Families of America (SFA)©
Private Land Claims|
There was a special type of federal land grant called the private land claim, wherein the American government recognized as valid certain land grants made by the earlier French, Spanish, and British governments in areas acquired by the United States after the Revolution. These areas were the Old Northwest north of the Ohio River, the Gulf States from Florida to Louisiana, the tier of states on the west bank of the Mississippi, and the Spanish Southwest from New Mexico to California but not including Texas.
Sometimes the foreign legal titles were quite old and meticulously
documented; often they were vague claims without clear bounds.
Near villages it was common to find communal fields divided into
long, individually owned arable strips surrounded by a communally
maintained fence. Also characteristic, though not universal, were
the "long lots," narrow adjoining tracts each a few hundred feet
wide along a road or river, and each running far back into the woods
or prairie sometimes a mile or more. The French and Spanish
authorities also made larger grants, such as the square leagues common
in Texas and the rancheros in California. Barring the usual
losses, the Spanish and French administrations usually kept adequate
records, and land titles were recorded and preserved. The
Texas General Land Office today has a series of sixty-nine volumes
of Spanish and Mexican records. The Spanish land system is discussed in detail for Texas,
New Mexico (with Colorado), Arizona, and California in Henry
Putney Beers, Spanish & Mexican Records of the American Southwest:
When the United States government assumed control of areas containing Spanish and French grants, it had to create private land claims commissions to separate the authentic and legal titles from the fraudulent and dubious. (It is said that 900 Kaskaskia, Illinois, claims were perjured.14) By international law, the new government was obliged to recognize the valid property titles of the previous regime.
The private land claims ruled valid by the claims commissions of the United States state and federal courts are first title deeds surveyed outside the regular federal system of townships and ranges. For example, a survey of Vincennes, Indiana, the federal survey lines stop at the irregular lots and tracts of the private land claims of the old French outpost called Vincennes Common. Even today, the legal titles run back to the confirmed first title patents of the Vincennes private claims validated by the governor of the Northwest Territory, as directed by a Congressional Resolution of 1788. The legal description of this land is not in terms of sections, townships, and ranges, but in terms of the lot numbers the governor assigned to the validated and surveyed private land claims at Vincennes. The general system of private land claims, however, did not always run smoothly. Some perfectly good pre-American titles were not presented to claims commissions, engendering litigation much later.
"Private land claims" can also refer to the claims directly presented to Congress for private relief. These papers could be in different archives, depending on the administrative route taken. Claims to 1837 are recorded in U.S. Congress, The American State Papers, Public Lands (Washington, D.C.: Gales and Seaton, 1832-61) and are indexed in Phillip W. McMuUin, Grassroots in America (Salt Lake City: Gendex, 1972). The National Archives has Congressional records, case files, and plat maps of private claims. Its Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archives (1982), says on page 222:
Originals of the committee reports to Congress on private land claims
are among Records of the U. S. Senate, Record Group 46, and Records
of the U. S. House of Representatives, Record Group 233. They are
filed by Congress, thereunder by name of committee, and thereunder
Private land claims are also found in various court records, since disapproved claims could be taken to court. In fact, Congress, in abolishing particular claims commissions, routinely authorized the holders of unsettled claims to prosecute their cases through the courts.
For further reading, see Paul W. Gates, History of Public Land
Law Development (Washington, D.C.: Public Land Law Review
Commission, 1968), pp. 87-119; his "Private Land Claims in the
South," Journal of Southern History 22 (1956): 183-204;
|These records are dedicated to one of my best friends, my Uncle: George K. ANNAN, 1915-1996, age 81yrs Compiled and self Published in Jun. 28, 1986 by Paul R. Sarrett, Jr. George, grew up in rual area of Yorktown, Page Co., Iowa. He was a large land owner, and Farmer, and was Commissioner on the Page County Soil Conservation District for over 30 years; Director of the Iowa Association of Soil Conservation District Commissioners; Served on the State Soil Conservation Committee; Member of the Lions Club of Clarinda, Iowa; Was a 4-H leader for many years; Helped organize the Lincoln Leaders Boys 4-H Club. Received many awards as a commissioner, Outstanding Commissioner for Region VII in 1960; Watershed Achievement Award in 1979; Emmett ZOLLARS Award in 1974; Page Co., Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. Award in 1976; just to name a few.|
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