Scrip Warrant Act of 1855



In the last post I told how my Tuesday ride ended in a thunderstorm. This scene of pasture land was toward the beginning of the same ride, about 16 miles from where I started in Spencer, Iowa. It’s in Section 3 of Waterford Township, Clay County.

Tonight I looked at plat maps and county histories for information about the original owners. I didn’t find anything to blog about, but the BLM’s land patent database told me that this land in Section 3 was purchased with military scrip warrants that had been issued to veterans of the War of 1812 (or to their heirs). It was all purchased at the Sioux City land office in the 1850s. The “authority” is listed as “March 3, 1855; ScripWarrant Act of 1855 (10 Stat. 701)”. Each land patent lists the name of the original veteran to whom the scrip was assigned, as well as the names of the persons who used it to purchase the land.

I’ve seen that sort of thing in the database for a lot of the land entries in this part of Iowa, so decided it was time to learn more about it. That eventually led me to a few resources that I’ll note here for future reference:

  • A rootsweb genealogy page that contains some helpful summaries, including a few words about the Scrip Warrant Act of 1855.
  • A paper by Paul Wallace Gates: “Charts of Public Land Sales and Entries” in The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 24, No. 1 (Mar., 1964), pp. 22-28
  • A book that I might purchase for myself: Hone, E. Wade. 1997. “Land & property research in the United States.” Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry.

I’ve recently been reading some other articles by Gates in an edited volume: Gates, Paul W., Allan G. Bogue, and Margaret Beattie Bogue. 1996. “The Jeffersonian dream : studies in the history of American land policy and development. Historians of the frontier and American West.” So it’s not surprising that his name would pop up in connection with this topic.

In the article he explains that the scrip was issued to veterans, who in turn sold it:

For the most part the veterans sold their right to warrant brokers who flourished on the purchase and sale of them. They were quoted daily in the New York papers, and large numbers were acquired by speculators for entering public land at prices as low as 50 cents an acre, although more commonly the warrants sold for 70 cents to $1.10.

There were times and places, such as Iowa in the 1850s, where it often was foolish to buy land from the government at the set price of $1.25/acre. Instead, one could purchase warrant scrip from a war veteran, usually through a broker and/or land speculator, and use that to purchase the land at a somewhat lower price than the usual $1.25/acre.

That seems to be how the land in the photo was purchased, though the details as to how much was paid by the first owner for the scrip are not known.

This article is tagged and categorized as follows:
  • When I was a kid, one of the cereal companies was issuing deeds to one square inch of Alaska. Wonder if I still have mine at home somewhere and how much it’s worth?

  • Spokesrider

    You could check it out and see if it would make a good tour destination!

  • Edward Wucklein

    I was glad to see your entry. I visited a distant cousin in Wellsville, MO who showed me one of the land grants on her farm. It began as a script warrent to a hispanic named salazar from Santa Fe, New Mexico which was recently annexed New Mexico. It was dated 1852 and went to a man be the name of Harris in 1854 but in the BLM web page I found both names on the warrent. The warrent was one of four given for the farm on which my cousin lives, the other 3 hispanics being from Taos, NM. The warrent was for service in the Indian Wars in the company of a Captain Valdez. When I typed in Spanish names on the search of Missouri land grants I found lots of Spanish names all through the state, and all were paired with non-Hispanics. I wondered, why were these vets paired? Why were their warrents in distant Missouri? etc.etc. What was the benefit to these young New Mexicans who were Mexican citizens until about 5 years before their military service?

  • Gerry Reiff

    are these bounty land grants signed by Abe Lincoln? and are they valuable. given to David ? Combs a t Council Bluffs, IA I have one and would like further info.