Wednesday, October 3, 2018

It Only Took Two Months

The signature of a 75 year old man

Two months ago, I wrote a blog post HERE about how the Ingalls of book and television fame ended up spending their lives near my 4th great grandparents. While researching that post, I discovered that the government keeps a file of the land patent information for each person and that one could fill out a form and obtain a copy of it for a fee. Since I have quite a number of people with land patents, I thought I would use this case as a test case to see what information it might contain. Well a little over two months after putting my application in the mail, I received a package in the mail containing 26 pages from my 4th great grandfather Joseph Chicken's land patent claim.

Although nothing earth shattering was in the package, I did learn some details that would have remained unknown to me. Joseph Chicken filed his claim for the land in South Dakota on June 1, 1884 and immediately set up residence on the land. By January 1, 1886, he had a 14 x 20 feet house, a 10 x 12 feet stable and a well to offer up proof of residence on his claim, a requirement for obtaining ownership. He also had 5 acres of the 160 total claim broken and planted into corn and potatoes. An ad in the local newspaper essentially stating that Joseph Chicken was filing as the resident of those 160 acres unless anyone had an opposing claim ran for the required six weeks presumably without any objections.

All was set to go and then the entire process almost ran off the tracks. The required final paperwork wasn't filed before the deadline. There was a letter from some official however saying that the fault didn't lie with Joseph and that it was a government error that was responsible and so it was allowed to filed after the deadline had past.

As part of the application, two witnesses verifying that Joseph Chicken was who he said he was, that he lived on the land he was patenting and had indeed made the necessary improvements were taken by a government official. Unfortunately, the government printer wrote down the name of one of the witnesses as Edmund Richards instead of Edward Richards. Because of that, several statements were then obtained to swear that Edmund was indeed Edward and that the mistake was due to a transcribing error with the printer. Because of that, the application had been unnecessarily delayed.

Eventually all the i's were dotted and the t's crossed and after paying $1.25 per acre for a total of $200, Joseph Chicken was granted the patent on January 18th, 1886 and the land was officially his. He would go on to purchase four other similar sized plots of land in the coming years to increase his landholdings in the area.

As a genealogist, I always hope that there was some biographical data on Joseph Chicken or his family but other than stating he was married, there was none. However, as part of the application, Joseph Chicken had to submit evidence that he was a lawful citizen of the United States so I was able to see a document stating this as part of the application.

Overall, I think it was worth the wait and I have several more candidates who filed land patents that I want to request more information. One is the father of the woman who would marry Joseph Chicken's son Joseph Chicken Jr. whom I often refer to on this blog as Joseph Chicken Baker since he changed his name after the Civil War. Anyway, the father of the woman who married Joseph Chicken Baker was named John Bolton and would go off search for gold in the California gold fields in 1850, produce a son born in California in 1854 and then disappear from the face of the earth. His widowed wife would take her kids back to England for a time before the eldest child returned back to America to marry Joseph Chicken Baker. I know very little about John Bolton and so perhaps I might get lucky and get some clues to help me out.

But for now, that is something best left for a cold winter day when I don't have any business being outside and can justify filing it out.


Kelly said...

It's interesting that he set up residence upon filing his claim... especially seeing it ended up taking two years for it to be official. (1884 was the year my paternal grandmother was born). I guess government red-tape is nothing new!

Glad you got some interesting stuff from your request, even if it wasn't everything you hoped for.

Susan said...

As Kelly noted, looks like government snafus have been around for a coon's age. How interesting to see physical proof of long, lost relatives. Good thing you have an abundance of patience...

Ed said...

Kelly - I was surprised at how fast it happened. I had always thought that the government required five years to prove up on the land. Perhaps five years was the maximum before they got kicked off again?

Susan - Yes government snafus have been around forever which is why I always shake my head when anyone suggests the government can run something more efficiently than the private sector.

BrightenedBoy said...

So bureaucratic inefficiency is not a 21st-century innovation!

Ed said...

Brightened Boy - Indeed!