The Fort Dodge Messenger: May 12, 1903
Title to 160 Acres is Now in Question
Webster County Land Which Was Once Included in Swamp Land Grant is Claimed by Denver Lawyer
The title of fifteen forty acre tracts of Webster county land, with an average value of fully $40 an acre ($958 today) and a total value of $24,000 ($574,788), is now in dispute, owing to an action taken by the county board of supervisors two years ago, at which time, on the recommendation of their agent, S.J. Bennett, they waived the rights of the county on these tracts, which were originally included in the swamp land grant. Upon t his action of the county the swamp land selections on these tracts were canceled by the United States land office at Des Moines.
All this time, the owners of the fifteen tracts in question were blissfully unconscious that anything was going on, no notice having been served upon them. When they learned what had been done, their titles had already been cancelled, and a Denver lawyer names Moses had filed application for the purchase of the lands for the regular government price, a proceeding which he was perfectly free to pursue under the law. The owners were notified a day or two ago, and by prompt action were able to reach the land office at Des Moines in time to give themselves at least a fighting chance to reclaim the title to their property. Had Mr. Moses go this payment to the land office before the files filed their remonstrance, he would have received the title to the land, but the remonstrance arrived first, and the matter will probably go to the interior department at Washington for final action. To save their title to the land, it will be necessary for the owners to undo all that has been done with the department in Washington and it will probably be considerable time before the litigation is concluded.
Attorney Frank Farrell, who has been retained to represent the present occupants of the land, gave the history of the transaction this morning as follows:
“Two years ago, an agent from the department of the interior in Washington came here to adjust the swamp land grant in this county. The board appointed as their agent in the matter S.J. Bennett, at that time a member of the board, who made a tour of the county with the representative of the interior department, and made a waiver upon part of the county covering some fifteen tracts of 40 acres each, on the theory that they were not swamp lands, and not properly included wihtin the swamp land grant.
“These tracts were all regularly selected as swamp lands as early at (sic) 1869 and the selection was reported to the proper officers of the state and the United States, but the county had neglected to call upon the governor of the state for the patents covering the same. All of these tracts were included in the sale of swamp lands made by the county in 1860. The county’s grantee sold them to different parties, and most of them have been transferred, by deeds of general warranty, many times during that period. All of the tracts have been regularly taxed for more than forty years. All are under improvement and cultivation, and all but three of the tracts have been continuously occupied by the owners for periods ranging from ten to twenty years. The other tracts have been occupied by tenants.
“It seems that in the adjustment with the agent from the interior department, the county, thru its agent, made formal waiver to its claim to the lands as being swamp lands. On the strength of this waiver the swamp land selections were cancelled at the United States land office at Des Moines and this cancellation was later approved by the general land office at Washington. The owners or occupants of these lands had no notice of the proceedings.
“Upon the approval of the cancellation, a Mr. Moses of Denver, Col., had an application on file for the purchase of the lands at the government price. Information as to the action that had been taken came to the owners and occupants a day or two ago, and action was taken immediately with regard to doing all that was possible to retain the title of the lands.”