
  • William Thornhill, a deported convict in New South Wales, in The Secret River.
  • Hatsue and her husband, Kabuo, in Snow Falling on Cedars.
  • John Rumford in Victoria tries to be one, initially after leaving the US Marine Corps, by reclaiming his ancestral flooded lands for a small farm. However, government bureaucrats sabotage his every effort through obstructionist environmental regulations, and eventually he has to give up.
  • Henry Gale, uncle of Dorothy, in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Less so in the movie, where the farm is long-established and prosperous enough for full-time hired hands.
  • Ezra Baxter, hacking out a farm in the middle of the Florida swamp in The Yearling. It's a hard life with a great deal of struggle.
  • Deconstructed in the Young Jedi Knights series, where the people of Zekk's homeworld Ennth take this to Too Dumb to Live extremes. Due to orbital oddities of its moon, Ennth goes through cycles of worldwide seismic activity every seven years, whereupon the inhabitants pack up and move to space station refuges, then return when things calm down and rebuild everything. Anyone else would have moved to another planet a long time ago.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Found in Firefly, especially in the episode "Heart of Gold", about a once-Companion determined to keep the brothel that she and her girls call home.
  • An episode of Sliders played with this; a goon in the employ of a businessman from back East is trying to force out the local farmers. By the end of the episode, the goon's been fired for violating his orders, the businessman is shown to be level-headed and reasonable, and the settlers are preparing to move on to California. They had no problem with selling, they just refused to be forced out.

  • The folksong "The Little Old Sod Shanty on My Claim" as sung by Marc Williams.
  • Many of these are sarcastic, such as "Acres of Clams" and "Starving to Death on My Government Claim".
  • Another sarcastic (or self-deprecating) song is "Sweet Nebraska Land", a version of which can be heard of the soundtrack to the Ken Burns documentary The West.

    Tabletop Games 
  • A Determined Homesteader Recycled IN SPACE! is one of the many character backgrounds available in Traveller. Ardin Enlisson Helmgard is a sample character on page 91 of the volume Sword Worlds that gives a splendid picture of the archetypal homesteader, as well as the self image of the Sword Worlder people.

  • The Field: Irish farmer "The Bull" McCabe rents his patch of land from an old widow, but has spent years working it up to an arable state and fully expects to inherit it on her death. Then a rich outsider comes to town, offering her a vast sum of money to buy the field so that he can pave it over and build a factory on it. Bull does not take this well.
  • The Trail to Oregon!: Parodied. While determined to make it to Oregon, Father is portrayed as a Bumbling Dad who treats the journey like a vacation, set his own farm on fire by accident, gets swindled into buying a defective wagon and deformed ox, and nearly gets the family and himself killed multiple times. It gets to the point where Mother decides to leave him, causing him to take a level in badass and help rescue their daughter. note 

    Video Games 
  • You play one in the game FrontierVille, though this is a Lighter and Softer take where your character can't actually die or be completely dispossessed. By completing various goals, you can add a Determined Homesteader's Spouse and Determined Homesteader's Children.
  • This is Dantooine's hat in the Knights of the Old Republic games. In the second, the homesteaders have been put to significant hardship by the war and now have to deal with opportunists trying to make credits off of salvage and mercenary work. When picking sides for the homesteader vs. mercenary fight, the homesteaders under Terena Adere are (naturally) the good guys.
  • Harbormen in Neverwinter Nights 2 are this in spades. No matter how many times West Harbor gets overrun by Githyanki or wrecked by the King of Shadows' minions, they just rebuild (in a swamp!) and dig in deeper. They even have a reputation in-universe for being tenacious and stubborn.
    • It's a well earned reputation. In the game's prologue, the village avoids the Doomed Hometown trope when they actually manage to repel a Githyanki invasion (albeit barely).
    • In Storm of Zehir, West Harbor is besieged by a pair of black dragons. Clearly the town is the Butt-Monkey of the Sword Coast.
  • One Self-Imposed Challenge for The Sims 2: Seasons makes your sim earn their living purely by gardening and fishing... after buying the biggest empty lot and using up all their starting money. If the player uses expansions after Seasons, the sim can buy a lot so big they literally can't afford furniture/housing at first.
  • Turned into a game mechanic in Star Trek Online. Duty officer assignments that require colonists typically improve your odds of a critical success if the colonists assigned to them have traits such as "Resilient", "Stubborn", and/or "Teamwork".
  • In Tachyon: The Fringe, the Bora are a group of Asteroid Miners whose ancestors left the Solar System in protest using a one-way mega-gate. Centuries later, they are rediscovered by the expanding humanity, and their area of space is found to be extremely wealthy in minerals. The Galactic Spanning Corporation, seeking to claim the area, engage in a Loophole Abuse, claiming that the original Bora settlers did not officially file a claim to their area of space with the Sol government (of course, this seems to imply that the Sol government lays claim to the whole galaxy). Having lived and toiled there for generations, the Bora aren't about to be forced out by a piece of paper. So, GalSpan brings its corporate fleet and mercenaries to forcibly take Bora space. Luckily for the Bora, their miners prove to be pretty good pilots and manage to go toe-to-toe with the largest Mega-Corp in existence. It doesn't help that GalSpan isn't above using illegal or unethical tactics from achieving their goal, such as blowing up hospitals, destroying civilian shipyards, attacking refugee transports, or sabotaging Bora TCG gates.
  • Rimworld: Only one of the default starting scenarios plays the trope completely straight, but the early game does a pretty good job of simulating the process of setting up a homestead from scratch in the middle of the wilderness. Especially the "every horrible thing that could happen to a piece of land will during the course of the story" part on the higher difficulty setttings.
  • Sunless Skies: The Reach has numerous Homesteads floating about in the High Wilderness, each a house with its own patch of drifting asteroid land to grow crops on, bizarre as they may be. They're often troubled by windstorms, pirates, sky-beasts and strange blights native to the sky, but they do what they can to feed themselves and the rest of the Reach, if not London as a whole if the Stovepipes are dominant.

  • Susannah Zane in Zombie Ranch is nobody's wife or widow, but damned if anyone's going to take the land her family has owned for generations.

    Western Animation 
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: The Apple Family when they first established Sweet Apple Acres. They succeeded magnificently, and it led to the foundation of Ponyville.

    Real Life 
  • These guys: They are a family devoted unconditionally to their little plot of land, their scrappy-but-lovable farm animals, and living independently even in today's modern world. The catch? They're in the middle of a city. On a miniscule 1/10th of an acre in the middle of a bad neighborhood of Pasadena, CA, they grow 6,000 pounds of food a year and are completely self-sufficient.
  • One of the colorful cast of charactersnote  in Pennoyer v. Neff, a US Supreme Court case every law student reads in first-year Civil Procedure dealing with the issue of jurisdiction, is the defendant, Marcus Neff. Neff was an illiterate but apparently hardworking pioneer who had claimed a homestead in Oregon...and just before he was about to seal his title to it, went to California to participate in the Gold Rush (hey, there's determined, and then there's "free gold just across the border"). This proved to be an extremely bad move for Neff, because it led to a ridiculous chain of events that simply has to be read to believed...and immortalized him in one of the foundational cases of American law. Strange, that.