Two Old Homesteads

I am headed in two different directions with this post. One of my colonial New England ancestors, Rev. John Wise of Ipswich, Massachusetts (1652-1725), lived in a saltbox house on Route 133 between Essex and Ipswich, which is still standing today, over 300 years later. Part of Route 133 has been renamed “John Wise Avenue” and his house sits at 85 John Wise Avenue. However, as I began to research for information on the house, I discovered that a recently new-to-me blog, Stories From Ipswich, had, in January 2014,  written in some depth about the reverend and included a photo of the house.

I also discovered that this historic house was on the market in 2011 and sold for $435,000 (asking price was $479,000). Here is the realtor’s description posted on Old House Dreams, which includes a few interior photos.

7 minutes to Crane Beach. Rev. John Wise House. Many improvements without disturbing the best qualities of this wonderful 1701 antique saltbox. The roof, heating, septic, new chimney, updates to electric all within last 7 yrs. Set back from the road this property enjoys views to a 60 acre farm & has rose & perennial gardens & a private back yard. The wide pine floors(many 18″ wide) through out & 5 fireplaces add to the charm. 3 bedrm septic & town lists as 3 bedrm Walk up attic can be finished.

Between those two sources, there wasn’t much left to write about so, as I mentioned, I went in totally the opposite direction for choice number 2: the Homestead Act of 1862 and the papers issued to my husband’s scoundrel black sheep 2x great grandfather, Isaac Sturgell.

Isaac is the only family member discovered so far who received land under the Homestead Act. However, he took his time getting around to purchasing land. His application #3255 showed he paid the remaining $2.00 balance needed to record his land on 30 November 1876, well after the 1862 date when the act went into effect.

Isaac’s land was in Barry County, Missouri, Township 21, Section 23, Range 25.

The pages in the packet are not numbered, nor are they in chronological order. As I delved through the contents, I came across the original filing date of 7 January 1870. Isaac’s land was further identified as the NE1/4 of the NE 1/4 of the SW 1/4 of the NE 1/4 and contained a total of eighty acres.

To understand the PLSS (Public Land Survey System), pictorial grids come in very handy. Each piece of property was mapped into townships, ranges and sections. A township (each sized at 6 square miles) grid (numbered before it became a town and then given a name) marked off an area into 36 squares of equal size:

Kansas Society of Land Surveyors Diagram

Isaac’s land was in a township almost in the dead center of the original plat diagram.

Townships were further divided into ranges and sections:

Kansas Geological Survey Public Information Circular

In the “olden days,” I would be getting out a piece of paper, drawing all these boxes and plotting out where Isaac’s land actually was. Today, it is so much easier. Go to the Bureau of Land Management website, enter your ancestor’s name and state and let the website do the map plotting for you.

ScreenHunter_02 Jun. 16 12.17
BLM Website

Above is a screen shot of Isaac’s land plotted out near the town of Golden, located in the southwest corner of Missouri, very near the Arkansas state line.

While locating the actual site of his land was interesting, I found a few of the details in his homestead packet even more interesting.

Isaac was in the midst of his scoundrel ways. In 1870, he was married to wife #2, Susannah Douthit Alberty, who accused him of squandering the small inheritance she had received from her first husband. I have to wonder if the $7.00 that Isaac initially put down for the land purchase was actually Susannah’s money.

Second, I long suspected that Isaac was unable to read or write. This belief was confirmed by the fact that he signed the original 1870 papers with an X.

The third surprise that I found was that Isaac and his sons, George W. and Andrew J., more than stretched the truth – okay, they outright lied – on the final declaration needed to enter the property into the deed books. Like their father, Andrew and George were unable to write as they also signed their declarations with an X. In order to claim ownership of homestead land, the owner had to swear that he had lived on and improved the land between the time of the first application and final payment/filing.

Remember, Isaac first applied for land in January 1870; final payment was made on 30 November 1876. Take a look at the next two pages:

While Isaac was claiming to have lived on his land between 1870 and 1876, he was wandering through the Ozarks living in, and appearing on the tax rolls of several Arkansas counties! Andrew and George were well aware of this, as they were wandering in the same areas as their father.

As my readers know, I have written about Isaac and family multiple times in the past. While no photos exist of Isaac and he left no self-written records, a strong profile of this man has been created by the legal documents that do survive. A grandchild remembered him as a mean, old man. That is probably the nicest thing that anyone had to say about him.

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