The Land

John Francis Maguire
APPENDIX (2) start of appendix

Information for Emigrants.

Department of the Interior General Land Office,
Washington, D. C. December 24, 1866.

SIR,—I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 11th instant, enclosing one of 24th November (ultimo) addressed to you by G. M. Allender, of the Farmers' Club, Salisbury Square, London.

Your correspondent states, that a class of persons in England, consisting of small farmers, or sons of farmers, with small capital, desire to come to America, but are deterred for want of information; that a feeling prevails among this class, that all the best lands and positions are secured by speculators, and that it is only poor lands, badly situated, that can be obtained at the government price of $1.25 per acre—the following questions in this connection being presented:—

1st. In what States can good land, well situated, still be obtained at the price of $l.25 per acre?

I send herewith a map, showing what are called the 'Public Land States,' and territories of the United States, and in reply to this question, state, that such lands may be had east of the Mississippi river, in the upper and lower peninsula of Michigan, in Wisconsin, in the great States west of the Mississippi, of Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, and in Nebraska, and that on the Pacific slope, extensive bodies of public lands have been surveyed and are open to settlement in the States of California, Oregon, and in the territory of Washington. The great mineral bearing State Nevada, lying east of and contiguous to California, is open to actual settlement, and there the public surveys are in progress.

Returning east of the Mississippi, the whole public land surface there will be found surveyed and subdivided in tracts as small as forty acres each, which in eighty-acre tracts can be taken under the Homestead Law, in the States of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas.

Then the territories of Dakota, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona, are open to settlement.

The territory of Idaho has just been organised into a land district, whilst Utah and Montana are yet to be subjected to that organisation.

2nd. Must lands so obtained be paid for immediately?

In order that lands may be placed in the class of those 'subject to sale at private entry,' they must have been first offered at public auction, and thereafter, if not disposed of at public sale, are liable at the time of application to be paid for, either in cash, or with military land scrip, or bounty land warrants at the rate of $1.25 per acre, for the number of acres represented on the face of a warrant or scrip.

The minimum price of offered lands is $1.25 per acre, unless that minimum shall have been doubled by reason of the construction of some public work, as an internal improvement such as railroads, and which materially increases the value of the lands in its vicinity; but even where there are United States reserved or $2.50 per acre sections, homestead entries, to the extent of eighty acres each, may be made by citizens or those who have declared their intentions to become such.

3rd. Would a certain adjoining district be reserved, say for a year or two, so that there might be time to call the attention of persons here to that special district?

It is not the policy of the government to withdraw lands once offered at public sale from entry, unless to subserve some important public interest, such as the building of lines of railroads, to connect centres of trade, or some other interest of like importance; nor indeed is it necessary to do so, as tracts varying from forty to one hundred and sixty acres, or even larger size, can be had in some of the land States or territories where the surveys have been extended, and offices are open for the sale of such lands.

In regard to the apprehension that all the best lands and positions had already been disposed of, it is proper to state that in the older settled land States of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, the public lands, generally, have been disposed of to actual settlers; but in other States hereinbefore mentioned, tracts to an immense extent of good land well situated may be obtained. In the States of Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Kansas, in the valley of the Mississippi river, in the State of Michigan, in the vicinity of the great lakes, in California and Oregon on the Pacific, and in the territories of Washington and Nebraska, large bodies of good land, both prairie and timber, are now subject to sale at private entry at $1.25 per acre; and in the five first-mentioned States, and in Nebraska, the soil and climate are held to be admirably adapted to the raising of such stock as is alluded to by your correspondent.

There are also good lands well situated in Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Florida; but in those States, the public lands are only subject to entry under the Homestead Act, approved June 21, 1866.

I am, with great respect,
Your obedient servant,
(Signed) JOS. S. WILSON,

Commissioner of Immigration,
Washington, D. C.

Department of the Interior General Land Office,
September 25, 1867.

SIR,—Agreeably to the request in your letter of the 17th, I enclose herewith a copy of the Homestead Law. I also send you a list of the local land offices in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska, and on application to either of these offices, you will receive all needed information relative to the entry of any lands subject to entry, under the Homestead Law, and situated in the district where the land office to which you apply is located.

Very respectfully,


Detroit, East Saginaw, Ionia, Marquette, Traverse City.


Menasha Falls of St. Croix, Stevens' Point, La Crosse, Bayfield, Eau Claire.


Taylor's Falls, St. Cloud, Winnebago City, St. Peter, Greenleaf, Du Luth.


Fort Des Moines, Council Bluffs, Fort Dodge, Sioux City.


Boonville, Ironton, Springfield.


Topeka, Junction City, Humboldt.


Little Rock, Washington, Clarksville.


Omaha City, Brownsville, Nebraska City, Dakota City.

An Act to secure Homesteads to Actual Settlers on the Public Domain.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That any person who is the head of a family, or who has arrived at the age of twenty-one years, and is a citizen of the United States, or who shall have filed his declaration of intention to become such, as required by the naturalization laws of the United States, and who has never borne arms against the United States Government or given aid and comfort to its enemies, shall, from and after the first January, eighteen hundred and sixty-three, be entitled to enter one quarter section or a less quantity of unappropriated public lands, upon which said person may have filed a pre-emption claim, or which may, at the time the application is made, be subject to pre-emption at one dollar and twenty-five cents, or less, per acre; or eighty acres or less of such unappropriated lands, at two dollars and fifty cents per acre, to be located in a body in conformity to the legal subdivisions of the public lands, and after the same shall have been surveyed: Provided, That any person owning and residing on land may, under the provisions of this act, enter other land lying contiguous to his or her said land, which shall not, with the land so already owned and occupied, exceed in the aggregate one hundred and sixty acres.

SEC. 2. And be it further enacted, That the person applying for the benefit of this act shall, upon application to the register of the land office in which he or she is about to make such entry, make affidavit before the said register or receiver that he or she is the head of a family, or is twenty-one or more years of age, or shall have performed service in the army or navy of the United States, and that he has never borne arms against the Government of the United States or given aid and comfort to its enemies, and that such application is made for his or her exclusive use and benefit, and that said entry is made for the purpose of actual settlement and cultivation, and not, either directly or indirectly, for the use or benefit of any other person or persons whomsoever; and upon filing the said affidavit with the register or receiver, and on payment of ten dollars, he or she shall thereupon be permitted to enter the quantity of land specified: Provided however, That no certificate shall be given or patent issued therefor until the expiration of five years from the date of such entry; and if, at the expira tion of such time, or at any other time within two years thereafter, the person make such entry—or if he be dead, his widow; or in case of her death, his heirs or devisee; or in case of a widow making such entry, her heirs or devisee, in case of her death—shall prove by two credible witnesses that he, she, or they have resided upon or cultivated the same for the term of five years immediately succeeding the time of filing the affidavit aforesaid, and shall make affidavit that no part of said land has been alienated, and that he has borne true allegiance to the Government of the United States; then, in such case, he, she, or they, if at any time a citizen of the United States, shall be entitled to a patent, as in other cases provided for by law: And provided, further, That in case of the death of both father and mother, leaving an infant child, or children under twenty-one years of age, the right and fee shall enure to the benefit of said infant child or children; and the executor, administrator or guardian may, at any time within two years after the death of the surviving parent, and in accordance with the laws of the State in which such children for the time being have their domicil, sell said land for the benefit of said infants, but for no other purpose; and the purchaser shall acquire the absolute title by the purchase, and be entitled to a patent from the United States, on payment of the office fees and sum of money herein specified.

SEC. 3. And be it further enacted, That the register of the land office shall note all such applications on the tract books and plats of his office, and keep a register of all such entries, and make return thereof to the General Land Office, together with the proof upon which they have been founded.

SEC. 4. And be it further enacted, That no lands acquired under the provisions of this act shall in any event become liable to the satisfaction of any debt or debts contracted prior to the issuing of the patent therefor.

SEC. 5. And be it further enacted, That if at any time after the filing of the affidavit, as required in the second section of this act, and before the expiration of the five years aforesaid, it shall be proven, after due notice to the settler, to the satisfaction of the register of the land office, that the person having filed such affidavit shall have actually changed his or her residence, or abandoned the said land for more than six months at any time, then and in that event the land so entered shall revert to the Government.

SEC. 6. And be it further enacted, That no individual shall be permitted to acquire title to more than one quarter section under the provisions of this act; and that the Commissioner of the General Land Office is hereby required to prepare and issue such rules and regulations, consistent with this act, as shall be necessary and proper to carry its provisions into effect; and that the registers and receivers of the several land offices shall be entitled to receive the same compensation for any lands entered under the provisions of this act that they are now entitled to receive when the same quantity of land is entered with money, one half to be paid by the person making the application at the time of so doing, and the other half on the issue of the certificate by the person to whom it may be issued; but this shall not be construed to enlarge the maximum of compensation now prescribed by law for any register or receiver: Provided, That nothing contained in this act shall be so construed as to impair or interfere in any manner whatever with existing pre-emption rights: And provided, further, That all persons who may have filed their applications for a pre-emption right prior to the passage of this act shall be entitled to all privileges of this act: Provided, further, That no person who has served, or may hereafter serve, for a period of not less than fourteen days in the army or navy of the United States, either regular or volunteer, under the laws thereof, during the existence of an actual war, domestic or foreign, shall be deprived of the benefits of this act on account of not having attained the age of twenty-one years.

SEC. 7. And be it further enacted, That the fifth section of the act entitled 'An act in addition to an act more effectually to provide for the punishment of certain crimes against the United States, and for other purposes,' approved the third of March, in the year eighteen hundred and fifty-seven, shall extend to all oaths, affirmations, and affidavits, required or authorised by this act.

SEC. 8. And be it further enacted, That nothing in this act shall be so construed as to prevent any person who has availed him or herself of the benefits of the first section of this act from paying the minimum price, or the price to which the same may have graduated, for the quantity of land so entered at any time before the expiration of the five years, and obtaining a patent therefor from the Government, as in other cases provided by law, on making proof of settlement and cultivation as provided by existing laws granting pre-emption rights.

Approved May 20, 1862.

The Irish in America, first published in 1868, provides an invaluable account of the extreme difficulties that 19th Century Irish immigrants faced in their new homeland and the progress which they had nonetheless made in the years since arriving on a foreign shore. A new edition, including additional notes and an index, has been published by Books Ulster/LibraryIreland:

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