Thursday, December 8, 2016

Homesteading in Dakota Territory: Gleeson and Sullivan Families


Five of my Gleeson and Sullivan ancestors applied for and received a patent on federal land in the Dakota Territory: John Gleeson, Martin Gleeson, John J. Gleeson, Ann Gleeson, and John Sullivan.  They all started as homestead applications. Homesteading involved three steps: filing the application, improving the land, and then filing the deed of title.[1]

Here, John Gleeson of Davison County, Territory of Dakota, filed an application no. 14941 on 14 Dec 1880.[2]




He also filled out a form swearing to the size of his family and that he had intentions of becoming a citizen of the United States.[3]


In 1880, he claimed his family consisted of his wife and six children. He, in fact, had ten children. Three of them filed their own homestead applications: Martin, Ann, and John J. Gleeson.[4]
The requirement of fulfilling the homesteading steps was to improve the property. They had to cultivate crops, build a dwelling 12 by 14 feet, and live continuously on the property for five years. If they completed the process they were rewarded with the 160 acres. Homesteading was difficult. The weather in Dakota Territory was harsh. The land was not easy to cultivate.

John Gleeson did complete the process. On 20 Feb 1886, he filed at the Mitchell, Dakota Territory Land Office, his final proof to establish his claim to the land, described as W ½ NE ¼ and E ½ NW ¼ of Section 9 in Township 104, Range 6.[5] He had four witnesses who would testify (or document) that he fulfilled the requirements.




John Gleeson and the witnesses were cross-examined and their answers recorded on paper. One of the questions was asked about the residence and the characteristics of the house.  John replied,
“June 14, 1881. Frame house 12 by 12 feet with floor, door trim, widow. Cost me $40.00 I put into said house at that time a good bed stead and bedding, cooking stove, a table, 4 chairs and cooking utensils worth $70.00.”
He was also asked about when his family lived on the land. 
“From the spring of 1882 (about the month of May) up to August 1883 they were away from the land about 2/3 of the time prior to May 1882. They were not residing with me at all to speak of. Since August 1883 up to the present time during the winter months of 1883-84 and 1884-85 and 1885-86 four of my children has been absent from the land about three months each winter to school at Mitchell except on Sundays but the balance of the time they have been at home.
“My family was absent from the land up to May 1882 because I had not a suitable house in which to keep them in and had not the means until I raised crops in 1882 to build a suitable residence for them and my wife had a good house in town where they could live and go to school.”
Another question asked was what business was he in when he made the application. His reply, 
“Teaming in Mitchell. I continued the business the following winter and in the spring of 1881 up to June 14, 1881. Since which I have not followed that business except perhaps occasionally a day when nothing to do on my farm.”
He was also asked how many days he was absent from the land. John replied, 
“I have not been absent from the land at all except now and then or part of day or day to town or other places on business in connection with said land since June 14, 1881. I have slept on this land at least 1400 nights.”

His signature at the end of the affidavit
There was another affidavit form that he may have filled out himself. On it he gave more detail about the house he built. 
“It was a frame house 12 by 12 feet. I built a larger and better house in September 1883 18 by 24 feet and 1 ½ stories high, shingle roof, pointed & plastered: a barn & granary 28 by 32 feet 10 feet high shingle roof – frame building, cow shed 100 X 20 feet 10 feet high boards & frame covered with straw. Horse barn frame 24 feet square & up 156 acres under cultivation: plowed 5 acres in ?? & fruit trees now in good condition, fenced 40 acres: value $2600.00.”[6]
The description of his property on the land gives us a better feel for what he had accomplished on the property. I could not read what he planted that was listed in front of fruit trees.

His land was patented on 17 Dec 1887 and recorded in volume 19 on page 319.  He also purchased 40 acres at one dollar and twenty-five cents per acre totaling fifty dollars.[7] So that brought his total acreage to 200 acres.

I don’t know how he disposed of this land. In 1900, he and his family were living in Mitchell as renters and he had no occupation.[8] Land records were not filmed by FamilySearch so I will need to request land records from Davison County, hire a researcher to obtain the land records, or visit Mitchell and do my own research. I hope I can do that this summer.

I also want to thank Victoria Kinear for pulling these records for me at NARA.



[1] “The Homestead Act of 1862,” National Archives (https://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/homestead-act : accessed 7 Dec 2016).
[2] Homestead Application, Application No. 14941, 14 Dec 1880, John Gleeson application file bearing final certificate no. 14497, Mitchell, South Dakota, Land Office; Land Entry Papers 1800-1908, Record Group 49, Records of the Bureau of Land Management, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
[3] Homestead Affidavit, Application No. 14941, 14 Dec 1880, John Gleeson application file bearing final certificate no. 14497, Mitchell, South Dakota, Land Office; Land Entry Papers 1800-1908, Record Group 49, Records of the Bureau of Land Management, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
[4] For Martin Gleeson, see Application Nos. 4680 & 7035. For Ann Gleeson, see Application No. 4681. For John J. Gleeson, see Application Nos. 9970 & 27458.
[5] Homestead Proof, Application No. 14941, 5 Jan 1886, John Gleeson application file bearing final certificate no. 14497, Mitchell, South Dakota, Land Office; Land Entry Papers 1800-1908, Record Group 49, Records of the Bureau of Land Management, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
[6] Homestead Application, Homestead Proof, Testimony of Claimant, Application No. 14941, 20 Feb 1886, John Gleeson application file bearing final certificate no. 14497, Mitchell, South Dakota, Land Office; Land Entry Papers 1800-1908, Record Group 49, Records of the Bureau of Land Management, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
[7] Homestead Application, Cash Entry No. 14497, 17 Dec 1887, John Gleeson application file bearing final certificate no. 14497, Mitchell, South Dakota, Land Office; Land Entry Papers 1800-1908, Record Group 49, Records of the Bureau of Land Management, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
[8] 1900 U.S. census, Davison Co, SD, pop sched, ED 112, Sheet 12a, p 45 (stamped), Mitchell Twp., household 173, family 185, John Gleeson, digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed  14 Nov 2012); citing NARA T623.

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