The question of how to encourage further settlement of its western territories and the State of Kansas prompted the Federal Government to create the Homestead Act in 1862. Among the basic requirements of the Homestead Act, a settler had to file a claim on 160 acres of land (1/4 of a section), build a house, and demonstrate that he or she lived in that house for at least five years. Upon satisfactory compliance, the settler would be given the deed to the claim and the right to purchase the remaining 480 acres (3/4 of a section) at $1.00 per acre.
In 1876, John Siegrist and his eldest son Jacob traveled from their home in Tremont, Illinois to Reno County to investigate the "bountiful land" described in the literature. Impressed with the land, they staked a claim in Reno Township on the southwest corner of Section 22 and the northwest corner of Section 27 and built this structure. Jacob stayed in this structure during the winter of 1876 while John returned to Illinois to prepare his wife Elizabeth and their other five children named George, Abraham, Mary, Hettie, and Anna for their move to Kansas in the spring of 1877. The Siegrist children purchased land around their parents' claim and the family later became well known for the cultivation of wheat and raising Berkshire hogs.
When John and Jacob Siegrist built the claim house, they never thought that it would stand more than a few years. Upon the arrival of their family in 1877, they began building a larger house to accommodate eight people. The larger house still stands on Blanchard Street in South Hutchinson today.
When constructed, the Siegrist Claim House was oriented so that there were no windows on the north side, and the dooway would have faced east rather than the west (as it is today). The board and batten finish was more typical of barns than houses. Most of the original exterior wall (made of tongue and groove boards) on the east and west sides of the structure are original, most of the batten (the strips that cover where the exterior wall boards are joined) however, had to be replaced. The roof was reconstructed with ceder [sic] shakes, similar to the materials that would have been available in 1876. The original chimney collapsed in the 1940s but was restored using bricks from the family farm.
The claim house was moved about one mile to the south sometime around the turn of the century onto land owned by George and Mary (Siegrist) Spangenberger. The claim house was attached to the back of the main Spangenberger house until 1912 when it was again moved a short distance. Between 1912 and 1946 the structure was used as a wash house. After 1946, George "Harold" Walters, grandson of George and Mary Spangenberger, used the structure as a workshop. Throughout his life, Harold Walters tried to preserve the claim house against the elements and any other threats. Highway construction, however, forced the family to move the structure to museum grounds where it was restored and opened to the public on September 5, 1998.