A homesteader is a person who seeks to claim land by improving it through agriculture. In media, homesteaders are typically portrayed as resilient and rough types, as they need to be to develop a farm from just a plot of land and to deal with the hardships that come with trying to live the unglamourous life of a rural farmer.
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. Many of those eligible took up the call and moved from the populous cities of the original settlements along the Eastern seaboard for the far less populous and undeveloped (at least by settler hands) lands further west.
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 related to prairie living 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.
In terms of family, a male homesteader might have an equally strong-willed wife. She'll be responsible for tending to the fields, cabin, and any children they have. The two of them may have several children — from a practical perspective, kids provided a future for the homestead (and when old enough could homestead adjacent territory to add to the family farm), were a handy source of free labor, and—let's face it—there wasn't much else to do on long winter nights. If they don't have kids of their own, they might take in children of relatives or neighbors.
Commonly found in Westerns. Some commonly related narrative and setting tropes for the Determined Homesteader are Injun Country, Quest to the West, and Settling the Frontier. Compare and contrast Rancher and The Pioneer.
- 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 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. Two of the daughters were determined to get the hell out and ended up in Ankh-Morpork. One stayed; the other found herself returning to Rimwards Howondaland to marry a landowner and work a bit of land far away from the frontier. A son with no great ambition to leave also, despite himself, emigrated to Ankh-Morpork. A young woman was involved in this.
- 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 any way 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.
- Beans from Rango qualifies as one, refusing to sell her dad's ranch to the mayor.
- Bend of the River: Jeremy 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.
- In The Bull of the West, Ben Justin has started a small ranch and is determined that no one is going to drive him off his land. However, his attitude quickly antagonizes the larger ranchers around him.
- 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.
- Cimarron: Sabra Cravat. She settles in Oklahoma with her husband during the land rush and toughs out many years on the frontier, then takes over the family newspaper business when her husband leaves her due to wanderlust. She ends up becoming an important frontier figure in her own right
- Destry Rides Again: Mrs. Claggett, who reacts to Kent trying to take her farm by taking a shot at him with her rifle—just barely missing—and yelling "Come and get it!"
- First Winter: The mother of the frontier family newly arrived in the Canadian wilderness, hacking firewood and feeding the children while their father spends the winter at a remote logging camp earning money. The mother's teenage daughter Moira becomes the Determined Homesteader's Daughter after her mother dies.
- 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.
- Invitation to a Gunfighter: Following The American Civil War, Matt Weaver returns to his hometown of New Mexico and his dusty ancestral farmhouse, only to discover that his property has been confiscated and resold by the immoral town boss, Sam Brewster. Weaver retakes his homestead by force and becomes such a nuisance that Brewster is forced to hire a gunfighter in an attempt to get rid of him.
- 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 children are brutally massacred by others who want the land for the same reason. His 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 a widow.
- The Purchase Price has Joan go to rugged North Dakota. She manages to keep her head up by being fiercely determined to win Jim's affection and be a good farmer.
- Mrs. Jorgensen in The Searchers. After her homesteader husband gives way to despair and blames the country for the death of his son, she responds with a rousing speech about how this country will become a good place to live, even if it may take their bones in the ground to achieve it.
Mrs. Jorgensen: It just so happens we be Texicans. Texican is nothin' but a human man way out on a limb, this year and next. Maybe for a hundred more. But I don't think it'll be forever. Some day, this country's gonna be a fine good place to be. Maybe it needs our bones in the ground before that time can come.
- 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 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!
- 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.
- Marty in Janette Oke's Love Comes Softly series starts off pregnant with one kid and gets married to Clark partly because he wants her to look after his four-year-old, Missie. Over the course of the next few books, Marty has several children, and somewhere along the line, she ends up taking in two girls from a widower who's leaving town. And then just as her kids start having kids, Marty ends up having another girl (she's embarrassed to have a baby who'll be younger than the baby's nieces and nephews, but the kids think it's great). That's one big clan she's got going for her.
- 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.
- John Steinbeck's The Leader of the People has a central conflict revolving around two generations of homesteaders and asks "What happens when the Determined Homesteader's Children grow up, with children of their own?" Thanks to their parents' grit and determination in carving out a life for them, don't have to face the same hardships and may even become arrogant and dismissive of their sacrifices.
- 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.
- RWBY: Fairy Tales of Remnant: In The Man Who Stared at the Sun, the farmer's wife only finds out about the contest when the farmer doesn't come home for dinner and the sun doesn't set. After failing to convince him to come home, she leaves and the sun tries to get the farmer to look away by observing how upset she is. However, the wife takes that as a challenge, brings food to the farmer, and then takes over running the farm. Thanks to her work and the help of the children, the farm thrives, which allows the farmer to concentrate solely on the sun.
- William Thornhill, a deported convict in New South Wales, in The Secret River.
- Hatsue and her husband, Kabuo, in Snow Falling on Cedars.
- Star Wars Legends:
- Star Wars: Kenobi, as a Space Western, portrays homesteaders engaging in moisture farming on Tatooine. In particular, Dannar Calwell took his centrally located plot of land, Dannar's Claim, and turned it into the only shop among the farms, providing goods and services to his neighbors. Following Dannar's death at the hands of Sand People, his widow Annileen continues to run the store and raise their two teenage children, Kallie and Jabe, managing her children, her customers, and her business partner Orrin Gault through sheer force of personality, even as she suppresses her own desires under the daily grind. Kallie inherited her mother's love of animals and has found a niche running the store's livery, while Jabe chafes at the life of a shopkeeper and runs off with Orrin's kids any chance he can get.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 on the soundtrack to the Ken Burns documentary The West.
- 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, sets 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
- Mother is perhaps the only one who plays their role mostly straight, epitomized by her solo song "When The World's At Stake". However, she is stuck in a Foolish Husband, Responsible Wife dynamic, making her more of a Deadpan Snarker than the trope usually calls for. In "Speendrun" she goes full-on Mama Bear to catch up to the bandits who kidnapped her daughter. note
When the world's at stake
And there lives to save
And even though I shake my hands at God I pray
Let her have a better life than I can provide
Lord have mercy on my soul
As I try to do her right.
- While Son, a 7-year-old boy, is certainly determined, he's also The Ditz, as he tends to stick inappropriate things in his mouth and throw vital supplies off the back of the wagon when he's bored. Daughter, meanwhile, is a Bratty Teenage Daughter and less than enthused about the trek, wanting to run off with the first guy who woos her. note
- 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 wife and kids to round out the entire homesteader family.
- 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.
- 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 settings.
- 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.
- Gravity Falls: Parodied in "The Time Traveller's Pig". When Dipper and Mabel accidentally travel back to the 1800s, they end up in a homesteader's wagon, where the father assumes his wife Fertilia suddenly had two more children. They already have six kids. Fertilia just takes it in stride.
Fertilia: More little hands to render the tallow.
- 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.
- 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 minuscule 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 be believed...and immortalized him in one of the foundational cases of American law. Strange, that.