What Is a Land Grant? (Part 2): Grants to Individuals for Homesteading and Settlement

A land grant is an award of land to a recipient with the requirement that a public purpose, as defined by legislation, is served through the grant. Last week, we covered land grant colleges and universities, which are great examples of land grants achieving lasting benefits in the United States of America.

Land Grants for “Homesteading”

The passage of the Homestead Act of 1862 established a land grant program that allowed individuals, both U.S. citizens and intended citizens, to apply for 160-acre plots of land. “Homesteading” was a term referring to the process of moving west onto land in unsettled territories and cultivating the land.

Recipients of the Homestead Act land grants were required to live on the land for 5 years and improve it by growing crops and building a dwelling of at least 12 by 14 (the legislation didn’t specify feet or inches, which presented some problems—current grant policies are more thorough and careful now). After five years, recipients could apply for the deed of title to own the land permanently.

It is worth noting that the Homestead Act of 1862 and the Morrill Land-Grants Acts of 1862 & 1890 were signed into law amidst the historical backdrop of one of the most important and transformational periods in U.S. history. These land grant programs were created and implemented during the American Civil War, Reconstruction Era, and industrialization of the United States.

You can learn more about this historical context from these U.S. National Archives resources: Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877) and The Development of the Industrial United States (1870-1900).

Enough history…are there still any land grants?

Sort of. There are grants that involve land, but the current land grant programs are much different than the historical land grant programs we’ve covered here.

For example, the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has a small grants funding opportunity to support North American wetlands conservation that involves the acquisition of land.

The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) also has the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program grant opportunity, which supports a similar public cause as the Morrill Land Grant Acts—only through education rather than land.

For acquiring land, federal financial assistance has shifted from direct grants to loans. To learn more about USDA grants and loans, check here.

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9 thoughts on “What Is a Land Grant? (Part 2): Grants to Individuals for Homesteading and Settlement

  1. I recently became homeless I have no idea what to do I need a place to stay and I have an RV I can live in till I can build a house at the moment I don’t have a job what can I do Is there an Grant that can help me

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  2. Hi, my name is Cheryl. We recently found out my husband has cancer. We are behind on rent, I’ve been out of work with neck surgery. I start back the 1st of next month. Doctor bills are not helping. Is there any help out there for us, please

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  3. With the complete understanding (later learned) that a “Warranty Deed” is a “color of title” and not ownership, I purchased a home in cash, remodeled home and surrounding property to bring it up to date (built in 1984) and then “Homesteaded” said property which basically just entitles me to less paid taxes and lesser taxes the older I get. I have searched over and over looking for the legalities of complete ownership of a “Forever Land Grant” to said “Real Property” to secure that ownership from Government/State over-reach. Since Texas land is “Public Land” by treaty between the state of Texas and Spain and not Federal owned, why is it then when we buy “Real Property” that we still don’t have ownership of said land and only the house that sits on it. Sounds like a case of FRAUD. When opening my County Land Appraisal cad map, one sees (in large bold type) names of the original land owners surrounded by land lines marking off Pension Properties/Homesteaded granted in 1847 upon researching. In those land grants given in that era, they where “forever land Grants which means we don’t own the land the “Real Property” it sits on today. I have studied the procedure in filing for “Land Title” but still find it fraudulent because one may not necessarily be granted that “forever” title. I feel less secure, knowing that all my efforts and hard work went into a “Real Property” that I don’t own 100%. The Mortgage Company that I bought said Real Property created FRAUD by violating my Common Law rights by volunteering to registering my Property with the city preventing me from ensuring my”Private Real Property” status which they don’t have the right to do so. So how does one go about securing said land ?

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