Ralph E. Bowman's family held onto this 1856 federal land patent for more than 1860 years, but now --- thanks to Ralph --- it's been added to the Lucas County Historical Society collection. We corresponded a few times about the document earlier in the year and he dropped it off last week while headed from his home in Erie, Kansas, to Des Moines to visit children and grandchildren.
Patents of this sort are not especially rare, and we have others in the collection --- but each has a story to tell, including this one.
The land itself, 80 acres, was located just over the west county line in Clarke but because the federal land office serving the region was located at the time in Chariton, each transaction involving the property required a trip to the Lucas County seat.
The first land office serving the south of Iowa was moved from Burlington to Fairfield in 1842 and Lucas County's earliest settlers had to travel there to enter and pay for their claims between 1848 --- when the first Lucas County land was formally purchased --- and February of 1853, when the office was moved west to Chariton. The office remained in Chariton until 1858 when it was consolidated with others and relocated to Des Moines.
The going rate at the time for an acre of public land was $1.25 an acre, but if you look carefully at the patent you'll notice that Ralph's ancestor, Thomas H. Curd, acquired this 80-acre tract with a military land warrant issued to Maria Webb, widow of James Webb, a Kentucky veteran of the War of 1812. Thomas actually purchased 320 acres of Clarke County land during 1856-58, using similar land warrants in two other transactions.
These warrants, issued to veterans of both the War of 1812 and the Mexican War, were hot commodities in more established regions of the United States at the time. Quite often, the veterans who received them had no interest in claiming land in the West themselves, so were happy to sell their warrants to speculators --- or neighbors --- who did want to buy newly opened land at discounted rates.
The going rate for a warrant ranged on average from 85 cents to a dollar per acre, substantially less than the $1.25 per acre cost per acre of public land, so possession of a patent represented a savings. We don't know if Thomas purchased his warrants directly from original owners or through an agent who, of course, would have added a surcharge of his own.
Whatever the case, when Thomas located and made sure title was clear to the tract of unclaimed land he wished to purchase, he would would have turned the warrant in at Chariton land office as payment in full, adding an additional dollar or so as processing fee, then gone home to await the arrival of his patent.
Ralph speculates that his ancestors may have held onto the patent for so long, in part, because of a belief that President Franklin Pierce actually had signed it. He didn't. Presidential signatures were added to documents like this by clerks.
Thomas Curd did not stick around long after his final purchase of public land in Clarke County during 1858, moving on the Missouri. But this patent accompanied him, and now has come home at last to Chariton.