The Homestead Act of 1862 allowed any person twenty one years of age and a citizen of the U.S., or who had filed a declaration of intention to become such, to file a claim on 160 acres of land in certain specified areas. By 1885 Peter had filed for a quarter section (160 acres) of land in the Dakota Territories, about a mile southwest of what would become the town of Vienna.
Peter was among the first settlers in this area and since he was accompanied by his wife and three children they obviously had the resources to survive until their land could be converted into a productive farm. Peter's younger brother, James, had inherited their father's farm in Lanark and may have provided financial support. We will never know. When the family arrived in the Dakota Territories, Peter Jr., the oldest boy, was eighteen years old. His brother, John Walker, was sixteen. Daughter Marion, the oldest child, was twenty. She did not marry until she was twenty four.
In 1887 fortune smiled, as the Duluth, Watertown and Pacific Railroad Company started to build a rail bed through the territory. The track would bisect their township from the southwest to the northeast, passing within a half mile of their farm. It was the railroad that created the town of Vienna, designated as one of its stops. In those days, the economic significance of having a rail station close to your farm can not be overstated.
In November 1889 the Dakota Territories became North and South Dakota and Peter Sr.'s family started to grow.