In 1998 my mother called me to talk about how much she would enjoy having one of the new “special” license plates Colorado had started a year earlier. “Oh that sounds great Mom, why don’t you go ahead and get one?” was my question to her. “Well,” she said, “I need proof that my grandfather homesteaded in Colorado 100 years ago. This is for Pioneer license plates.”
The Challenge: “Since you live downtown, just a block from the main library, you should go over there and look up the records.” she said. Wait, I’m a self employed business owner, I don’t have time to spend in a library! But she asked so nicely, and how could I disappoint my mother when she was being nice?
I walked over to the library, a whole block and a half, thinking this should be easy. It wasn’t. This is a seven story building that takes up one half of a city block. Although my tax dollars helped pay for it, I had never been in this building.
I boldly approached the librarian and said I needed to find proof of my great grandfather living in Colorado 100 years ago. She advised me to go to the 5th floor which is Western History and Genealogy. It was intimidating to step out of the elevator, historic art work, tables everywhere, rows and rows of books, computers and large machines. Later I found out these machines were microfilm readers which unknown to me at the time I would be spending hours and hours in front of.
Once again I presented my request to the librarian at the information desk and he just looked at me, paused for a moment and asked if this was my first visit to Western History and Genealogy. “Guilty, “I said,” My mother wants to get Pioneer License plates.”
After determining that I didn’t know my great grandfather’s full name, his birth date or his death date, he advised me to check the GLO records which would tell me if he had applied for a land patent through the Homestead Act. Oh, how very helpful this librarian was until he said “We don’t have the GLO records here, you will need to go to the Bureau of Land Management.” It was very hard for me to make the call to my mother and tell her I was not successful at the library and I was referred to another government office to look up homestead records.
Anyway, off to the Bureau of Land Management office I went. The gentleman there only needed the name of my great grandfather to access the records. He found more than one application. My great, great grandfather Jacob Foreman had applied for the Homestead Act ($5.00) as well as the Timber Culture Act ($5.00) in 1890. My great grandfather Robert Sidney Foreman had applied for the Homestead Act in 1892 as did his sister Arte Mesa Foreman for $5.00 each. The requirements were they must be 21 years of age and live and work the land for 5 years and then the Land Patent would be granted. I paid for the copies of the applications and the copies of the Land Patent Warrants. All of the applications and warrants were dated prior to 1897 and I felt my duty was complete.
Then I started reading these documents. The Foreman’s had traveled from their home in tiny Vernon, Colorado, 10 miles south of Wray, Colorado more than 60 miles to Akron, Colorado, to receive their applications and warrants.
The Warrants were signed by President Harrison in 1890 and William McKinely in 1897. The lots were 160 acres. For the Timber Culture Act, Jacob had to plant trees on the 160 acres. If you are not familiar with this north east part of Colorado it is called the “high plains.” there are no trees and little if any water other than the Republican River and a branch of the Platte River.
The plat for the area shows the lots for Jacob on the east and west side of two county roads on the north intersecting with Robert and Arte Mesa’s lots on the east and west side on the south. This family owned the land around an entire intersection of major north/south, east/west county roads for a total of 640 acres.