Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Miss Josephine gets her land --- no man required

The sisters Millan, Miss Josephine (Jo) and Miss Maggie, were Chariton's leading milliners during the latter half of the 19th century, operating from various locations on the square. They had arrived in Lucas County as children, during 1862, when their parents --- Henry and Caroline Millan --- moved their family here from Palmyra, Missouri. All now rest near this substantial tombstone in the Chariton Cemetery.

Miss Jo also knew an opportunity when she saw it and during 1881-82, when she was in her early 30s, that came in the form of public land at bargain basement prices in the booming state of Nebraska. She had an eye on a quarter section adjoining the newly purchased farm in Harlan County of her sister and brother-in-law, Pocahontas (Millan) and Major (a given name not a military rank) Hooper.

How she got it was the subject of the following article, published in The Chariton Patriot during February of 1882. Unfortunately, that issue of The Patriot no longer exists. But other newspapers found the story so intriguing that it was republished. So here's the version that appeared in The Waterloo Courier of March 4, 1882:


For some time past, Miss Jo Millan, of Chariton, has been closely watching a quarter section of land in Harlan county, Nebraska, which she was particularly anxious to call her own as it was not only a very desirable tract of land, but was located between the farms of her brother-in-law and nephew. Unfortunately, however, it was already pre-empted by one of the sterner sex, but he forfeited his right by abandoning his claim for a greater length than the law permits.

Another man pre-empted it as a timber claim, but Miss Millan knew that his claim was not a good one as there was about 40 acres on the tract, whereas the land laws hold that land taken as timber claims must be destitute of timber. The occupant, however, tested his rights in the General Land Office, and from there to  the Interior Department at Washington.

Before leaving Nebraska last summer to return to her home, Miss Millan made arrangements to have the result of the investigation telegraphed to her as soon as the decision was made. On Monday of last week she received a dispatch containing the single word, "Come," and took  the midnight train of that night for the disputed territory.

Owing to a tedious railroad delay, she did not arrive there until Wednesday, when she at once went to the land office with her papers all in proper shape for  record, and she was not a minute too soon, for before the ink was dry, half a dozen men came in to secure the same piece of  land,  each trying to beat the other,  and arrived just  in time to find that they had been beaten by a woman.

There is still  an opportunity, however, for one of them securing the coveted piece of land, but in order to do so, it will be necessary to marry the fair owner.


Miss Jo, however, was interested in the land --- not a man --- and never married. She returned to Chariton, most likely sold her quarter section at a profit and continued to work with her sister for many years thereafter. She died during 1907 at the age of 57. Miss Maggie was 90 when she died during 1921.

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