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900 Miles From Nowhere

900 Miles From Nowhere

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Voices from the Homestead Frontier

Author Steven R. Kinsella

Minnesota Historical Society Press (October 1, 2006)

Never before published letters, diaries, and photographs documenting the daily lives and personal struggles of Great Plains homesteaders.


$22.95 paperback available September 2017

It was on the vast American prairie that people from around the world seized the opportunity for personal and economic freedom promised by free land. Traveling across oceans and continents, these hard-nosed, pragmatic people began arriving in the 1860s with shovels and plows, convinced they were part of something important. They were. Putting hand to plow and breaking the sod for their first crude homes, these hardy settlers left an indelible thumbprint on American history and on the country’s character. Though many of their ventures ended in failure, their risks permanently enhanced the nation’s diversity and its sense of independence and resourcefulness.

900 Miles from Nowhere is the heartfelt chronicle of the daily lives and personal struggles of Great Plains homesteaders, told in their own voices through many never-before-published letters, diaries, and photographs. Believing absolutely that they could control their own destiny, they bet everything they owned, even in the face of insurmountable obstacles. This is the remarkable and ever-inspiring story of life on the grasslands that stretch from Canada to Mexico.

Author information

Former press secretary to U.S. Senator Tom Daschle, Steven R. Kinsella is a news-media consultant and public affairs strategist for conservation organizations. The great-grandson of Great Plains homesteaders, Kinsella was raised on the northern prairie and now lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he also works as a freelance writer.

Reviews and news

"In 900 Miles from Nowhere, Steven Kinsella uses letters, diary excerpts, and photographs to highlight non-Indian settler experiences on the Great Plains from roughly 1850 to 1920. . . .A fascinating glimpse of homestead-era settlement on the Great Plains"
Annals of Iowa

"This is a homesteading book for people from 9 to 109, for students of the homesteading era, for people who are not certain they even like history, for natives of the Great Plains, and for those who have never ventured to 'The West'"
Nebraska History

"Kinsella succeeds in breathing life into the empty farmhouses and recollects the dreams and hopes of people who coped with the never ending challenges of life on the Great Plains."
The Chronicles of Oklahoma

Advance Praise:

"900 Miles from Nowhere places the reader alongside the determined settlers who dared to take up the challenge of the Great Plains. Original letters, enhanced by the author's comprehensive, concise, and passionate narratives, reveal the settlers’ emotional and resolute relationship to their environment."
H. Elaine Lindgren, author of Land in Her Own Name: Women as Homesteaders in North Dakota

“Settlers of the Great Plains foresaw the future, experienced stark reality, harbored hopes and feared danger. In 900 Miles from Nowhere, Kinsella offers pithy and forthright commentary to the strong, candid letters, diary entries, and photos of homesteaders on the Northern Plains. Open the covers, put your bare feet down in the grass, and glimpse the distant horizon. Revel in this visual and intellectual feast.”
John Wunder, professor of American history at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and former director of the Center for Great Plains Studies

  • 216 pages
  • 75 B&W Photos
  • 7.875 x 10 inches
  • ISBN: 9780873515726

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