The Homestead Act was signed in 1862 by Abraham Lincoln as a way to motivate people to move west and cultivate new lands and took effect on January 1, 1863.. The Homestead Act gave people up to 160 acres of land. Each “homesteader” claimed the land with a filing fee of 10 dollars. Afterwards, they had to live on the land and build a home. In effect, that the land had to be “settled and cultivated” for five years. Approximately 270 million acres were claimed and settled under this act.