Tracing Isaac’s Travels Using Land Patents
One of the most exciting parts of my research – and most rewarding – was tracing Isaac’s footsteps with the use of official land records. Owning land of course was central to the life of most pioneers – witness the Homestead Act described below.
I have found records of Isaac in connection with land deals in quite a few places – from his first purchase of a plot of land in Douglas County in 1870, via entitlement books registering land ownership in the Snake Valley to Isaac’s dividing up of his land between his three daughters and sons-in-law. I have also found references to “Gandie’s Farm” in books and on maps (courtesy Donna Frederick and BLM). Finally, after his death in 1904, there are detailed legal documents from the Probate Division of Millard County District Court. To a large extent these are about Isaac’s real estate holdings.
A fuller description of Isaac’s real estate holdings can be found in the attached document: . Here I will provide some details which may whet the reader’s appetite.
On June 13th 1870 Isaac purchased 80 acres of land in Douglas County from the government, right next to the California border. In the 1870 census it was valued at $500.
In the historic plat survey of 1878 there are three houses with land on the site of present day Baker – B. Lehman’s house, Baker’s house and Gandie’s house. The plat (map) also shows a series of tracks/roads leading to Garrison. The next plat to the west was owned by E. Heckethorn, first husband of Mollie Gandy.
In 1886 and 1887 Isaac bought 40 acres from Ed Nevins for $350 on Weber Creek, Snake Valley, and then sold it together with his own land for $1,100. This was called the White Ranch. For more details, read entry in the Entitlement Book for White Pine County, Nevada.
Between 1884 and 1901 Isaac was involved in a number of real estate sales and purchases with the land known as the Freeman Ranch, in all 160 acres, which Isaac divided between his three daughters.
In a legal process, descendants of Francis Freeman, who died in 1885 intestate, sued Isaac Gandy, E.H. Lake and Mary Heckethorn for the right of ownership of the 160 acres of land known as the Freeman Ranch, which Isaac had purchased from Bridgit Atkinson. Judgement was awarded in favour of Isaac and family.
Harriet inherited 80 acres of land in Garrison and 120 acres of stock range in Smithville, which was not fully paid for. Isaac’s house in Garrison – valued at $500 – burnt down during the legal process. The probate petition contains details of the value of Isaac’s property at his death. The land in Garrison was valued at $2,000, the stock range at $1,200 with improvements valued at $100 and personal property consisting of cattle and horses, buggy and harness, household goods and one Jack valued together at $400.
The Homestead Act of 1862
The Homestead Act has been described as one of the most important pieces of legislation in the history of the United States. The Act turned over a total of 270 million acres of land from the public domain to private citizens. To claim a 160 acre parcel of land, a homesteader had only to be the head of a household and at least 21 years of age.
A claim was made at the nearest Land Office. The plot of land was registered using its survey co-ordinates, for a small fee. The homesteader received the patent for the land, signed in the name of the President of the United States.
Land patents are of course a very useful source of information for genealogists. The system of co-ordinates used and standardised plot sizes – divisions of 160 acres – also made it possible to determine the geographical location of each plot of land. I have used this in identifying Isaac’s real estate holdings.
Reading about the Homestead Act I discovered some other sources of information about real estate – Land entry case files, Tract books and BLM General Land Office records, many of which are available on microfilm. The General Land Office has produced a primer to explain the system of measuring the area of real estate holdings.
If you want to find out more about “the greatest land sale in history” and how it shaped the United States, I would recommend reading “Measuring America” by Andro Linklater, 2002. He describes the origins of the standardised rectangular co-ordinate system used to survey the land west of the Ohio River and the origins of the grid system it imposed upon the unmapped land of the American landscape.