Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sunday Stories - Settling the Sandhills

Excerpted from McPherson County: Facts, Families, Fiction; Established in 1890

By C. Barron McIntosh, Professor Emeritus, University of Nebraska

A homestead entry filed by Taylor Adams (his agent or attorney) was the first to be patented in McPherson County. Taylor Adams was a Civil War Veteran and as such had the privilege of filing under the Soldier’s Homestead Act (1872). This act was modified so that veterans could subtract the time they had served in the Civil War from the five years of residence required under the general Homestead Act.

Adams filed on only 40 actes in McPherson County. The Soldier’s Homestead Act, if the soldier’s first homestead had been less than 160 acres, gave him the privilege of filing an additional acreage so as not to exceed a total of 160 acres. Taylor Adams had evidently received a patent on an earlier homestead. Records show that he was granted his Final Receipt on the same date that appears in the Land Office Tract Book as the filing date, September 6, 1886.

Cattlemen used soldiers, their widows and dependent children to obtain desired land under homestead privileges granted Civil War veterans. The Spade Ranch case in Sheridan County was a good example of this use. The soldier could give or sell his homestead rights to an agent or attorney. Cattlemen would pay the veteran or his agent to file a soldiers claim on land desired by the cattlemen – often a watering place for their cattle.

It appears that Taylor Adams’ homestead rights were used in this manner. On the same date the Final Receipt was issued, Adams’ 40 acres were sold to a man by the name of Barnes, and leter that same day Barnes sold the land to John Bratt. John Bratt was a well known cattleman in the Platte Valley at that time. He probably used Taylor Adams’ 40 acre claim as a means of securing a corral or water well he had developed within the 40 acre claim. Taylor Adams probably never set foot on the homestead filed and patented in his name. Although this claim could have been patented any time after the final receipt was issued, the patent was not granted until April 6, 1889. This was still early enough to be the first patent issued for a homestead in McPherson County. The first homestead patent was thus issued on the same date that Richard Shield received the first pre-emption patent in the county.

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