Our farm is the site of a homestead originally settled in 1870.
A small but very impressive portion of our old homestead's history is chronicled in the following documents. They were painstakingly acquired in the early 1980's, pre-Internet, by the property owners that came before us. We proudly curate and display them for homestead visitors.
In all their handwritten and cursive glory, they provide a glimpse into the brave pioneering days of yesteryear.
For those unaware with the Homestead Act of 1862-- it was signed into law on May 20, 1862 by President Lincoln. The Act provided an area of public land, generally 160 acres, to persons who were willing to go westward to claim it.
A remarkable feature of this uniquely American law was its openness - it did not require that prospective homesteaders be American citizens or even men. Rather, any adult or head-of-household, including persons of color and women, who never took up arms against the United States could apply for this 'free' land in the West.
The Homestead Act basically required a three-step procedure:
1) File an application for an available tract of land;
2) Reside on the land for 5 continuous years and improve it by building a home and cultivating all of the land; and
3) Pay a nominal fee and file or the deed of title.
Although the process seems relatively straightforward, 5 years was a long span of time in those days. Five years spent cultivating 160 acres and building your own home...out in the wild, unsettled west. Many tried, not all succeeded.
Overview of the Homestead Family--
Nathaniel S. Gholson was born on February 14, 1840 in Illinois to Benjamin Gholson and Sara Jane Millspaugh. Nathaniel was the second of 7 children. According to 1856 census records, the family had relocated from Illinois to Mahaska County, Iowa. Those census records show Nathaniel working as a farmer alongside his Dad and older brother, Daniel.
In the book, Train of Innocents - Story of the Kennedy Wagon Train of 1862 by Everell Cummins, there are accounts which detail this train as having departed Mahaska County, Iowa, to take to the Oregon Trail the same year as the passage of the Homestead Act. These accounts indicate that the Kennedy train started in Iowa with 12 wagons, growing to as high as 80 wagons, with some 200 pioneers aboard.
Rosters from this covered wagon train include Daniel Gholson as a passenger. It is our belief that, as the eldest Gholson son, Daniel likely made the arduous journey as a prospector for the rest of the Gholson family. The Kennedy train is said to have arrived in Walla Walla on September 27, 1862.
We believe Daniel must have found the Walla Walla valley a prospective one, as his brother Nathaniel made the journey sometime shortly thereafter. A marriage certificate places Nathaniel here, having wed Louisa Morgan in Walla Walla on November 17, 1866. Nathaniel was 27 and his new bride was 17.
The Homestead Affidavit (above) is Nathaniel's application, which shows that he made the affidavit in Walla Walla on May 18, 1870 because the closes Land Office (where one would normally have filed) was over 250 miles away in Vancouver. A trip from Walla Walla to Vancouver would have been another incredible journey to undertake after making it to Washington in the first place.
Homestead Application 1148 (above) is considered his official "entry" and is referenced on all proceeding documents thereafter.
Homestead Application receipt (above) shows it was received and dated May 24, 1870. Based on the date of Nathaniel's application, it appears to have taken 6 days to reach the Land Office in Vancouver. Perhaps via Pony Express?
The receipt is for $16 in homestead application fees for 164 acres. That equates to 10 cents an acre! For perspective, $16 in 1870 dollars has approximately the same buying power as $290 today!
As the law required, the homesteader was to build a home, cultivate and farm the entire land for 5 continuous years; this is where the documents take a slight pause.
We are still researching tales of the Gholson's so that we might preserve this heritage for those that come after us. Where these 145+ year old papers drop off, we encourage you to let your imagination take over and fill-in the gaps. Travel back to the days of settling the West, before Washington had even joined the union and when it was still an expansive territory including some of present-day Oregon. Really give some thought about what those days must have been like. To build your own home by horse and hand, to farm the land in order to feed and sustain your family, to make a living and carve out a life, and to embody the American dream.
During those 5 years between the homestead application and completion, our research found that Nathaniel and Louisa's first child, Ella, was born and lived only a few months, and their second child, Benjamin, died at 3 years old in 1872. How difficult that must've been to lose two children so young, and even more difficult while trying to homestead. It is a reminder of the harsh reality of those times. But two other children were born during their homesteading process: William in 1872 and Charles in 1875. Nathaniel and Louisa would ultimately have 8 children in total.
Final Homestead Affidavit cover sheet (above) dated June 13, 1875 and just over the required 5 years after making the initial homestead application.
The non-mineral affidavit above confirms the homestead did not have any known deposits of coal, copper, silver or gold or anything that would be of value to the US Government.
The final affidavit from Nathaniel affirming he met the requirements of the Act. What next? Proof, of course!
There is nothing quite like true friends, especially those who will vouch for you!
We, J. Beauchamp and Ransom Wells, do solemnly swear that we have known Nathaniel S. Gholson over 5 years last past; that he is head of a family consisting of a wife and 2 children, a citizen of the United States; that he is an inhabitant of Lots 1, 2 and 3 of Section Number 15 in Township number 6N of Range No. 35E and that no other persons resided upon said land, entitled to the right of Homestead or Pre-Emption.
That said, Nathaniel S. Gholson, entered upon and made settlement on said land before the 24th day of May 1870 and has build a house thereon of logs and lumber 18x20 feet with a kitchen on one end 14x16 feed with good roof, doors and windows and has lived in the said house and made it his exclusive home before 24th May 1870 to the present time, and that he has, since said settlement, plowed, fenced and cultivated about 160 acres of said land, and has made the following improvement thereon, to wit: barn 30x44 feet, smokehouse, and other out buildings with fruit trees and shrubbery.
Final Receivers Receipt above shows that Nathaniel paid the $6 balance of the registration fee on June 12, 1875, bringing his full payment of $22 for 164 acres - not bad!
Homestead Certificate above was the 1875 equivalent to our modern day deed of title.
Last, but not least, the above document is the official recording of the Homestead transaction with the General Land Office - completed a few months after issuance of the Certificate in August 1875 - signed by none other than President Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of the United States.
We are humbled to call such a beautiful place home, and we are proud to share its heritage with you!