An Illegal Homestead Filing: Part I

Cornelia Albers’ homestead claim in Dawson County, Nebraska, was not your typical homestead claim. Cornelia filed her claim before she was eligible to do so—four days shy of her twenty-first birthday. In an attempt to keep the claim in the family she transferred her improvements on it to her grandmother. Cornelia’s claim was to eighty acres in township 11 north range 25 west in Dawson County.

On 1 July 1884, Cornelia made the following statement in regards to her homestead claim. Cornelia admitted she was four days shy of her twenty-first birthday when she filed her claim on 17 December 1883, but she did not think the four day difference was significant enough to be a problem. Approximately two months ago she realized her filing was illegal due to her age and she transferred her improvements to her grandmother, Antje Albers. Antje Albers then entered into possession of said tract of land at once and began to improve the property and established her residence on the parcel of property on 17 June 1884. Antje has built a house on the property and has broken five acres on which she has planted corn and beans. The land office was closed or Antje would have filed her clam sooner and filed it as soon as she aware the land office was open—on 1 July 1884.

This is Cornelia’s affidavit, told from her perspective. It makes one wonder what caused her to realize that the four days were suddenly a problem. And why did she assign the improvements in the property to her grandmother? It is worth noting that Cornelia did not assign her claim to her grandmother—an apparent acknowledgement that her initial filing was invalid.

And there must be something about the date Antje Albers filed her claim, because Cornelia makes it clear that Antje filed her claim as soon as she was aware of the land office being open.

There is no completed patent file for this claim–either for Cornelia or Antje. These records were of an incomplete claim for the property in question held at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

Stay tuned…there’s more to this than Cornelia suddenly panicking about being a few days shy of twenty-one when she filed her claim.

 

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