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Timber Culture Act / tree claim

1873 act to promote tree-growing on the western prairies. It was revised in 1874, 1876 and 1878, and repealed in 1891.

Four-fifths of the tree claims and two-fifths of all other claims have been filed on in Kingsbury county. – May 4, 1880, Yankton Daily Press and Dakotaian.

     

P.W. Hitchcock

P.W. Hitchcock

On March 3, 1873, Congress passed the Timber Culture Act. This legislation provided that any individual could file on an additional or exclusive claim of up to 160 acres as long as (a) he planted 40 acres of trees on the quarter section and (b) he cultivated and kept these trees growing for eight years. The Timber Culture Act did not contain any residency requirement. However, few claimants could meet the requirement of the original act regarding the necessity of keeping these trees in a thriving condition. The law was amended in 1878 to give claimants up to four years to plant 10 acres of trees. At the end of eight years, and up to 12 years after filing, a patent could be obtained if the entrant could prove that at least 2,700 trees had been planted to each of ten acres and that at least 675 trees per acre were still thriving. The law was amended in 1876 to make provision for natural disasters by extending the time allowed for planting by one year for each year crops were destroyed. Any crop or trees destroyed in a given year must be replanted the next year, or the claim was subject to cancellation. — Nancy Cleaveland and Penny Linsenmayer, Charles Ingalls and the U.S. Public Land Laws (SeventhWinter Press, 2001), 4.

     


     

By 1850, it had become apparent that if the “western plains” were to be settled, those settlers would need timber for fuel and building purposes. In addition, many believed that there was a positive relationship between a person’s health and the presence of forests, as well as the belief that planting trees would increase rainfall, which would – in turn – be beneficial to crops planted. Following other attempts to introduce bills to promote tree-planting, Nebraska Senator Phineas Hitchcock penned what he called “An act to promote the growth of timber on western prairies.” The 1873 Act as written:

1873

AN ACT TO ENCOURAGE THE GROWTH OF TIMBER ON WESTERN PRAIRIES. MARCH 3, 1873. Forty-Second Congress. Session III. Chapter CCLXXVII. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That any person who shall plant, protect, and keep in a healthy, growing condition for ten years forty acres of timber; the trees thereon not being more than twelve feet apart each of timber on any way on any quarter-section of any of the public lands of the United States shall be entitled to a patent for the whole of said quarter-section at the expiration of said ten years, on making proof of such fact by not less than two credible witnesses; Provided, That only one quarter in any section shall be thus granted.

SECTION 2. That the person applying for the benefit of this act shall, upon application to the register of the land-office in which he or she is about to make such entry, make affidavit before said register or receiver that said entry is made for the cultivation of timber, and upon filing said affidavit with said register and receiver, and on payment of ten dolalrs, he or she shall thereupon be permitted to enter the quantity of land specified: Provided however, That no certificate shall be given or patent issue therefor until the expiration of at least ten years from the date of such entry; and if at the expiration of such time, or at any time within three years thereafter, the person making such entry, or if he or she be dead, his or her heirs or legal representatives, shall prove by two credible witnesses that he, she, or they have planted, and for not less than ten years have cultivated and protected such quantity and character of timber as aforesaid, they shall receive the patent for such quarter-section of land.

SECTION 3. That if at any time after the filing of said affidavit, and prior to the issuing of the patent for said land, it shall be proven after due notice to the party making such entry and claiming to cultivate such timber, to the satisfaction of the register of the land-office that such person has abandoned or failed to cultivate, protect and keep in good condition such timber, then, and in that event, said land shall revert to the United States.

SECTION 4. That each and every person who, under the provisions of an act entitled “An act to secure homesteads to actual settlers on the public domain” approved May twentieth, eighteen hundred and sixty-two, or any amendment thereto, having a homestead on said public domain, who, at the end of the third year of his or her residence theron, shall have had under cultivation, for two years, one acre of timber, the trees thereon not being more than twelve feet apart each way, and in a good, thrifty condition, for each and every sixteen acres of said homestead, shall upon due proof of said fact by two credible witnesses receive his or her patent for said homestead.

SECTION 5. That no land acquired under provision of this act shall, in any event, become liable to the satisfaction of any debt or debts contracted prior to the issuing of patent therefor

SECTION 6. That the commissioner of the general land-office is hereby required to prepare and issue such rules and regulations, consistent with this act, as shall be necessary and proper to carry its provisions into effect; and that the registers and the receivers of the several land-offices shall be entitled to receive the same compensation for any lands entered under the provisions of this that they are not entitled to receive when the same quantity of land is entered with money.

SECTION 7. That the fifth section of the act entitled “An act in addition to an act to punish crimes against the United States, and for other purposes” approved March third, eighteen hundred and fifty-seven, shall extend to all oaths, affirmations, and affidavits required or authorized by this act.

APPROVED, March 3, 1873. [George P. Sanger, The Statutes at Large and Proclamations of the United States of America, from March 1871 to March 1873, Volume XVII (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1873), 604-606.]

Charles Ingalls sold his eighty acres in Pepin County, Wisconsin, in October 1873, and it’s unclear if the passage of the Timber Culture Act influenced his decision to leave the area and head east into Minnesota. If he was looking to homestead, then one wonders why he hadn’t gone north with his father and brothers when they filed on homesteads in Pierce County five years earlier. Like many others, Pa may have worried about complying with the Act as written, mainly the planting of twelve thousand trees the first year. According to Franklin Curtiss-Wedge in The History of Redwood County (Chicago: H.C. Cooper Jr. & Co., 1916), 607, only one claim in all of Redwood County was able to make final proof under the 1873 Act. The fact that 1873 was the beginning of the grasshopper years in the area didn’t help.

The following year, the original Act was amended as follows:

1874

AN ACT TO AMEND THE ACT ENTITLED “AN ACT TO ENCOURAGE THE GROWTH OF TIMBER ON WESTERN PRAIRIES.” Forty-Third Congress. Session I. Chapter 55. March 13, 1874. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That the act entitled “An act to encourage the growth of timber on western prairies,” approved March third, eighteen hundred and seventy-three, be, and the same is hereby, amended so as to read as follows: That any person who is the head of a family or who has arrived at the age of twenty-one years, and is a citizen of the united States, or who shall have filed his declaration of intention to become such, as required by the naturalization laws of the United States, who shall plant, protect, and keep in a healthy, growing condition for eight years, forty acres of timber, the trees thereon not being more than twelve feet apart each way, on any quarter-section of any of the public lands of the United States, or twenty acres on any legal subdivision of forty acres, or one-fourth part of any fractional subdivision of forty acres, shall be entitled to a patent for the whole of said quarter-section, or of such legal subdivision of less than forty acres, as the case may be, at the expiration of said eight years, on making proof of such fact by not less than two credible witnesses: Provided, That not more than one-quarter of any section shall be thus granted, and that no person shall make more than one entry under the provisions of this act, unless fractional subdivisions of less than forty acres are entered which, in the aggregate, shall not exceed one quarter-section.

SECTION 2. That the person applying for the benefit of this act shall, upon application to the register of the land-district in which he or she is about to make such entry, make affidavit before the register, or the receiver, or some officer authorized to administer oaths in the district where the land is situated, who is required by law to use an official seal, that said entry is made for the cultivation of timber, adn upon filing said affidavit with said register and said receiver, and on payment of ten dollars, he or she shall thereupon be permitted to enter the quantity of land specified; and the party making an entry of a quarter-section under the provisions of this act shall be required to break ten acres of the land covered by the first year, ten acres the second year, and twenty acres the third year after date of entry, and to plant ten acres of timber the second year, ten acres the third year, and twenty acres the fourth year after date of entry. A party making an entry of eighty acres shall break and plant at the times hereinbefore prescribed, one-half of the quantity required of a party who enters a quarter-section, and a party entering forty acres shall break and plant, at the times hereinbefore prescribed, one quarter of the quantity required of a party who enters a quarter-section, or a proportionate quantity for any smaller fractional subdivision: Provided, however, That no final certificate shall be given or patent issued for the land so entered until the expiration of eight years from the date of such entry; and, if at the expiration of such time, or at any time within five years thereafter, the person making such entry, or if he or she be dead, his or her heirs or legal representatives shall prove, by two credible witnesses, that he, or she, or they have planted, and, for not less than eight years, have cultivated and protected such quantity and character of timber as aforesaid, they shall receive a patent for such quarter-section or legal subdivision of eighty or forty acres of land, or for any fractional quantity of less than forty acres, as herein provided. And in case of the death of a person who has complied with the provisions of this act for the period of three years, his heirs or legal representatives shall have the option to comply with the provisions of this act, and receive at the expiration of eight years, a patent for one hundred and sixty acres, or receive without delay a patent for forty acres, relinquishing all claim to the remainder.

SECTION 3. That if at any time after the filing of said affidavit, and prior to the issuing of the patent for said land, the claimant shall abandon the land, or fail to do the breaking and planting required by this act, or any part thereof, or shall fail to cultivate, protect, and keep in good condition such timber, then, and in that event, such land shall be subject to entry under the homestead laws, or by some other person under the provisions of this act: Provided, That the party making claim to said land, either as a homestead settler or under this act, shall give, at the time of filing his application, such notice to the original claimant as shall be prescribed by the rules established by the Commissioner of the general Land-Office, and the rights of the parties shall be determined as in other contested cases.

SECTION 4. That each and every person who, under the provisions of the act entitled “An act to secure homesteads to actual settlers on the public domain,” approved May twentieth, eighteen hundred and sixty-two, or any amendment thereto, having a homestead on said public domain, who, at any time after the end of the third year of his or her residence thereon shall, in addition to the settlement and improvements now required by law, have had under cultivation, for two years, one acre of timber, the trees thereon not being more than twelve feet apart each way, and in a good thrifty condition, for each and every sixteen acres of said homestead, shall, upon due proof of such fact by two credible witnesses receive his or her patent for said homestead.

SECTION 5. That no land acquired under the provisions of this act shall in any event become liable to the satisfaction of any debt or debts contracted prior to the issuing of certificate therefor.

SECTION 6. That the Commissioner of the General Land-Office is hereby required to prepare and issue such rules and regulations, consistent with this act, as shell be necessary and proper to carry its provisions into effect; and that the registers and the receivers of the several land-offices shall each be entitled to receive two dollars at the time of entry, and the same sum when the claim is finally established and the final certificate issued.

SECTION 7. That the fifth section of the act entitled “An act in addition to an act to punish crimes against the United States, and for other purposes,” approved March third, eighteen hundred and fifty-seven, shall extend to all oaths, affirmations, and affidavits required or authorized by this act.

SECTION 8. That parties who have already made entries under the acts approved March third, eighteen hundred and seventy-three, of which this is amendatory, shall be permitted to complete the same upon full compliance with the provisions of this act.

APPROVED, March 13, 1874. [George P. Sanger, The Statutes at Large and Proclamations of the United States of America, from December 1873 to March 1875, Volume XVIII-Part 3 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1875), 21-22.]

The Act was again amended in 1876:

1876

AN ACT TO AMEND THE ACT ENTITLED “AN ACT TO AMEND THE ACT ENTITLED ‘AN ACT TO ENCOURAGE THE GROWTH OF TIMBER ON WESTERN PRAIRIES'” approved March thirteenth, eighteen hundred and seventy-four. FORTY-FOURTH CONGRESS. SESSION I. CHAPTER 102. May 20, 1876. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That section three of the act entitled ‘An act to encourage the growth of timber on the western prairies,'” is hereby amended by adding thereto the following further proviso: Provided, further, That whenever a party holding a claim under the provisions of this act, or whenever making final proof under the same, shall prove by two good and credible witnesses that the trees planted and growing on said claim were destroyed by grasshoppers during any one or more years while holding said claim, said year or years in which said trees were so destroyed shall not work any forfeiture of any of the rights or privileges conferred by this act; and the time allowed by this act in which to plant the trees and make final proof shall be extended the same number of years as the trees planted on the said claim were destroyed in the manner specified in this section.

SECTION 2. That the planting of seeds, nuts, or cuttings shall be considered a compliance with the provisions of the timber-culture act: Provided, That such seeds, nuts, or cuttings of the kind and for the purpose contemplated in the original act shall be properly and well planted, the ground properly prepared and cultivated; and in case such seeds, nuts, or cuttings should not germinate and grow, or should be destroyed by the depredations of grasshoppers, or from other inevitable accident, that the ground shall be replanted or the vacancies filled within one year from the first planting: Provided, further, That parties claiming the benefit of the provisions of this act shall prove, by two good and credible witnesses, that the ground was properly prepared and planted in such seeds, nuts, or cuttings, and were so destroyed by inevitable accident in such year.

SECTION 3. That it shall not be necessary to plant trees, seeds, nuts, or cuttings in one body, provided the several bodies, not exceeding four in number, planted by measurement, aggregate the amount required and in the time required by the original and amended act.

APPROVED, May 20, 1876. [- The Statutes at Large and Proclamations of the United States of America, from December 1875 to March 1877, Volume XIX (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1877), 54.]

The Ingallses’ Plum Creek land (the NW 18-109N-38W) was a preemption claim requiring only one six-month residency requirement prior to final proof, while allowing 33 months before paying cash to purchase the land. Due to the parcel’s proximity to the railroad in Walnut Grove, the land’s preemption price was $2.50 per acre instead of $1.25 per acre paid for lands farther from the railroad. Charles Ingalls paid $430.50 for his claim on July 7, 1876, prior to the family’s move to Burr Oak, Iowa. Three days later, he sold the land for $400.

On June 2, 1875, Charles Ingalls filed on a tree claim in Redwood County, the SE 4-109-38, located about three miles northeast of his Plum Creek preemption site. Plum Creek flowed through both of Ingallses’ claims on its way north to the Cottonwood River. This tree claim property had previously been the homestead of Gustav Carleson and had been abandoned by him early in 1874. Ingalls was not required to establish residency on this tree claim, and he continued to hold it during the entire period of time that his family resided in Burr Oak, Iowa. One could suspect from this that he knew their residency in Burr Oak would be temporary, or he held it to sell the relinquishment had they decided to leave Redwood County permanently.

After returning to Minnesota from Iowa, Charles Ingalls relinquished his tree claim on March 1, 1878. On May 9th, he filed on the west half of his former tree claim under the Homestead Act. Whether the family ever lived on this land is unclear, but under the requirements of the Homestead Act, they were to have established residency by November 9, 1878, and occupied the land for at least six continuous months each year he homesteaded. Laura Ingalls Wilder never wrote of either Pa’s tree claim or his first homestead claim in Minnesota.

The Timber Culture Act was also amended in 1878, just after the Ingalls family’s return to the Plum Creek area:

1878

AN ACT TO AMEND AN ACT ENTITLED “AN ACT TO ENCOURAGE THE GROWTH OF TIMBER ON THE WESTERN PRAIRIES.” Forty-Fifth Congress. Session II. Chapter 190. June 14, 1878. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the act entitled ‘An act to encourage the growth of timber on Western Prairies,’ approved March thirteenth, eighteen hundred and seventy-four, be and the same is hereby amended so as to read as follows: That any person who is the head of a family, or who has arrived at the age of twenty-one years, and is a citizen of the United States, or who shall have filed his declaration of intention to become such, as required by the naturalization laws of the United States, who shall plant, protect, and keep in a healthy, growing condition for eight years ten acres of timber, on any quarter-section of any of the public lands of the United States, or five acres on any legal subdivision of eighty acres, or two and one half acres on any legal subdivision of forty acres or less, shall be entitled to a patent for the whole of said quarter-section, or of such legal subdivision of eighty or forty acres, of fractional subdivision of less than forty acres, as the case may be, at the expiration of said eight years, on making proof of such fact by not less than two credible witnesses, and a full compliance of the further conditions as provided in section two: Provided further, That not more than one quarter of any section shall be thus granted, and that no person shall make more than one entry under the provisions of this act.

SECTION 2. That the person applying for the benefits of this act shall, upon application to the register of the land district in which he or she is about to make such entry, make affidavit, before the register or the receiver, or the clerk of some court of record, or officer authorized to administer oaths in the district where the land is situated; which affidavit shall be as follows, to wit: I, _____ _____, having filed my application, number ___, for an entry under the provisions of an act entitled “An act to amend an act entitled ‘An act to encourage the growth of timber on the Western prairies'” approved _____ _____ 187__, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I am the head of a family (or over twenty-one years of age), and a citizen of the United States (or have declared my intention to become such); that the section of land specified in my said application is composed exclusively of prairie lands, or other lands devoid of timber; that this filing and entry is made for the cultivation of timber, and for my own exclusive use and benefit; that I have made the sake application in good faith, and not for the purpose of speculation, or directly or indirectly for the use or benefit of any other person or persons whomsoever; that I intend to hold and cultivate the land, and to fully comply with the provisions of this said act; and that I have not heretofore made an entry under this act, or the acts of which this is amendatory. And upon filing said affidavit with said register and said receiver and on payment of ten dollars, if the tract applied for is more than eighty acres; and five dollars if it is eighty acres or less, he or she shall thereupon be permitted to enter the quantity of land specified; and the party making an entry of a quarter-section under the provisions of this act shall be required to break or plow five acres covered thereby the first year, five acres the second year, and to cultivate to crop or otherwise the five acres broken or plowed the first year; the third year he or she shall cultivate to crop or otherwise the five acres broken the second year, and to plant in timber, seeds, or cuttings the five acres first broken or plowed, and to cultivate and put in crop or otherwise the remaining five acres, and the fourth year to plant in timber, seeds, or cuttings the remaining five acres. All entries of less quantity than one quarter-section shall be plowed, planted, cultivated and planted to trees, tree-seeds, or cuttings, in the same manner and in the same proportion as hereinbefore provided for a quarter section. Provided, however, That in case such trees, seeds, or cuttings shall be destroyed by grasshoppers, or by extreme and unusual drouth, for any year or term of years, the time for planting such trees, seeds, or cuttings shall be extended one year for every such year that they are so destroyed: Provided further, That the person making such entry shall, before he or she shall be entitled to such extension of time, file with the register and the receiver of the proper land-office an affidavit, corroborated by two witnesses, setting forth the destruction of such trees, and that, in consequence of such destruction, he or she is compelled to ask an extension of time, in accordance with the provisions of this act: And provided further, That no final certificate shall be given, or patent issued, for the land so entered until the expiration of eight years from the date of such entry; and if, and the expiration of such time, or at any time within five years hereafter, the person making such entry, or, if he or she be dead, his or her heirs or legal representatives, shall prove by two credible witnesses that he or she or they have planted, and for not less than eight years, have cultivated and protected such quantity and character of trees as aforesaid; that not less than twenty-seven hundred trees were planted on each acre and that at the time of making such proof that there shall be then growing at least six hundred and seventy-five living and thrifty trees to each acre, they shall receive a patent for such tract of land.

SECTION 3. That if at any time after the filing of said affidavit, and prior to the issuing of the patent for said land, the claimant shall fail to comply with any of the requirements of this act, then and in that event such land shall be subject to entry under the homestead laws, or by some other person under the provisions of this act. Provided, That the party making claim to said land, either as a homestead-settler, or under this act, shall give at the time of filing his application, such notice to the original claimant as shall be prescribed by the rules established by the Commissioner of the General Land Office; and the rights of the parties shall be determined as in other contested cases.

SECTION 4. That no land acquired under the provisions of this act shall, in any event, become liable to the satisfaction of any debt or debts contracted prior to the issuing of the final certificate therefor.

SECTION 5. That the Commissioner of the General Land Office is hereby required to prepare and issue such rules and regulations, consistent with this act, as shall be necessary and proper to carry its provisions into effect; and that the registers and receivers of the several land-offices shall each be entitled to receive two dollars at the time of entry, and the like sum when the claim is finally established and the final certificate issued.

SECTION 6. That the fifth section of the act entitled “An act in addition to an act to punish crimes against the United States, and for other purposes”, approved March third, eighteen hundred and fifty-seven, shall extend to all oaths, affirmations, and affidavits required or authorized by this act.

SECTION 7. That parties who have already made entries under the acts approved March third, eighteen hundred and seventy-three, and March thirteenth, eighteen hundred and seventy-four, of which this is amendatory shall be permitted to complete the same upon full compliance with the provisions of this act; that is, they shall, at the time of making their final proof, have had under cultivation, as required by this act, an amount of timber sufficient to make the number of acres required by this act.

SECTION 8. All acts and parts of acts in conflict with this act are hereby repealed.

APPROVED, June 14, 1878. [The Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from October 1877 to March 1879, Volume XX (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1879), 113-115.]

In the summer of 1879, the Chicago & Northwestern Railway expanded of their Winona & St. Peter line west of Tracy, Minnesota, into Dakota Territory (where it became the Dakota Central Railway). The railroad’s expansion would mean that a vast number of potential claims would be in reasonable proximity to the railroad, allowing for both ease in passenger travel and shipping farm produce to buyers and in getting supplies from the east to the new settlers in the west. At the beginning of By the Shores of Silver Lake, the offer of a job with the railroad is providential in that it would allow Charles Ingalls to look for a claim (either a tree claim or homestead) in the west while also earning pay in the vicinity.

Charles Ingalls didn’t relinquish his Plum Creek homestead prior to taking a job on the railroad, and he kept it after Ma and the girls had met him in Tracy and they traveled by wagon into Dakota Territory. Most likely, he had planned that the family would return to the claim once work on the railroad ended for the season, but the offer of the Surveyors’ House kept them in Kingsbury County. The Plum Creek homestead wasn’t relinquished until December 1, 1880, over a year after the Ingallses had settled in Dakota Territory.

Although many Little House characters filed on both homestead and tree claims in Kingsbury County – as the Wilder siblings did – Charles Ingalls initially only filed a homestead claim. The homestead wasn’t relinquished until December 1, 1880, over a year after the Ingallses had settled in Dakota Territory.

In July 1884, Charles Ingalls published an intent to take over the tree claim (NW 28-110-56) held by Robert Miller four miles south of the Ingalls homestead, due to Miller’s failure to plant trees on the land in compliance with the Timber Culture Act. Miller’s claim was cancelled in November, and Ingalls filed on the tree claim on December 2, 1884. He held this tree claim for under a year, relinquishing it on June 8, 1885. Several others subsequently filed on the land as a tree claim; it was eventually filed on as a homestead and a patent was issued in 1903.

Little House readers may wonder what types of trees were planted on tree claims. Not all varieties were allowed, as is shown below:

Kind of trees for Timber Claims. According to a circular issued by the General Land Office in 1882, the following classes of trees were recognized as timber in the meaning of the law: Ash, alder, birth, beech, black walnut, bass wood, black locust, cedar, chestnut, cottonwood, elm, fir, including spruce; hickory, honey locust, larch, maple, including box elder; oak, pine, plane tree, otherwise called cotton tree, buttonwood or sycamore; service tree, otherwise called mountain ash; white walnut, otherwise called butternut; white willow, and whitewood, otherwise called tulip tree. Shrubbery and fruit trees did not count as timber.

     


     

THE END OF THE TIMBER CULTURE ACT. As there was no residency requirement on a tree claim, many tree claims were (fraudulently filed) speculation claims, taken by ranchers who needed the land for cattle. They were also filed on by men or women who held them temporarily in order to sell their relinquishment at a later date. Widespread misuse was the problem with the Act in general, and was apparent from the start. The Timber Culture Act was repealed less than twenty years after it was written. Most of the trees planted were eventually cut down to create more farmland. While there are still some existing groves planted under the Act, these are mostly in the corners of quarter sections (where trees didn’t get in the way of farm equipment) or near a body of water, as the arid west wasn’t suited to timber growth. Even growing trees were often removed in order to create more farmland.

I was curious as to how many successful tree claims there were in the De Smet vicinity. In By the Shores of Silver Lake (see Chapter 29, “The Shanty on the Hill”), Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote:

“This country’s going to be covered with trees,” Pa said. “Don’t forget that Uncle Sam’s tending to that. There’s a tree claim on every section, and settlers have got to plant ten acres of trees on every tree claim. In four of five years you’ll see trees every way you look.”

The map below is a portion of an 1899 map of Kingsbury County, showing 144 sections in four townships. You can see De Smet, Lake Preston, Lake Henry, and Lake Thompson on the map. It’s not marked, but Silver Lake is also shown on this map.

In each of the 144 sections, 1 quarter-section should have been designated as a tree claim, meaning that land could only be filed on (orignally) as a tree claim, so each section should have ended up with at least ten acres of trees on it. However, some of the 144 1-mile sections are under water (9 sections of Lake Henry and Lake Thompson) and some are school sections (8 sections, land not available for filing because they were to be held until after statehood and then sold to profit the school system). This leaves 127 sections, on which 1 quarter section was to be a tree claim.

The RED CIRCLES show quarter sections that were originally tree claims, but no claimant was able to earn title to the land under the Timber Culture Act. There are 64 of them, so there was a fifty percent FAILURE RATE in filing on tree claims. This land either ended up being converted to another type of claim or was sold after the repeal of the Tree Claim Act.

The WHITE SQUARES show quarter sections on which a settler made final proof under the Timber Culture Act. There are 63 of them. The green number within the square indicates how many times the quarter section changed hands prior to final proof. “1” means the person first filing under the Act also was the one to receive the patent on the land; “2” means that the first person held the claim for a while, then relinquished the claim, and it was filed on as a tree claim by someone else, and that person received the patent; etc. So while there was an overall 50% success rate with tree claims in this area, only about half of those were successfully proven up by the person first filing on the quarter section.

While both Royal Wilder and Eliza Jane Wilder were successful with their tree claims, Almanzo Wilder relinquished his tree claim on August 8, 1888, filing an intent to preempt the quarter section instead. The navigation button that brought you to this page is a picture of the trees (mostly dead) on Almanzo’s former tree claim.

You can read the REPEAL OF THE TIMBER CULTURE ACT HERE.

     

tree claim (SSL 29; THGY 19-20, 23, 28; PG)
     laws (THGY 20)