An allusion has been made to the Homestead Law. I think it worthy of consideration, and that the wild lands of the country should be distributed so that every man should have the means and opportunity of benefitting his condition.
Abraham Lincoln, 12 February 1861
This year will mark the 150th anniversary of the Homestead Act. The act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on 20 May 1862 and offered settlers a free title to 160 acres of undeveloped land west of the Mississippi River. Applicants had to be 21 or older, had never taken up arms against the United States, had to live on the land for five years and show evidence of having made improvements. Upon meeting the conditions they would be granted completed ownership via a land patent from the General Land Office. 270 million acres were claimed and settled under the Act, and of that, 8 million acres were in Arkansas.
Jesse Graham settled his family in the “wild lands” of Searcy County, Arkansas sometime in the 1870s. Circa 1890, Jesse applied for a tract of land located at the “…east half of the South West-quarter, the North West-quarter of the South West-quarter and the South West-quarter of the North West-quarter of Section four in Township thirteen North of Range sixteen West of the Fifth Principal Meridian in Arkansas containing one hundred and sixty acres and sixteen hundredths of an acre…” On 22 May 1895, with Jesse having satisfied the conditions set forth in the act, the General Land Office granted him a land patent. (Homestead Certificate Number 10164, application 13986.)
Jesse’s son John Henry Graham married Matilda Bohannon on 3 October 1889 and soon thereafter applied for his own tract of land under the Act, located next to his father’s tract, at the “…southwest quarter of the southwest quarter of Section four and the east half of the southeast quarter and the southeast quarter of the northeast quarter of Section five in Township thirteen north of Range sixteen west of the Fifth Principal Meridian, Arkansas, containing one hundred sixty and fifty-four hundredths acres…” The General Land Office granted John’s land patent on 17 August 1907. (Homestead Certificate Number 17932, application 29798.)
John’s eldest son, Jessie Cornelius Graham, also benefitted from the Homestead Act. On 11 March 1917, Jessie married Callie Watts, and the couple soon acquired a tract of land located at the “…east half of the southwest quarter and the south half of the northwest quarter of Section eight in Township thirteen north of Range sixteen west of the Fifth Principal Meridian, Arkansas, containing one hundred sixty acres…” The General Land Office granted Jessie’s land patent on 4 October 1921. (Document Number 014226, Patent Number 826903.)
For more information on the Homestead Act, or to look up your own relatives in the General Land Office records, visit the sources below.
Homestead National Monument of America, United States National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/home Retrieved on 18 January 2012.
General Land Office Records, Bureau of Land Management, United States Department of the Interior. http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/default.aspx Retrieved on 18-19 January 2012.
WikiPedia. “Homestead Act” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homestead_Act. Retrieved on 19 January 2012.