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Bureau of Land Management

Understanding Land Patents

Land Offices were established in the district handling the land transactions. They would frequently move and close within the States as the land within their jurisdiction degan dwindling.

Legal Land Descriptions are described in numbered townships in tiers north and south of the base line and ranges east and west of the principal meridians. townships are subdivided into thirty-six sections with typical land entries containing 40 to 320 acres. they are described into aliquot parts, i.e., NE/14NE1/2 Sec. 10, T. 2N., R. 3 W., Firth Principal Meridian, Arkansas.

Types of Land Patents

Cash Entry: An entry that covered public lands for which the individual paid cash or its equivalent.

Homestead: A Homestead allowed settlers to apply for up to 160 acres of public land if they lived on it for five years and proof of cultivation. This land did not cost anything per acre, but the settler did pay a filing fee.

Public Lands History

1820: Public land sales boomed. The Act of April 20, 1820, authorized land to be sold for a minimum of $1.25 per acre and tracts as small as 80 acres. Public lands initially offered for sale by district Land Offices were sold a pre-aanounced, scheduled public auction. If any land remained unsold, the parcels would be available for purchase at a minimum price on a first-come-first-served basis.

1862: Homestead Act. Allowed settlement of public lands and required only residence and improvement and cultivation of the land. Any person, a citizen or person intending to become a citizen, 21 years of age or older, and the head of a household could make application. With five years residence and improvements/cultivation, only a $15.00 fee was required to get 160 acres. Repealed in 1976.

1877: Desert Land Act passed permitting disposal of 640-acre tracts of arid public lands at $1.25 per acre to homesteaders if they proved reclamation of the land by irrigation.


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