RootsTech 2014

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Solving a Complex Land Question

I had a patron recently in the Mesa FamilySearch Library that came in with Bounty Land Warrant from the War of 1812. What was unusual about this particular land grant was that the patron's ancestor had received the Warrant from a District Court probate ruling in the State of Utah in 1870 awarding the ancestor 160 acres of land in Utah. I had to read the Warrant document three times before I could figure out what had happened. Two hours or so later, we finally figured out how all this could have happened.

Then, my daughter Amy published a copy of a land transaction in a post entitled, George Jarvis Files the Claim to His City Lot." As Amy says in her post, "All the townspeople had to file claim to their lots with the government. George Jarvis did so on June 5, 1871." This is interesting because the Jarvis family arrived in St. George, Utah in December of 1861. Why was he filing a claim for his land in 1871?

As usual, to understand these apparent anomalies, you have to go back through the history of land transfers, both in conjunction with the War of 1812 Bounty Land Warrants and with the subsequent history of land transactions in Utah. The solution is interesting but not simple.

A good place to start this inquiry is the FamilySearch Research Wiki and an article entitled "US War of 1812 Bounty Land Warrants." We learn the following from the article:
Bounty Land was issued to non-commissioned officers and soldiers who served for at least 5 years. The first act issuing land was passed on the 24th of December 1811. All warrantees received 160 acres. A second series of warrants related to soldiers who enlisted after December 1814. The second series of warrants was for 320 acres of land. The land was located in one of three districts in Arkansas, Illinois or Missouri. Prior to 1842 the warrants could not be used outside these three districts and could not be sold or assigned until after 1852. The warrants could be passed on to heirs through inheritance. Some of the warrants list the name of the heirs and their relationship to the deceased veteran. The last warrant was issued in 1858.
 The question presented by the patron's document was that the Bounty Land Warrant ended up with a probate case in Utah and a grant of 160 acres in Utah almost 60 years after the passage of the law.

After some additional research, I discovered that many of the Bounty Land Warrants were not issued until sometimes 30 0r 40 years after the War of 1812. One important fact is that the land warrants became the basis of speculation. Here is an explanation from the Ancestry.com Wiki article, "Military Bound Land:"
The warrant market was big business, especially when warrants were no longer restricted to military reserve lands (this happened under an act in 1842). Major brokerage firms dealt extensively in warrants, buying in the eastern states and selling to western land brokers and settlers. Financial newspapers in the boom years of the 1850s frequently carried price quotations. The government set a price ceiling from 1820 by charging a flat $1.25 per acre for most of its lands. The average market price peaked at about $1.20 an acre in 1854–55 for 160-acre warrants, just before the market was flooded by the act of 1855.57 More warrants were used in Iowa than in any other state, and it is estimated that half of Iowa was purchased with bounty-land warrants.
So here is an explanation why the original War of 1812 Warrants could end up in Utah. But what about the relatively late date? And further, what about the probate? Here is another key fact from the Ancestry.com Wiki:
In 1832, entries in the district were ended, and those still holding warrants were allowed to trade them for scrip negotiable at GLO land offices in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. From 1842, such scrip was accepted at any GLO land office.
Now we know how the land warrant could have made its way to Utah. Likely, due to the probate, the original owners had died and the warrant because an asset of the estate and sold out through the probate action. This is likely because the transfer comes from the Administrator of the Estate of the original owners (or a subsequent owner who was not identified). But why 1870?

The date has to do with the ownership of land in Utah. Prior to 1869, technically all of the land in Utah was owned by the U. S. Government. Here is an explanation of what happened from the FamilySearch Research Wiki article on Utah Land and Property:
Federal land surveys began in 1855. The first General Land Office to sell lands in the public domain in Salt Lake City was established in 1869. Other offices were located in Beaver (1876-77) and Vernal (1905-27). Land was available through the land offices to individuals (entrymen) who paid a down payment (cash entry) for a piece of property or to homesteaders who paid a small entry fee.
Any land transfers that occurred prior to 1869 had to be redone through the General Land Office. This is the reason why the George Jarvis land transaction was done in 1871. This is also likely the reason why the War of 1812 Land Warrant was used to purchase 160 acres in Utah in 1870.

Whenever you see a document that does not seem to fit the facts, it is time to dig into the history.

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