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Marshall and Amanda Felch would eventually own 320 acres of land in an area known today as Garden Park.  They would be one of the earliest pioneers in the area.    The 320 acres of land that they eventually owned would come to them in two separate transactions and the two transactions were completely different situations.   This is a discussion of the first 160 acre transaction starting in 1866 and consummating in 1876.   It’s a lesson in American western expansion or manifest destiny as it was often called then.   It is also the 160 acres that would have constituted the greatest portion of what would be considered farmland.  In 1885 an additional 160 acres would be added to the estate but only about 20 acres of that land would be considered farm-able   The remainder would be acquired for very different reasons and that is a whole other story!

I plan to tell the story of the journey from St. Joseph Missouri to Canon City, separate journeys by Marshall and Amanda later on along with a story about Amanda in St. Joseph.   I’ve told two stories (story one and story two) about Marshall and Amanda in Denver in 1866.  There also will be a story upcoming on the journey from Boston to St. Joseph.  Overall 1866 would be a major transition year where our Civil War Veterans from New England would meet the Wild West.

After arriving in St. Joseph Missouri on the Missouri River, Marshall soon caught a ride on a wagon train from St. Joseph Missouri to Denver in the spring of 1866.  This was a distance of about 650 miles following the Oregon and Overland trails into Denver, a 45 day trip averaging about 15 miles a day.

After arriving in Denver by wagon in 1866 and hearing about agricultural land available for settlement in southern Colorado, Marshall traveled to Canon City an additional 120 mile journey by wagon or another week long trek.  This was 10 years before Colorado would obtain statehood.  It was three years before the transcontinental railroad would be completed and although there were plans for railroads in Colorado none arrive until 1870.   Marshall and Amanda were arriving by wagon train on that leading edge of Western expansion following the Civil War.

There were articles in the Rocky Mountain News about many places in the west but actually most news was about what was happening back east.  Never the less Marshall read about and and potential for farming in southern Colorado and also read something about the discovery of oil near a new community called Canon city.

Marshall traveled through Colorado City (springs) on his way to Canon City most likely catching a ride on a freight wagon heading that direction.   Amanda stayed behind in St. Joseph Missouri where the train stopped.  He would head out on his own to secure a place to live and employment, a rather standard practice in the American frontier.  Within a few days he was able to locate a nice piece of property in an area about 7 miles north of Canon City, relatively flat land with a stream and a spring.

The land that Marshall and Amanda eventually owned first came into private ownership near the beginning of 1866 when a Joseph Baker utilized a military land bounty warrant (no. 104518 – accession no.. MW 0233-297) to acquire 160 acres of un-surveyed land about six miles north of Canon City.  This is the land, that Marshall would eventually obtain title to.  Mr. Baker acquired this warrant from Mr. William T. Abbott, a military veteran from the war of 1812.  Lets step back for a moment and try to understand what these warrants were.

From 1775 to 1855 the United States granted bounty-land warrants for military service. These warrants were used primarily to encourage volunteer enlistments, but also to reward veterans for service during the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and a variety of Indian wars, Indian removals, and other military actions during the 1850s. Early warrants could only be used in military districts, principally in Ohio and several other public land states in the former Northwest Territory. Eventually, Congress expanded eligibility to include service in the Regular Army and the Navy, as well as volunteer militias.

 Bounty-land warrant files can contain supporting documents such as statements and signatures of witnesses. Bounty-land warrants generally do not contain as much personal information as the pensions. The Government ceased issuing bounty-land-warrants after 1855.

 The Scrip/Warrant Acts of March 3, 1855 (10 stat. 701) and March 18, 1842 (5 stat. 607) authorized the issuance of scrip as payment for military or other service. This scrip could be used to purchase federal land. These documents were transferrable and often sold for cash.   Many veterans who received bounty-land did not take possession, but sold them to another party using something called a land surrender warrant.

In the BLM land patent details, it lists Abbot’s military duty as a corporal with Captain Elwells Company serving under Lt. Colonel Appleton’s regiment and as part of the Massachusetts Militia.  Abbot’s dates of service are listed as September 19, 1814 to October 12, 1814, and the service is listed as in battle on September 19 with barges of the enemy.  It appears that this warrant was received as a result of this military service.

Alfred E. Baker bought this warrant (scrip) from Mr. Abbott. Then he assigned the land warrant to John Baker and later John Baker sold the land to James Pritchett for $500 and this was recorded on April 18, 1866.  On November 13, 1866 Marshall P. Felch bought the land from James Pritchett.I have not researched this enough to determine exactly how and when William T. Abbott first obtained this land warrant nor how he ended up selling it to Mr. Baker but the records show this to be the case.

The land was also described as “….The piece of property was described as:  Beginning at a cabin a little above where the bluffs approach nearly on another or Four Mile Creek, thence up with the course of said Four Mile Creek one mile, thence across the creek one fourth of a mile, thence down with the course of said Four Mile Creek, thence across the creek to the point of beginning, said creek is intended to be the center of the tract….

Marshall purchased this property but it was un-surveyed and his eventual patent would be based on legal land descriptions and not the simple description listed above.  He would purchase property from Mr. Pritchettt but he would need to go another step to have full title to the surveyed land.

Preemption allowed for settlers who built a residence and improved public lands to purchase claims at minimal price for public lands prior to the lands being offered at public sale. The first preemption law was enacted in 1799, after which, Congress continued to enact preemption laws of temporary nature from time to time including the Preemption Act of 1820, the one that Marshall and Amanda would eventually use to acquire the land they had moved onto. A permanent preemption law came with the passage of the Act of September 4, 1841 and it was this act that was largely use to support settlement in the Kansas and Nebraska territories.

This legislation permitted an individual to settle and cultivate up to 160 acres of land and to then purchase that land within a specified time after either survey or settlement at $1.25 per acre.  The 160 acres they occupied and claimed would eventually be purchased for $200 securing title and a land patent in 1876.

The first step that Marshall would have needed to complete was to find the nearest claim office  which most likely would have been Pueblo, a distance of about 50 miles.

1866 Colorado territory Public Land Surveys.

1866 Colorado territory Public Land Surveys.

In the map above, the approximate location where Marshall’s land was.   This is a map of public surveyed land in Colorado for the year 1866 which documents the lack of survey in the area where Marshall acquired land.   This map also shows that the area has oil reserves most likely based on discoveries by A.M.Cassidy (little red circled areas).  According to the Cassidy story, a prospector named Gabriel Brown sold a claim with an oil seep to Cassidy in 1862. Cassidy claimed to be a roustabout who had worked on the original Col. Edwin Drake well in Pennsylvania 3 years earlier. By one account, he drilled his first well to 50 feet and produced 50 barrels a day of oil near Four-Mile (Oil) Creek.  That is one story that may have attracted Marshall to this area as he would be in need of work where ever he arrived and the limitations he had as a result of the injury he suffered at Cedar Creek.  That injury would have prevented a 100% commitment he would have needed for full time farming as a pioneer farmer he would have to develop new farming techniques and markets.   Marshall and Amanda sought employment in places like Montezuma and Saguache areas in the next few years, but a part of the obligation of retaining a right to eventually obtain title to the land they were living on was occupancy.  If it became evident that the land had been abandoned, the government could retract the claim and put the land up for sale to another interested party.

A little background on things called townships, sections, and acres..  In the previous map you can see something listed as T. 18S on the right side of the map.   That is a township and it is Township 18 South and it is also Range 65 West.   Each township is actually six miles high by six miles wide.  Each township is divided into 36 sections.  Each section is one mile by one mile.  If you look at the township just southeast of Canon City in the above map you can count all thirty six sections if you look carefully.  Let’s look at an example of how this works, acres on top (40 acre block), sections in middle, and townships on the bottom.

Township - Section - Acre

A modified diagram showing the relationship of a township (bottom) to a section (middle)  to 40 acre blocks (top).


A township is six miles by six miles and is subdivided into 36 squares (sections) that are each one mile by one mile.  Each section in turn is composed of 640 acres. An acre of land is a little over 200 ft by 200 ft in size (about the size of a football field) and there are 640 of them in a square mile.    Historically an acre may have been understood as “an approximation of the amount of land a yoke (pair) of oxen could plough in one day”!

Claims were typically 160 acres and typically they would be in contiguous 40 acre square blocks.  The overall shape would not need to be a square but would essentially consist of four connected squares.   An overall square shape might be more normal back in Kansas but where Marshall was locating a claim, the land topography was anything but flat.   He was locating a claim in a valley surrounded by cliffs and steep terrain.   He needed to put his four squares into a more linear shape and he did, more of an upside down “L” shape.

The legal description of his land was Township 17 South, Range 70 West: Section 21: SE1/4 SE1/4 (southeast quarter of southeast quarter of the section), Section 22: SW1/4SW1/4, and section 27: W1/2NW1/4 (west half of the northwest quarter. Take a look at the previous drawing and you will see how section 27 is connected to section 22!   Here is a drawing of the land prepared by Marshall in 1885 that shows both the land we’re discussing (in green and labeled “A”) along with a future acquisition.


Felch Property - Canon City

Felch Property – Canon City. The area colored green is the property claimed in 1866.

A more modern way to look at this same land is utilizing Google earth!  In this next drawing you can see the both the earlier (in green)  and later (in blue) acquisition.


Looking northwest at the Felch Homestead.

Looking northwest at the Felch Homestead. The area in green is what was staked in 1866.

One other point that we have not talked about is that all official public land surveys in this part of Colorado are all within something called the 6th Principal Meridian.   The starting point of the 6th principal meridian is a marker located about 20 miles northwest of St. Joseph Missouri.   Amanda happened to be waiting nearby this point and a few months later would have traveled within three or four miles of this point, never knowing its significance in the land she would soon settle on.  A baseline extended from the point due west also happens to divide Nebraska from Kansas.   In addition to dividing Kansas from Nebraska you can also drive on it in Boulder Colorado, it’s called Baseline Road!   Townships above this were labeled north and those to the south were labeled, well south.   If you do the calculations you’ll figure out that where Marshall located his land.  If his land which is in township is 18 South and 65 West, Marshall’s land would be about 102 miles south of this marker and 420 miles west of it.  Here is a picture of the original point establishing the 6th Principal Meridian.

Location of the starting point of the 6th Principal Meridian located about 20 miles Northwest of St. Joseph Missouri on the Kansas and Nebraska border.

Location of the starting point of the 6th Principal Meridian located about 20 miles Northwest of St. Joseph Missouri on the Kansas and Nebraska border.


Now that we have some background on public land surveys, let’s talk a bit more about the Pre-emption claim.  In order to file a claim, you would need to be twenty one years of age, head of a family, and a U.S. citizen (aliens who had filed a declaration of intention to become a citizen-“first papers”-could file legal claims). The first step in filing a preemption entry was the completion of a declaratory statement at the land office. The declaratory statement (shown as “D.S.” in the tract books) was merely a sworn statement signed by the settler which indicated that he or she had settled on a given tract of land and was declaring intention to claim said tract under the preemption law. This statement required the name of the claimant, residence, age, date of actual settlement, and a description of the tract.

Marshall most certainly filed this claim within a few weeks of locating his land.  Most likely he would have some help in staking out the corners.  Based on the historic 1866 map, survey in the Garden Park would not have happened until Marshall first staked his land out as it appears he was the first one there staking a land claim.

Marshall would be required to give proof that he had complied with the legal provisions of the law before receiving title to the land from the government.  In Marshall’s case he filed on what was currently un-surveyed land or legally considered “unoffered” land.  Notice of intent to “prove up” was required to be published each week for not less than thirty days in a legal newspaper near the land. This provided notice to anyone who had an adverse claim to the specific tract so that a contest could be filed.

Both Marshall and Amanda from New England and having spent their entire lives in the original colonial states would not have been familiar with a concept known as the public domain.    The concept of public land originated after the revolutionary war when the colonies were in debt and needed funding.  The government began a program of selling off territorial land to the west of the colonies and also began a new survey system also requiring all lands be surveyed before they were settled.

Marshall and Amanda were astute Yankees from New England and it took no time for Marshall to become familiar with this concept and within a short time he had staked out a 160 acre land claim with the filing office being located in Pueblo.   When Marshall arrived in 1866, Canon City was a community with about 200 residents, residents from every part of the country and every walk of life.

The land patent for the 200 acres would be formally given to Marshall about ten years later on May 15, 1876 a few months before Colorado officially became a state on August 1, 1876.  The patent was signed by then President Ulysses S. Grant who Marshall and Amanda would have been very familiar with and seen several times during the Civil War.

Marshall had some land but making a living off of it was another task altogether. I’ll talk about farming, irrigation, building a home and other topics in another post later on!