The Arthurdale Homesteader Application

Choosing the people who would become the Arthurdale Homesteaders was a difficult task.  There were many people who needed help during the Great Depression, especially in impoverished areas like Scotts Run.  The Arthurdale project was also a hotly debated topic in Washington D.C. even before its inception, so it was important to government officials that they choose people who would make the project a success.  

The details of this selection process were complicated and reflected prejudices of the time.  For example, although about 40% of the population of Scotts Run was African-American, all the families accepted to Arthurdale were white.  Of the ninety-nine homesteads established across the county, only one (Aberdeen Gardens in Virginia) was designated for African-Americans.  Additionally, there was a preference for Protestant Christian families as it was believed they would have good character and would work well together as a homogenous community.  Jersey Homesteads in Hightstown, New Jersey was the only Jewish homestead community.

To be considered for a homestead, families had to first fill out an application (the file titled “Homesteader Application”) that established the demographic information, financial data, general skills, and current living conditions of the families. Following that, the husband would have an interview conducted by the Extension Office of West Virginia University.  This questionnaire (the file titled “Homesteader Test”) went into more detail about the backgrounds of the families as well as testing the farming knowledge of the husband.  Lastly, a social worker would visit the family’s residence and complete the last page of the Homesteader Application.  

Check out the application materials below and think about what it might have been like if your  family was applying to move to Arthurdale.  Do you think you would have been accepted?

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