United States General Land Office, Washington DC, Land Patent, for JS, 7 Sept. 1838; printed form with manuscript additions in handwriting of two unidentified scribes; signature of by Martin Van Buren Jr. and signature of Joseph S. Wilson; Land Entry Case File 7874, Record Group 49, Records of the Bureau of Land Management, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington DC. Includes seal and docket.
One leaf measuring 16 × 10 inches (41 × 25 cm). The document was folded for transmission or filing. A paper seal attached to the bottom left corner of the recto contains the image of an eagle circumscribed by the words “United States General Land Office”. The form was apparently filled out by an unidentified recorder in the United States General Land Office in and then sent to the land office in , Missouri, where JS could obtain the document. However, the patent was never retrieved, and thus it remained filed in the Lexington land office. By 1922 all land offices in had closed, and the Bureau of Land Management assumed custody of Missouri land office documents. In 1945 the records were transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington DC.
Holding Report for Record Group 49, Records of the General Land Office, 7 Aug. 1945, Records of the Bureau of Land Management, National Archives, Washington DC.
Records of the Bureau of Land Management, 1685–1993. National Archives, Washington DC.
On 7 September 1838, three land patents were finalized in , granting JS the title to approximately 560 acres of land in the vicinity of , Missouri. Two years earlier, in June and September 1836, JS directed to apply on his behalf for three patents—land titles from the federal government indicating he owned the specified land. After the agents completed the applications at the regional land office in , Missouri, the applications were sent to the General Land Office in Washington DC for approval. The General Land Office was responsible for processing hundreds of thousands of patents and other federal land claims; because of severe understaffing, it was not uncommon for land patent approval to be delayed a year or more, as was the case with JS’s application. His three patents were prepared at the same time and originally dated 7 November 1837, but this date was knife erased in each document and replaced with the date of 7 September 1838. It is not known why the date was changed. It is also unclear whether Martin Van Buren Jr., the secretary signing on behalf of President , endorsed the patents in November 1837 or September 1838.
It is also unknown when the finalized patents were sent back to the land office in . Apparently, patent applications submitted to the General Land Office over a span of several months were processed by the general office and then returned to the Lexington office in one group. Transmitting the patents from to Lexington likely took around a month, meaning that if the three patents were sent in September 1838, they likely did not reach Missouri before October. News that patents had arrived probably spread through word of mouth or announcements in local newspapers. Given JS’s focus on the conflict with Missourians that began in early October, it is unlikely that he traveled to to obtain the patents if they had arrived by that time. Since many Saints applied for land in , Missouri, in summer and fall 1836, their patents were likely processed and returned along with JS’s; therefore, it is possible that one or two men were sent to Lexington to collect all of the patents that had arrived for the . Since the patent featured here remained in the possession of the Lexington land office, it was likely overlooked when JS’s other patents were apparently obtained from the Lexington office. The featured patent, also called a final certificate, is the only one of JS’s three patents still extant and is representative of the other two land patents.
The General Land Office apparently hired couriers to carry money and financial records between the regional land offices and the general office in Washington DC, but it is not known whether couriers carried land records. Transmission through the postal system may have taken a month or longer. Contemporary correspondence between individuals in Washington DC and Missouri took three to four weeks to arrive. (See, for example, E. A. Lampkin, Carrollton, MO, to Thomas G. Bradford, Washington DC, 8 Sept. 1838, Thomas G. Bradford, Correspondence, CHL.)
Bradford, Thomas G. Correspondence, 1822–1840. CHL.
Redress petitions made by Latter-day Saints in 1839 and 1840 indicate that Saints who had purchased land patents in Caldwell County in 1836 had the patents, also called certificates or duplicates, which proved their ownership of the land. (Simeon Carter, Affidavit, Lee Co., Iowa Territory, 2 Jan. 1840, Mormon Redress Petitions, 1839–1845, CHL; Johnson, Mormon Redress Petitions, xxviii–xxix; Bill of Damages, 4 June 1839.)
Mormon Redress Petitions, 1839–1845. CHL. MS 2703.
Johnson, Clark V., ed. Mormon Redress Petitions: Documents of the 1833–1838 Missouri Conflict. Religious Studies Center Monograph Series 16. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1992.
The Bureau of Land Management’s records contain filed copies of all three JS patents, indicating that all were received and processed by the General Land Office. (See Land Patents for JS, Caldwell Co., MO, nos. 7873, 7874, 8667, General Land Office Records, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of the Interior.)
General Land Office Records. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of the Interior. Digital images of the land patents cited herein are available at http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/.
To All to whom these Presents shall come, Greeting:
WHEREAS Joseph Smith Junior of hasdeposited in the GENERAL LAND OFFICE of the , a Certificate of the REGISTER OF THE LAND OFFICE atwhereby it appears that full payment has been made by the saidJoseph Smith Junioraccording to the provisions of the Act of Congress of the 24th of April, 1820, entitled “An act making further provision for the sale of Public Lands,” forthe West half of the South East quarter, of Section twenty two, in Township fifty six, North of the base line of Range twenty nine, West of the fifth principal Meridian, in the District of Lands, Subject to Sale at Missouri containing seventy eight acres and fifty six, hundereth of an acreaccording to the official plat of the survey of the said Lands, returned to the General Land Office by thesurveyor general, which said tract has been purchased by the saidJoseph Smith Junior
NOW KNOW YE, That the , in the consideration of the Premises, and in conformity with the several acts of Congress, in such case made and provided, HAVE GIVEN AND GRANTED, and by these presents DO GIVE AND GRANT, unto the saidJoseph Smith Juniorand tohisheirs, the said tract above described: TO HAVE AND TO HOLD the same, together with all the rights, privileges, immunities, and appurtenances of whatsoever nature, thereunto belonging, unto the saidJoseph Smith Juniorand tohisheirs and assigns forever.
IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I, PRESIDENT OF THE , have caused these letters to be made PATENT, and the SEAL of the GENERAL LAND OFFICE to be hereunto fixed.
givenunder my hand, at the , theSeventhday ofNovember <September>in the Year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred andthirty seven <eight>and of theindependence of the theSixty second <third>
BY THE PRESIDENT:
By M[artin] Van Buren Jr Secy
Jos S. Wilson Actingrecorder of the general land office. <ad interim>
Martin Van Buren Jr. apparently began working as a personal secretary for his father, President Martin Van Buren, in 1837, writing and copying the president’s correspondence. (Cole, Martin Van Buren, 343; West, Calendar of the Papers of Martin Van Buren, 306, 341, 344, 346, 358, 370.)
Cole, Donald B. Martin Van Buren and the American Political System. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984.
West, Elizabeth Howard. Calendar of the Papers of Martin Van Buren. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1910.