In part I of this series, we saw that Christian Troutfetter’s Thomas County, Kansas, homestead claim was delayed due to his lack of citizenship. We also saw that Troutfetter initially claimed that he was naturalized at the time he started his claim and that he later naturalized in Thomas County shortly before his claim was completed.
What was the deal?
There are three scenarios and none of them have to do with any attempt to defraud the government or to obtain a claim to which he was not entitled.
He lost his paperwork.
It is not unreasonable that Troutfetter was naturalized before his arrival in Kansas and that he lost his naturalization papers before he completed his homestead claim. However, if Troutfetter had done this, he could have requested a certified copy of his naturalization from the court that naturalized him. It seems very reasonable that Troutfetter would have known where he naturalized and could have requested the copy had that been the case. It certainly would have been easier than delaying his homestead application and naturalizing again. This scenario does not seem too likely.
He thought his intent was the real deal.
It’s possible that Christian thought his declaration of intention was sufficient. However, according to Christian’s later Thomas County naturalization, he did not have a declaration of intention or was unable to produce one. So Christian confusing his declaration with an actual naturalization seems unlikely. Most immigrants were familiar enough with the naturalization process to be aware the difference between declarations (“first papers”) and the actual naturalization (“final papers.”).
He thought he was naturalized but had no papers.
Many 19th century immigrants who arrived in the United States as minors with their parents became citizens when their father naturalized–as long as they were still a minor at the time of their father’s naturalization. Christian’s parents were also immigrants to the United States and it appears some of the family were here by the mid-1850s and possibly earlier when Christian would still have been a minor. If Christian’s father, Henry, naturalized while Henry was still a minor, then Christian would have been naturalized via his father’s naturalization. Christian may have believed his father was actually naturalized while Christian was still a child.
At this point, it is not known whether Henry Trautvetter naturalized or not. It is known that he did not naturalize in Hancock County, Illinois, where he eventually settled and died in the 1870s. The Trautvetters lived in other areas of the United States before settling in Hancock County, Illinois, in the 1850s and it is possible Henry naturalized in some other location.
It’s also possible that Henry never naturalized and Christian just thought his father had.
It’s also possible that the family was unable to find Henry’s naturalization. Henry and his wife, dead by the time Christian’s homestead application was filed, would not have been able to provide a location. If Christian was unable to document his father’s naturalization, he would have had to naturalize himself.
What is known is that Christian did naturalize in Thomas County, Kansas, shortly before his homestead application was approved in 1892.
We’ll never know why Christian claimed he was naturalized on his initial homestead entry.
All we have left are the records that he left behind.