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The foregoing total does not include the following entries the areas of which have previously been reported with original entries of the respective classes:
930, 876. 29
Commuted (act June 15, 1880)
Final desert land entries
Final homestead entries
Final timber culture entries
Total areas previously reported.......
55, 312. 51 2,504, 414. 51 97,836.08
In addition to the foregoing, and not included in the totals of lands disposed of, are pre-emption, homestead, and miscellaneous filings, viz:
Number of pre-emption filings...
Number of soldiers' declaratory statements..
The area of lands embraced in these filings aggregates 8,000,000
From fees for transcript of records furnished by General Land
Total receipts from public lands
Receipts from sales of Indian lands (trust funds).
8, 118. 05
11,088, 479. 43
625, 404. 27
11,713, 883. 70
ENTRIES AND FILINGS.
The total number of entries and filings posted during the year was 251,685, aggregating 30,000,000 acres. These entries and filings constitute claims of record awaiting completion and adjudication. The increase in number of claims recorded in 1883 was 55,548 over the year 1882, and 93,700 over the year 1881.
The number of entries approved for patenting under the pre-emption, homestead, timber-culture, desert-land, and other settlement and agricultural laws is 53,847, an increase over the previous year of 26,239.
Four thousand two hundred and seventy-four contested cases were examined and acted upon. Seventeen hundred and twenty-seven claims were confirmed by the board of equitable adjudication, an increase of 671 over the number adjudicated the previous year.
The number of patents issued on the various classes of entries and locations under the general land laws is 50,482, an increase over the previous year of 1,785.
The number of private cash entries was 11,104, embracing 2,179,955.14 acres, an increase of 255,458.99 acres; 2,285,710.35 acres were sold under the pre-emption law, an increase of 934,329.52 acres; 1,236,119.96 acres were embraced in commuted homesteads, an increase of 158,736.06 acres. The total cash sales, including land sold at public and private sale, preemption, commuted homesteads, mineral lands, timber and stone lands, &c., amount to 6,839,042.67 acres. The amount of receipts from cash sales is $9,657,032.28, an average of a fraction over $1.40 per acre.
Sixteen thousand acres of land were offered at public sale in the Gainesville, Fla., district. Three hundred and sixty acres were sold, and the remainder became subject to private entry.
Two million acres of pine-timber lands were offered in the Duluth, Minn., district, and 1,000,000 acres in the Saint Cloud district. About 268,000 acres were sold in both districts, at an average price of $1.90 per acre. The remainder of the lands became subject to private entry at the minimum price.
Ninety-eight additional townships, embracing 1,500,000 acres, were proclaimed for offering in the Saint Cloud district.
Eight thousand eight hundred and forty-five pre-emption entries were approved for patent in ex parte cases, and 741 contested cases were decided, the whole involving 1,500,000 acres.
Eleven thousand nine hundred and twelve new cases were received for action. The number of cases undecided June 20, 1883, was 12,542, an increase of the number in arrear of 2,370.
The number of pre-emption filings placed on record during the year was 47,933, which at 160 acres each would cover 7,669,280 acres.
The general disproportion running through terms of years between the number of claims initiated and the number perfected, and the vol ume of relinquishments of such claims which are apparently purchased by bona fide entrymen or others, satisfy me that pre-emption filings are made, or procured to be made, to a great extent for speculative purposes, and with no intention on the part of the person in whose name the filing is made to perfect the entry, or in any manner to comply with the law.
REPEAL OF THE PRE-EMPTION LAW.
In my last annual report I renewed the recommendation, frequently made by my predecessors, that the pre-emption law be repealed. Continued experience demonstrates the advisability and necessity of such repeal. The objection that much good has heretofore resulted from the pre-emption system, and that it should not be discontinued because abused, appears to me without good foundation under the chauged conditions created by the homestead law.
Before the homestead system was adopted the only method by which unoffered public lands could be obtained by settlers was by pre-emption. All the advantages of the pre-emption system are now embraced in the homestead laws. The same lands can be entered upon the same conditions and proofs and the payment of the same price under the homestead law as under the pre-emption law. We have simply a double system for the same purpose, employing two sets of machinery, two agencies of adjustment, and a duplication of records, when only one is required. The administration of the law would be simplified and the labor and expense lessened by a discontinuance of the now unnecessary system of pre-emption.
The number of original homestead entries during the year was 56,565, embracing an area of 8,171,914.38 acres, an increase of 11,234 entries and 1,823,769.33 acres over the previous year. Final proof was made on 18,998 entries, embracing 2,504,414.51 acres.
One thousand and ninety soldiers' additional claims were presented, of which 569 were approved and 156 rejected.
HOMESTEAD DECLARATORY STATEMENTS.
Four thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine soldiers' homestead declaratory statements were filed, covering 80,000 acres.
These declarations are in the nature of pre-emption filings. The present laws authorize their presentation by agent or attorney. Advantage is taken of this provision to obtain the authorization of soldiers to make filings which are used for speculative purposes by the agent or attorney. The soldier receives no benefit in such cases, but generally pays a fee which he is given to understand will procure for him 160 acres of land that he can sell without going upon it or even seeing it. I have made special effort to check the spread of this fraud upon soldiers of the country and upon the public land laws.
AMENDMENT OF THE HOMESTEAD LAWS.
The present laws and regulations permit settlers on unsurveyed lands who have maintained a residence of five years to make entry and give notice of final proof simultaneously after survey.
Parties who desire to obtain large quantities of land employ men to make entries on newly surveyed land, alleging residence long anterior to the survey. Notice of intention to make proof in thirty days is published, affidavits filed, final certificates issued, and the land patented before an opportunity is had to develop the facts and prevent the consummation of the illegal entry. Special agents report valuable lands in whole ranges of townships in certain districts to have been entered in this manner, when the land shows no evidence of settlement at any time, but is held as portions of large estates.
Notice to the world of claims to public land is a fundamental principle of the land laws. Thirty days' publication, which is frequently made in a distant or obscure newspaper, is insufficient notice for any practical purpose, especially when no entry has previonsly been recorded.
I think it important that provision be made by statute, fixing a period of not less than six months after a settlement claim has been placed on record before final proof shall be admitted, irrespective of alleged time of residence prior to entry.
The commutation feature of the homestead law is open to the same abuses as the pre-emption law. The alleged commutation settler is frequently a person employed at so much a month to sign entry papers and hold the claim long enough to enable his employer to secure title by commutation.
This system of illegal appropriation, which is especially made use of in obtaining title to lands of selected value and in large quantities, could be materially checked by an extension of the time within which a homestead entry may be commuted. The actual settler does not usually prefer to pay for his land when by continuing his residence upon it he can obtain title without price. It would be no hardship to require a period of residence sufficient to prevent the present easy evasion of the law. No time is fixed by statute as a condition of residence before commutation, but the same proof and payment may be made as in pre-emption cases. In these cases the regulations of this office require as a general rule that residence of six months shall be shown, and the same rule, is under the law, applied in commuted homestead cases. I deem it a matter not less important than the repeal of the preemption law that the homestead laws should be amended so as to require proof of actual residence and improvement for a period of not less than two years before a homestead entry may be commuted by cash payment.
Twenty thousand six hundred and one timber-culture entries were made, embracing 3,110,930.23 acres, an increase of 3,444 entries and 554,244.14 acres. Final proof was offered on 723 entries, embracing. 97,836.08 acres.
REPEAL OF THE TIMBER-CULTURE-LAW.
In my last annual report I called attention to the abuses flowing from the operations of this act. Continued experience has demonstrated that these abuses are inherent in the law, and beyond the reach of administrative methods for their correction. Settlememt on the land is not required. Even residence within the State or Territory in which the land is situated is not a condition to an entry. A mere entry of record holds the land for one year without the performance of any act of cultivation. The meager act of breaking five acres, which can be done at the close of the year as well as at the beginning, holds the land for the second year. Comparatively trivial acts hold it for a third year. During these periods relinquishments of the entries are sold to homestead or other settlers at such price as the land may command.
My information leads me to the conclusion that a majority of entries under the timber-culture act are made for speculative purposes and not for the cultivation of timber. Compliance with law in these cases is a mere pretence and does not result in the production of timber. On the contrary, as one entry in a section exhausts the timber-culture right in that section, it follows that every fraudulent entry prevents a bona fide one on any portion of the section within which the fraudulent entry is made. My information is that no trees are to be seen over vast regions of country where timber-culture entries have been most nu
Again, under the operation of the pre-emption, homestead, and timber-culture laws, any one person may enter 160 acres in each class of entry, making a total of 480 acres which may be taken by one person. The
power to acquire that quantity of public land by single individuals, while so many of the citizens of the country are landless, is contrary to the general spirit of the public land laws, and, I think, not in consonance with approved public policy.
This objection would hold to the timber-culture act if the law was generally complied with in good faith, or if its provisions requiring the planting and cultivation of timber were capable of enforcement. I am convinced that the public interests will be served by a total repeal of the law, and I recommend such repeal.
Two thousand one hundred and twelve mineral entries were made and 2,312 applications and 390 adverse claims filed. The sales of mineral lands amounted to 47,133 acres, of which 15,612 were coal lands. Two thousand five hundred and twenty cases were examined. One hundred and nineteen contests were received and thirty-one disposed of. One thousand seven hundred and fifty mineral and coal patents were issued. The number of cases undisposed of at the close of the fiscal year was 2,645.
Twelve hundred and fifty-four desert-land entries were made, embracing 436,633.69 acres, an increase over the previous year of 656 entries and 271,677.75 acres. Final proof was made on 215 entries, embracing 55,312.51 acres.
The desert-land act provides that proof of reclamation and final payment shall be made within three years from date of entry. A large number of cases is on the files of this office in which the time has past and proof has not been made as required. At the expiration of the three years the parties were called upon to show cause why their entries should not be canceled. Such showing was made in but few instances. With a view to saving the equities of those who may have attempted in good faith to reclaim the lands entered, but may have been prevented from so doing by the great expense of obtaining water, or other good cause, it has been determined, with your concurrence, to make another call, and give to entrymen a further opportunity to make proof or to show cause for failure.
It has been represented that desert-land entries have largely been made for speculative purposes, in violation of the restrictions of the act, and in many instances upon lands naturally productive, and that lands are held fraudulently under the entry without attempt or intention of reclamation, but are occupied or leased for grazing and other pur poses. Investigations so far made of alleged illegal entry under the desert-land act tend to confirm these allegations.
The theory of the desert-land law is, that the encouragement of irrigation required the disposal of land in larger quantities than 160 acres. This theory has not been sustained, as general systems of irrigation are adopted for the distribution of water, which are equally as available to the owners of small tracts as of large ones. The practical operation of the desert-land law has heretofore been to enable land to be purchased without settlement, and in quantities in excess of the limit established by the settlement laws, thus resulting in the encouragement of monopoly rather than the encouragement of reclamation.
TIMBER AND STONE LAND ENTRIES.
Two thousand one hundred and one entries, embracing 297,735.50 acres, were made under the timber and stone land act of June 3, 1878 (chiefly timber-land entries), being an increase of 1,373 entries and