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The Preemption Act of 1841

April 15, 2013

In 1841, Congress enacted a general preemption statue applicable to all surveyed public lands, offered and unoffrerd. The Preemption Act of 1841 permitted the head of a family, widow, or single man over 21 years of age with a one time opportunity to preempt up to 160 acres of land within the public domain. The law required that the preemptor to b a U. S. citizen or have filed a declaration of intent to become a citizen. In addition, a preemptor could not own more than 320 acres in any state or territory. The preemption Act was amended in 1862 to include unsurveyed lands.

The statutory preemption price was $1.25 per acre. But, in the case of land within the alternating sections of the land granted by the federal government to the railroad companies, a claimant was required to pay the higher preemption price of $2.50 per acre. Up to 160 acres could be preempted in these alternating sections.

If a preemptor settled on unoffered, unsurveyed lands, he was required to file an intention to preempt within three months of settlement. He was required to prove up and pay the preemption price no later than 33 months after the date of settlement, but could prove up as early as 6 months from the date of settlement if desired. If a claimant settled on previously offered lands, he had 30 days from the time of settlement to obtain a preemption certificate from the land office. H has only 12 months from the date of his preemption certificate to prove up and ay the preemption price, but as with unoffered lands, he could prove up as early as 6 months from the date of settlement if desired.


In connection with the proving up his claim, a preemptor was required to attest, and to have two witness’s who could attest, that he met the requirements on the Preemption Act and that the preemption claim has been his primary residence for the applicable period.



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