A Claim Association

A Methodist Circuit Rider's Horseback Tour
From Pennsylvania to Wisconsin, 1835
by Alfred Brunson

Here we learned a little of the way of settling this new country. The lands had been surveyed into townships, but not into sections, & of course not yet in Market. About 40 families had settled themselves about this grove. They had, in the absence of all other law, met & made a law for themselves. They have surveyed the township & assertained that section 16, the school section, was withing the grove, & they staked it off & appointed commissioners to take care of it, preserve the timber &c. so as to make it valuable as possible when the township should be regularly settled according to law. They had also meted & bounded every mans wood land, allowing each family 40 acres of timber, & as much Prairie as he pleased to take up. Timber being the great disideratum of the country, they would not allow any one man to monopolise. Forty acres was thought to be sufficient timber land, to make & sustain the fence, buildings & fires of a farm.

As this land was not in market at the time, & the pre-emtion law having run out, we asked what security they had, that speculators would not buy their lands & improvements, or make them pay what their own improvements were worth? The reply was, that there was an understanding in the country, equivolent to a law of the land, that the settlers should sustain each other against the speculator, & no settler should bid on anothers land.

If a speculator should bid on a settlers farm, he was knocked down & dragged out of the office, & if the striker was prosecuted & fined, the settlers paid the expense by common consent among themselves. But before a fine could be assessed, the case must come before a jury, which of course must be selected from among the settlers. And it was understood that no jury would find a verdict of guilty against a settler, in such a case, because it was considered a case of self defense. And if these means could not protect the settler, the last resort would be to "burn powder in their faces." These things being under stood no speculator dare bid on a settlers land, & as no settler would bid on his neighbor, each man gets his land at congress price, $1.25 pr. acre.


Prairie State, Compiled and Edited by Paul M. Angle
University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1968