MO Bicentennial Minutes: Settling Land Titles in the Town of Jackson
On August 25, 1821, the heirs of James Mills conveyed a tract of 150 arpens, or about 127 acres, to the executors of the estate of Joseph Seawell in Cape Girardeau County. The land included 55 acres conveyed to the town of Jackson by Seawell in 1814, when commissioners platted the new county seat. The land was part of a Spanish land grant owned by James Mills in 1799, which he intended to convey to Rees Meredith in 1801. Mills posted bond to execute the deed by April 1, 1805, but Meredith died in 1802. Complicating matters further, James Mills died by 1806. The land passed to other owners despite the murky title, finally to Seawell.
A questionable title created uncertainty for buyers of town lots, necessitating filing a lawsuit. The result was one of the few orders issued in the area by the short-lived Superior Court of Chancery. The order and deed allowed unimpeded settlement of Jackson. Seawell’s executors executed a confirmatory deed in September 1823 to clear title fully.
This situation was all too common in Missouri during the time of statehood. Original recipients of land grants often sold all or part of their grant, sometimes without recording a deed. The Louisiana Purchase called into question the title to all French and Spanish land grants, requiring a government land commission to confirm or reject claims. From the settler’s point of view, what was originally inexpensive land often became a series of expensive appearances before the land commissioners, costs of court cases, and legal actions that spanned generations. Another such situation involved a grant of Louis Lorimier that included Cape Girardeau, and remained in question until 1836.