Missouri Bicentennial Minutes: The Jackson Land Office Sells its First Land Parcels
One of the main reasons for an explosion of settlement in Missouri prior to statehood was available land. However, obtaining title was complicated.
First, residents the United States required that those receiving land grants from French and Spanish authorities had to have their claims endorsed after the Louisiana Purchase. A Board of Land Commissioners created to facilitate this process was too parsimonious. Many of these claims remained unsettled and in litigation. Additionally, Congress allowed claimants with land affected by the New Madrid earthquakes to apply for certificates to relocate.
Sales of land not included in these claims had to await survey. Settlers occupying this land lacked clear title, living on it as squatters. They pressured Congress to allow them to preempt the land, that is, have first right of refusal when the land was surveyed and sold.
Additionally, the government had to establish a process for land sales. The first office in St. Louis sold very little land in southeast Missouri. Many early purchasers were land speculators, who purchased large areas for resale. Timothy Flint observed that between 1816 and 1818 – “the rage for speculating in…lands was at the highest…The zeal to purchase amounted to a fever…immigration from the western and southern states to this country poured in a flood…We have numbered a hundred persons passing through the village of St. Charles in one day.”
The Jackson Land Office sold most land in southeast Missouri. Although Congress created the office in 1818, surveying and claim settlement delayed sales. The first parcel sold May 21, 1821, although the Washington office did not issue patents until 1823. The land flood in our area began!