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Lincoln bicentennial observance begins

BISMARCK -- The original 1862 Homestead Act document that led to white settlement of North Dakota and other parts of the Great Plains will be on display as part of North Dakota's Lincoln bicentennial observation, which launched Friday.

The Homestead Act original has not been on public view since 1979, said Rick Collin of the State Historical Society of North Dakota. Lincoln signed the act on May 20, 1862.

The state's observance of President Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday will last two years, in conjunction with a national commemoration that kicks off in Louisville, Ky., on Monday. Lincoln was born in a log cabin in Kentucky on Feb. 12, 1809

The first and last page of the four-page Homestead Act will be exhibited at the North Dakota Heritage Center May 16 through Nov. 14. The first page begins with "An Act to secure homesteads to actual settlers on the public domain..." and the last page concludes with signatures of President Abraham Lincoln's signature and 1862 congressional leaders.

Friday was the grand opening of a "Lincoln's Legacy in North Dakota" exhibit at the Heritage Center. It will be in place through Jan. 31, 2010. Gov. John Hoeven also officially declared the state's observance of Lincoln's bicentennial on Friday and led several Bismarck school children in cutting the ribbon for the "Lincoln's Legacy" exhibit.

Though Lincoln never visited what is now North Dakota, he was instrumental in many aspects of the state's early history. Lincoln took office just days after President James Buchanan signed the act that created Dakota Territory, and he appointed his personal physician, William Jayne of Springfield, Ill., to be the territorial governor. Lincoln also appointed the second governor of Dakota Territory, Newton Edmunds of Yankton, S.D.

Lincoln also signed the Morrill Land Grant College Act of 1862, which led to the founding of North Dakota State University. And he signed the charter for the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1864. The railroad's main line through North Dakota, in conjunction with the Homestead Act, led to the state's settlement in the late 1800s.

For a complete list of Lincoln-related events in 2008, see

Janell Cole works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Dickinson Press.