Yuma County, Colorado

Original Land Patents

This 1889 photograph shows a typical Yuma County homestead. Pictured are the John W. Albright family standing in front of their sod home five miles west and 2 miles south of Vernon in the SW¼, Section 34, Township 1 South, Range 45 West. Mr. Albright, one of the first settlers in the Vernon area, "proved up" his claim for the quarter and his homestead act patent was signed December 11, 1891. He also had a timber claim in the NW¼, Section 20, Township 2 South, Range 45 West patented in 1900.

We compiled land patent information from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), General Land Office, Land Patent Database to make township tract maps depicting the original land owner and the year of the patent along with showing today's road network..

The tract maps are in Adobe Acrobat Portable Document Format (PDF). To view and print the maps you must have a copy of the Acrobat Reader™. These maps are not viewable by WebTV visitors.

The index map and the table below are "click-able". To download and view a township map click on the target township in the index map or use the township link in the table. These township map plates are sized to print on standard 8½ x 11 paper at 300 dpi.

PDF Map Key  
5N48 5N47 5N46 5N45 5N44 5N43 5N42
4N48 4N47 4N46 4N45 4N44 4N43 4N42
3N48 3N47 3N46 3N45 3N44 3N43 3N42
2N48 2N47 2N46 2N45 2N44 2N43 2N42
1N48 1N47 1N46 1N45 1N44 1N43 1N42
-------Baseline (40° North)------
1S48 1S47 1S46 1S45 1S44 1S43 1S42
2S48 2S47 2S46 2S45 2S44 2S43 2S42
3S48 3S47 3S46 3S45 3S44 3S43 3S42
4S48 4S47 4S46 4S45 4S44 4S43 4S42
5S48 5S47 5S46 5S45 5S44 5S43 5S42

There is a By Name Index ( A-C | D-F | G-K | L-O | P-S | T-Z ) for the land patent maps. Each township plate also has an included index page with errata notes to aid in locating the patents within that township. No attempt was made to duplicate all the information found in the BLM database.

The township plates show most of the current Yuma County road network to help locate the patents on modern maps. While each of the plates is sized to print on 8x11 paper, they are not all sized to the same printed scale so you won't be able to trim the margins and tape them edge to edge to create a larger county map as you could with the "1976 Vernon Area Centennial" map sections.

Lee created a blank township map (24kb PDF) with the sections subdivided into '40s' to aid in plotting land ownership from the legal descriptions. You are welcome to download it and print it to use for your own research.

Land Patent Dates:

The dates of the patents in the BLM database and the year of the patents shown on these maps reflect the date the signed final patent document was issued by a clerk in the Department of Interior in Washington D.C. and not the day the settler "proved" his claim at his local land office and became the owner. During most of the time period covered by these patent maps, the final patent document was signed for the President and mailed from Washington D.C. about a year after the settler had finalized his claim at the local land office.

Common Land Patent Types:

Land cost and fee structures quoted below are those of the 1890s and varied over the years. Homesteading in Colorado under all of these land patent acts except cash sales ended before 1935.

Cash Sale
The basic federal land sale law established in 1820 provided only for cash sale of government land. The land claimant filed an "Entry" with the land office ($3.00 fee), lived on a selected quarter of land, made improvements and after six months could purchase the land for as little as $1.25 an acre. That amounted to a total outlay of $200 for a 160 acre quarter section. The cash price of the land varied by location and better land cost much more. In other areas cash land sales were done by land office auction or "over the counter" with no requirement for residency. The amount of land a settler could purchase varied over the years as did the "residency" requirement. After 1890 cash sales were limited to 320 total acres of all types per person.
Pre-Emption (a type of cash sale)
The source of the local use of the term "pre-emption" to describe all federal cash land sales is unknown. Under the federal land law, pre-emption was a special term used to recognize that many people had settled on federal lands prior to the original government survey and opening the area to settlement. Those pioneer settlers (often labeled "squatters") had a firm right, preempting all other claims, to purchase the land they had been living on. Their cash sale patents had a hand written or stamped notation "Pre-emption" to indicate the special circumstances of the transfer.
Scrip or by Nature of Scrip
There were several patents issued in Yuma County citing an 1842 Act of Congress dealing with "Scrip or by Nature of Scrip" So what the heck was "Scrip?" My first thought was that the law dealt with private banknotes, but that proved to be wrong. In general terms the documents recognized by the 1842 act were certificates issued by the various levels of government that could be used to claim land. Examples are Federal and State Land Bounty warrants (an enlistment and service bonus issued to volunteers in the Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Mexican War) and Land Scrip issued by the various General Land Office areas when cash land sales were oversubscribed. There were other forms of "land scrip." Many were converted to cash by selling them to speculators shortly after they were issued; others were passed on in the family for years before they were finally redeemed.

Note: Land certificates, scrip and land grants issued by foreign governments, i.e. France, Spain and Mexico, were handled under the "Private Land Claim" laws not the 1842 Scrip act.
Under the Homestead Act of 1862 a settler could claim up to 160 acres of empty federal land simply by going to the local land office, filing an "intent" with a $16.00 fee ($3.00 for veterans) and establishing permanent residence on the land within six months of the filing. After making the necessary improvements (building a house), establishing the required crop acres (usually 40), and living on the land five years, the settler visited the land office with his witnesses and "proved up." A $6.00 commission was charged (to swear and interview the settler and his witnesses) and after a public notice of the pending transfer the land patent was issued. The five year residence requirement was later loosened a bit requiring the settler to actually live on the land for only three years. In 1909 the Homestead Act was amended to provide 320 acre homesteads.
Timber Culture
When the high plains was originally settled the few native trees were all located along the streams. Settlers could claim up to 160 acres of open federal land under the 1873 Timber Culture Act by establishing a wood lot on 10 acres of the quarter section of land. There was no requirement to live on the land. The filing fee for the "intent" was $14.00. During the first year, the settler had to break out five acres of sod and prepare it for a crop. In the second year he was required to plant the first five acres to a crop and break out an additional five acres of sod. In the third year he planted the first five acres with trees and the second five to a crop. In the fourth year the last five acres were planted to trees. There was a long list of "approved" tree types that could be used but the settler had to plant 2,700 trees and when he proved his claim his ten acre wood lot had to have 675 established trees. Trees had to be four years old to be considered established so it normally required a minimum of eight years work to "prove up" a timber claim. If drought killed the tree seedlings the time period to meet the requirements could be extended up to 14 years from the date of the original intent. (As an exception, during the widespread drought of the early 1890s the BLM waived the number of established trees as long as the owner had met the time and acre requirement.)

Desert Land Irrigation
There were a few Yuma County patents filed under the 1877 Desert Land Irrigation (Reclamation) Act. This was a form of cash sale that didn't prove popular. A settler could claim up to a half section of open federal land by paying $0.25 per acre up front, diverting surface water to the land within three years of the "entry" and using the water to irrigate 1/8th of the total acres claimed. When the settler proved up the claim he had to pay an additional $1.00 per acre.
Livestock Raising
Western congressmen added the 1916 Stock Rasing Act to the 1862 homestead land laws. By the 1920s, settlers could claim up to 320 acres of open federal land by making improvements, putting the land to beneficial use for a number of years as a part of their ranching operation and paying the per acre fee when proving up. Many 1920s Yuma County patents were issued under the act.

A settler could acquire land under all of the acts. Editorial advice in local newspapers in the 1890s (before the livestock act and before the expansion of the homestead act to 320 acres) suggested prospective settlers start with a "pre-emption" and a "timber claim" both filed the first year on the land. In the second year (after finalizing the cash sale) the settler would file the intent on his "homestead." After only eight years he would be the proud owner of 480 acres of federal land with a total cash outlay of under 50¢ per acre.

All US citizens (defined as single men and single women over 21, and all married men regardless of age) were eligible. Married women could not file an original intent but could "prove up" a claim dating from prior to her marriage. Each person was eligible for only one "homestead" and one "timber culture" patent in their lifetime although they could "relinquish" or transfer their claim to another eligible person and re-establish their rights. They could also move from one area to another and transfer the time of residence from the original claim to the new claim.

In 1902, U.S. Congressman from Nebraska's 6th District Moses P. Kinkaid introduced legislation that enlarged a homestead from the 160 acres per the Homestead Act to 640 acres in just thirty-seven northwestern Nebraska counties. Kinkaid originally tried to get more land into the act, but Congress representatives from the crowded eastern states couldn't fathom why anyone would need so much space.
The intent of the act was to give both farmers and ranchers more of a chance to be productive in the relatively arid Sandhills. Land that could be irrigated was exempt from the law, because people would pay real money for those acres. President Theodore Roosevelt signed the bill into law on April 28, 1904.a People who took homesteads under the Kinkaid Act were known as Kinkaiders, and there were quite a few of them. From the time the bill was signed until 1917, over nine million acres were distributed. That figured out to be roughly 14,000 individual claims.
It is difficult to gauge the effect of the Kinkaid Act accurately. Much of Nebraska's Sandhills region was unsuited for farming, and 640 acres was not a large enough piece of land to ranch successfully. Farmers who claimed land through the Kinkaid Act mostly failed, due to the arid dune topography of the affected land. Ranchers, however, profited by taking over land that the homesteaders abandoned.


Date of Settlement:

With the land patent information it is possible to establish a probable year of the settlers original arrival on the land without having to request a copy of the original land office patent file from the National Archives.
A few examples:
o An 1888 "cash sale" patent would reflect an arrival date about 18 months prior to the patent date.
o An 1895 "homestead act" patent date would date to an intent filed in 1889.
(1895 minus the 1 year patent delay minus the 5 year residence = 1889)
o A 1900 "timber claim" would date to an intent filed in 1891 or earlier.
(1900 minus the 1 year patent turnaround minus the eight year minimum = 1891)


Using the Maps

When you view these maps you need to remember what they don't show. They don't show your ancestor in context with his neighboring landowners since land with 1882 patents joins land with patents issued 50 years later in the 1930s. They don't show land sold by the state. The maps also don't show the extent of any individual landowner's holdings. For answers to those questions you need to consult a standard ownership map of the period.

Return to the Yuma County Data Page.

You might also want to look at the 1922 Standard Atlas of Yuma County which has land ownership plates for every township in the county.

T5S R42W T5S R43W T5S R44W T5S R45W T5S R46W T5S R47W T5S R48W T4S R42W T4S R43W T4S R44W T4S R45W T4S R46W T4S R47W T4S R48W T3S R42W T3S R43W T3S R44W T3S R45W T3S R46W T3S R47W T3S R48W T2S R42W T2S R43W T2S R44W T2S R45W T2S R46W T2S R47W T2S R48W T1S R42W T1S R43W T1S R44W T1S R45W T1S R46W T1S R47W T1S R48W T1N R42W T1N R43W T1N R44W T1N R45W T1N R46W T1N R47W T1N R48W T2N R42W T2N R43W T2N R44W T2N R45W T2N R46W T2N R47W T2N R48W T3N R42W T3N R43W T3N R44W T3N R45W T3N R46W T3N R47W T3N R48W T4N R42W T4N R43W T4N R44W T4N R45W T4N R46W T4N R47W T4N R48W T5N R42W T5N R43W T5N R44W T5N R45W T5N R46W T5N R47W T5N R48W