This section is from the book "Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: A Guide To Correct Writing", by Thos. E. Hill. Also available from Amazon: Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: The How-To-Do-Everything Book Of Victorian America.
The public lands are open to pre-emption by citizens of the United States, except in the following cases: Lands reserved by any treaty, law or Presidential proclamation, for any purpose; lands lying within the limits of any incorporated city or town; lands actually settled or used for business purposes, and not for farming, and lands on which salt-springs or mines are situated.
Every head of a family, or widow, or single person, more than twenty-one years old, being a citizen of the United States, or having filed his written intention to become such, or who may, himself or herself, actually settle on land subject to pre-emption, inhabiting, building a residence thereon, and improving the land, may enter at the proper land-office any quantity of such land, not exceeding 160 acres, upon which he or she may reside, by paying to the government the sum of $1.25 per acre, as a minimum price.
No person who owns 320 acres of land in any State or Territory, or who abandons his or her own land to settle on public lands in the same State or Territory, has a right to pre-emption.
No person is entitled to more than one pre-emption, and cannot secure a second tract of public land by this means.
Most of the public lands subject to pre-emption lie west of the Mississippi river. Land-offices, where all necessary information relative to the settlement and entry of these lands may be obtained, are located in the several States and Territories, as follows:
Alabama-Huntsville and Montgomery.
Arkansas-Little Rock, Camden, Harrison and Dardanelle.
Arizona Ter.-Prescott and Tucson.
California - San Francisco, Marysville, Humboldt, Stockton. Visalia, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Shasta, Susanville and Bodie.
Colorado - Denver City, Leadville. Central City, Pueblo, Del Norte. Lake City, Gunnison, Durango and Gleenwood Springs.
Dakota Ter. - Mitchell, Watertown, Fargo, Yankton, Bismarck, Deadwood. Aberdeen, Grand Forks, Huron and Devil's Lake.
Florida - Gainesville.
Idaho Ter. - Boise City, Lewiston, Oxford, Hailey and Caeur d'Alene.
Iowa - Des Moines.
Kansas - Topeka, Salina, Independence, Lar-ned, Wichita, Kirwin, Concordia, Wa-Keeny, Ober-lin and Garden City.
Louisiana - New Orleans and Natchitoches.
Michigan - Detroit, East Saginaw, Reed City and Marquette.
Minnesota - Taylor's Falls, Saint Cloud, Du-luth, Fergus Falls, Worthington, Tracy, Benson, Crookston and Redwood Falls.
Mississippi - Jackson.
Missouri - Boonville, 1 ronton and Springfield.
Montana Ter. - Miles City, Bozeman and Helena.
Nebraska - Neligh, Beatrice, Lincoln, Niobrara. Grand Island, North Platte, Bloomington, Mc Cook and Valentine.
Nevada - Eureka and Carson City.
Sew Mexico Ter. - Santa Fe and Las Cruces.
Oregon - Oregon City, Roseburg, Le Grand, Lakeview and The Dalles.
Utah Ter. - Salt Lake City.
Washington Ter. - Olympia, Vancouver, Walla Walla, Spokane Falls and North Yakima.
Wisconsin - Menasha. Falls of St. Croix. Eau Claire, Wausau, La Crosse and Bayfield.
Wyoming Ter. - Cheyenne and Evanston.
Previous to making a pre-emption, every citizen must make oath before the land register or receiver in the district where the desired tract is located, or before the clerk of the county or other court of record, that he has never availed himself, on a former occasion, of his privilege to pre-empt public land; that he does not own 320 acres of land in any State or Territory; that he has not settled upon and improved such land to sell it on speculation, but for his own exclusive use; that he has not, in any way, contracted or agreed with any other person that the title of the said land, in whole or part, shall be for the benefit of any one except himself.
The certifiate of this oath is filed in the land office of each district, and a copy of it is also sent to the General-Land Office for preservation.
Any person taking this oath and swearing falsely forfeits the money he has paid for the specified laud and all his right and title to the land itself, and if he has previously bargained to transfer his pre-emptive title to any other person, that conveyance is null and void.
Before any person can enter land as above described, he must give satisfactory proof to the register and receiver of the land-office that he has properly settled upon and improved the land that he desires to pre-empt.
Within thirty days after first settling upon said land, the pre-emptor must file with the register of the proper land-office a written declaration of his intention to enter such tract of land under the pre-emption laws. Failing to make this statement within the prescribed time, or in furnishing the necessary proof of settlement and improvement of such land, or make the required payment, within one year after settling upon it, any other person may enter the same tract.
When two or more persons settle on the same tract of land, the right of pre-emption is in the one who made the first settlement.
The head of any family, or single person, twenty-one years old, being a citizen of the United States, is entitled to enter one quarter-section (160 acres), or less, but no more, of public lands not otherwise disposed of, after having filed a pre-emption claim, (if such land is subject to pre-emption), at $1.25 per acre, or eighty acres or less, in one tract, at $2.25 per acre.
Those possessing land may enter adjoining public land, if the tracts do not exceed 160 acres.
Upon applying to the register of the proper land office, he must swear that he is the head of a family, or twenty-one years old, or has served in the army or navy of the United States, as the case may be, and that he is securing the desired tract for his own use, for actual settlement and cultivation; taking this oath, and paying to the register of the land-office the sum of five dollars, where the land does not exceed eighty acres, and ten dollars for a larger amount.
The certificate of the register of the land-office, however, does not issue to the applicant for five years, at the end of which time, or two years later, he, or his widow, or his heirs, must prove by competent witnesses that he, she, or they resided upon or cultivated the tract for five successive years after the the above affidavit was made, and that they still retain the land, and then take an oath of allegiance to the United States Government. He, she, or they will then be entitled to receive a patent for the land. Any false swearing concerning these particulars is punished, as in other cases of perjury.
* Though belonging to the Department of the Interior this subject is treated here, as the revenued from land sales belong to the Treasury Department.
The register of the land-office keeps a record of all the proceedings touching each tract of land claimed as a homestead.
No such homestead can be levied upon and sold for any debt contracted before the government patent is issued.
The payment for the homestead, besides the five or ten dollars prepaid when the land is entered, must be all paid before the expiration of the five years previous to the issue of the patent. Further information on this and other points can be obtained by applying to the land-office.
Any settler who has cultivated for two years as much as five acres in trees to an eighty-acre homestead, or ten acres on a homestead of 160 acres, is entitled to a free patent for his land at the end of three years. Each settler may claim as many quarter-sections of homestead lands, not adjoining each other, as have been improved by the culture, for ten years, of fortyacres of timber thereon.
The President appoints a Register of the Land-Office and a Receiver of public moneys for each of the land districts of the United States, and each is required to reside at the place where the land-office to which he is appointed is directed to be kept. Each receives a salary of 8500 a year, with liberal fees and commissions for locating land-warrants, issuing land-certificates, etc; but the salary, fees and commissions cannot in any case exceed an aggregate of $3,000. All balances received and remaining in the hands of registers and receivers above this amount, must be paid into the United States Treasury, as other public moneys.
Should any person apply to any register to enter any land whatever, and the Register knowingly and falsely informs the person so applying that the same has been already entered, and refuses to permit the person so applying to enter such land, the Register is liable therefor to the applicant for five dollars for each acre of land which the latter offered to enter, to be recovered in an action for debt in any proper court.