Homestead Law Query

Date:         Wed, 12 Jan 1994 10:55:24 -0600                                   
Reply-To:     H-Rural Rural & Agricultural History discussion                   
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              <H-RURAL@UICVM.BITNET>                                            
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              <H-RURAL@UICVM.BITNET>                                            
From:         "Jim Oberly, History Dept.,                                       
              U of Wisc-Eau Claire" <JOBERLY@CNSVAX.UWEC.EDU>                   
Subject:      Homestead Law Query                                               

[From: IN%"SLNELSON@ucs.indiana.edu" 10-JAN-1994 19:29:51.03 [To: IN%"Joberly@CNSVAX.UWEC.EDU" [Subj: Homestead law

H-Rural members:

Can you help me out on two points? 1--authorities note the size of house necessary to fulfill homestead patent. I have not been able to find that in any of the various homestead laws. 2--there must be something like the Land Commissioners' notes or decisions or rulings or something that supplied the district land offices with the tools to pass judgements on local level. Is this where the size of house becomes important? Actually, I have one more question (for now) and that is: If such a commissioner's guide exists, might it have contained information concerning the type of housing that would be necessary in the treeless plains? Like sod houses or dugouts? I've looked at the Homesteaders' guide--mainly the one by F. G. Adams in Waterville, KS and it does not have anything about that aspect. Yet, there was obviously some propaganda literature sent to foreign countries to entice them to settle here--did that include the style of living? I'm working on homesteading women in north-central Kansas in the late 1860s to 1890s or there abouts (one county) as my dissertation.

Thanks.

Sharon L. Nelson SLNELSON@UCS.Indiana.edu



Date:         Thu, 13 Jan 1994 14:51:53 -0600                                   
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From:         "Jim Oberly, History Dept.,                                       
              U of Wisc-Eau Claire" <JOBERLY@CNSVAX.UWEC.EDU>                   
Subject:      Re: Homestead Query                                               

Let me pick up some of the points raised in Sharon Nelson's recent query about homestead...

> Can you help me out on two points? 1--authorities note > the size of house necessary to fulfill homestead patent. I have not been able to find that in any of the various homestead laws.

2--there must be something like the Land Commissioners' notes or decisions or rulings or something that supplied the district land offices with the tools to pass judgements on local level. Is this where the size of house becomes important? Actually, I have one more question (for now) and that is: If such a commissioner's guide exists, might it have contained information concerning the type of housing that would be necessary in the treeless plains? Like sod houses or dugouts? I've looked at the Homesteaders' guide--mainly the one by F. G. Adams in Waterville, KS and it does not have anything about that aspect. Yet, there was obviously some propaganda literature sent to foreign countries to entice them to settle here--did that include the style of living? I'm working on homesteading women in north-central Kansas in the late 1860s to 1890s or there abouts (one county) as my dissertation. > > Thanks. > > Sharon L. Nelson > SLNELSON@UCS.Indiana.edu

Sharon, the size of the settler's house became an issue even before the Homestead Act was passed in 1862. In fact, a lot of the Homestead-style regulations were worked out in the administration of the General Preemption Act of 1841. That law allowed preemptors (aka "squatters") to obtain parcels of up to 160 acres of public land without having to pay for the land in advance. The preemptor had up to fifteen months to pay, and at the time of payment, he or she (about three percent were widows by my calculations) had to show a "proof statement" that some of the land had been cleared and that a suitable dwelling had been erected. The preemptors that I looked at almost all built rude cabins and shanties. Most measured fifteen by fifteen feet, but they all had one window, as required by the General Land Office.

Your query reminds me how much good social history material there is in the files of the General Land Office. It is interesting to me that the General Land Office let its local land office personnel decide how to design the proof statement form. Some offices required a lot of information (to the benefit of us today) and others required a bare minimum. There is a reproduction of what a proof statement looked like in Figure 13 of my _Sixty Million Acres_ (that sound you hear is me tooting my own horn.)

You are correct in noting that the basic law did not stipulate the exact dimensions of the house, nor the number of acres that had to be cleared. I think some of the details you seek were published routinely (at least on an annual basis) by the General Land Office. I append an example of an OPAC search from the University of California's MELVYL that shows one such publication that is easily available today.

As with all public land questions, it pays to look at Paul Gates' 1968 _History of Public Land Law Development_ (Washington: Government Printing Office).


United States. General Land Office. Circular from the General Land Office showing the manner of proceeding to obtain title to public lands under the homestead, desert land, and other laws. New York, Arno Press, 1972.

Series title: Use and abuse of America's natural resources.

        UCD   Law Lib   HD181 .G55 1899a                                        
        UCD   Main Lib  HD181.G5 1972                                           
        UCR   Rivera    HD181 .G5 1972                                          

Jim Oberly, H-Rural Moderator Dept. of History Univ. of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Eau Claire, WI 54701 Tel. 715-836-5501 FAX 715-836-2380 E-Mail JOBERLY@CNSVAX.UWEC.EDU



Date:         Tue, 12 Oct 1993 13:38:46 -0600                                   
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From:         "Jim Oberly, History Dept.,                                       
              U of Wisc-Eau Claire" <JOBERLY@CNSVAX.UWEC.EDU>                   
Subject:      Homestead exemption article summary <fwd>                         

[From: IN%"dale@dale.cam.ORG" "Dale Wharton" 12-OCT-1993 13:32:06.97 [To: IN%"H-RURAL%uicvm.bitnet@vaxa.uwec.edu" "H-Rural Rural & Agricultural History discussion list"

Jim Oberly, to change the subject (in case you missed Wendy's comments about current JAH--below): I circulated this excerpt to the Progressive Economists Network (pen-l). Regards, Dale Wharton.

 

Subject: Homesteads exempt from bankers

The following item is by Wendy Plotkin, who moderates the urban history discussion list....


Dale Wharton <dale@dale.cam.org> M O N T R E A L Te souviens-tu?

 


The most recent issue of _Journal of American History_ (JAH) (80:2) includes an article by Paul Goodman "The Emergence of Homestead Exemption in the United States: Accommodation and Resistance to the Market Revolution, 1840-1880" and book reviews of urban history and related monographs.

Goodman's article describes the history of the homestead exemption, which began in the Southwest in the late 1830's and swept across the nation. The homestead exemption secured one's land and home from creditors. It was, in Goodman's interpretation, an early example of social legislation meant to mitigate the effects of economic changes in the early 19th century. Its origins are in the rural West, as a measure to induce settlers to Texas by securing their land from creditors. It served to make Texas attractive to women settlers due to its prohibition of men alienating homesteads without the wife's consent (much of the article addresses the effect of the law on women). It spread from Texas across the Deep South and then the rest of the nation, and was significant as a Southern Reconstruction measure aimed at "reviv[ing] postbellum southern agriculture". (491)

The exemption was not limited to farms however, and herein is the interest to urban historians. "When Texas entered the Union in 1845, its new constitution authorized the legislature to expand the exemption to cover 200 acres or a city lot worth $2,000, the first of many liberalizations." (477) In 1870, Texas "doubled the exemption of urban homesteads to $5,000 and offered entrepreneurs a business `homestead' in 1876. (478) In 1845, the state of Georgia "expanded coverage...to homesteads worth up to $200 in cities and towns." (479)

Tables I and II show the exemptions offered in each state on "farms" and "town lots" at three points in time: the adoption of the exemption, in 1883, and in 1920 (in the South before and after 1860)..

Wendy Plotkin <U20566@UICVM.BITNET> H-Urban Moderator University of Illinois-Chicago H-Urban@uicvm/H-Urban@uicvm.uic.edu




Date:         Thu, 12 Aug 1993 13:17:25 -0600                                   
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              <H-RURAL@UICVM.BITNET>                                            
From:         "Jim Oberly, History Dept.,                                       
              U of Wisc-Eau Claire" <JOBERLY@CNSVAX.UWEC.EDU>                   
Subject:      Land Policy and the Homestead Act                                 

Thanks, PM Despins, for posting about your current work. Let me take up your question about works on United States public land policy. The best single volume history is Paul Gates's _History of Public Land Law_, published in 1968 as part of a congressional review of the administration of the public domain. Gates is unquestionably the outstanding writer on the history of the public lands and his 1968 book is a remarkable political and administrative summary of a complex subject. His chapter on the Homestead Act of 1862 is well worth reading, in part because it returns to some themes that he raised in the 1930s about the juxtaposition of a free land policy and a cash sales policy (see his 1936 _AHR_ article "The Homestead Act in an Incongruous Land System."

For a summary of Gates's writings, you might look at Jon Gjerde's recent "In Retrospect" piece in _Reviews in American History_, either in late 1990 or early 1991. I'm writing from home and can't find the exact citation.

There is certainly a need, I think, for a good book on the Homestead Act, and especially its workings at the land office level. There is one monograph on the operations of Homestead in Otoe County, Nebraska, but I can't recall the citation. Gates looked at the annual reports of the Commissioner of the General Land Office and found summary statistics about the number of initial entries of public land and the number of successful claims (i.e., people who stayed five years and received title to the land). I was surprised to see how few homestead entries of public land were made by prospective farmers after the Civil War, but an increasingly large number of settlers did make use of the homestead provision as the decades passed. I believe in the years just before World War I that up to 100,000 people filed homestead claims each year, coinciding with what some people think of as the golden age of American agriculture.

--Jim Oberly JOBERLY@CNSVAX.UWEC.EDU



Date:         Wed, 18 Aug 1993 12:05:18 -0600                                   
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              <H-RURAL@UICVM.BITNET>                                            
From:         "Jim Oberly, History Dept.,                                       
              U of Wisc-Eau Claire" <JOBERLY@CNSVAX.UWEC.EDU>                   
Subject:      Re: Sharon Nelson and her dissertation                            

> > I'm Sharon Nelson, a graduate student at Indiana University at Bloomington. I'm working on my dissertation, tentatively entitled "A Comparative Study of Kansas Homesteaders, Men and Women on the Frontier." The premise of this study is two fold (at least): 1--to document the women who homesteaded in their own name in the early period of the Homestead Act. North central Kansas where this study takes place (Jewell County) was among the areas that settlers moved into taking advantage of the Homestead Act. Unfortunately, for the Native Americans, the white settlers moved into a territory that the Cheyennes and Pawnees had each declared their own and had come to an agreement to use the area as joint hunting grounds. White women settlers moved into this area before it was "safe" and some gave up their lives as a result. Yet, they chose to move westward to claim land. Women homesteaders' lives have been documented in the later period when land could be had by residing on it for a shorter period of time and after communities existed where these women could teach school and live in comparable comfort during the winter months. Nothing to my knowledge has been written about these earlier women who moved westward without husbands (but probably with extended family) to make a place for themselves. Of 6112 homestead entries (finalized and canceled) in Jewell County between 1866 and 1908 (more or less) 344 of them were women. Most of them settled (like the single men and families) during 1869-1873.

[and other interesting material deleted...]

Thanks, Sharon, for telling us about your work on the history of women homesteaders in Jewell County, Kansas. It sounds like a fascinating study that combines Plains Indian history, women's history, and the new rural history. Do you have data on all 344 of the women who entered land under the Homestead Act? A rich set of land records for social historians working on Homestead is the "proof claims" papers that homesteaders filed when they were ready to assume title from the U.S. The proof claims include information about family size, house structure, crops planted, and other things as well, all designed to prove to the General Land Office officials that the homesteader had lived up to the requirements of the law. They are housed at the National Archives in Suitland, MD. and if you haven't looked at them, they might prove useful. I also think your project to write the history of Jewell County should be well-received by residents and descendants of some of the settlers.

Keep us posted on your work (and job search).

--Jim Oberly JOBERLY@CNSVAX.UWEC.EDU



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Posted: 14 Jul 1994

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