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REPORT

OF THE

COMMISSIONER OF THE GENERAL LAND OFFICE.

LETTER OF THE COMMISSIONER OF THE GENERAL LAND OFFICE TRANSMITTING HIS ANNUAL REPORT FOR THE FISCAL YEAR ENDING JUNE 30, 1879.

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,
GENERAL LAND OFFICE,

October 30,

1879. SIR: The annual report of this office for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1879, which I have the honor to transmit herewith, shows that during that period the surveys of public lands have been prosecuted to the extent of surveying 8,445,781.64 acres, to which is to be added an area of private land claims surveyed of 1,039,214.26 acres, making the total of surveys during the year, including public lands and private claims, 9,484,995.90 acres. This shows an increase over the previous fiscal year, as regards public land surveys, of 414,769 acres. The total area sur veyed from the beginning of operations to June 30, 1879, is put down as 734,591,236 acres, leaving yet to be surveyed 1,080,197,686 acres of the total area of the public land containing States and Territories, viz, 1,814,788,922 acres. There is given a comparative statement indicating by fiscal years the number of acres surveyed and cost of surveying the same during a period of five years, extending from June 30, 1874, to June 30, 1879, showing also the number of acres disposed of in each fiscal year of the same period.

With regard to the operations during the fiscal year under the various laws for the disposal of the public lands, they are shown by the report to have resulted in the disposal of 9,333,383.29 acres, being more by 647,204.41 acres than the number disposed of in the previous fiscal year.

The general aggregate thus shown is made up of particulars as follows,

viz:

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Cash entries....
Being a decrease of 254,981.18 acres as compared with the previous

fiscal year. In the above total of 622,573.96 acres is included the
amount, 165,996.53 acres, entered under the desert land act of March

3, 1877." Homestead entries....

Being an increase of 841,766.37 acres over the previous fiscal year.
Timber culture entries

Being an increase of 896,139.75 acres over the previous fiscal year.
Agricultural college scrip locations...

Being an increase of 320 acres over the previous fiscal year.
Locations with military bounty land warrants under acts of 1847, 1850,

1852, and 1855....
Being a decrease of 33,900 acres, as compared with the previous fiscal

2,766, 573. 93

960.00

year.

50 820.00

Acres.

State selections approved :
For school indemnity......
For internal improvements..
For agricultural colleges...
For salt springs ...

Acres.
85, 474. 65
81,400.46

680,00
18, 836, 62

186, 391. 73

Being a decrease of 28,600.80 acres as compared with the previous fiscal year.

Scrip locations:

With Sioux half breeil scrip...
With Chippewa half breed scrip.
With Valentine scrip.
With Porterfield scrip..
With Cole scrip ...

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8, 892, 087.66 Locations of scrip issued under the acts of June 2, 1858, and June 22,

1860, in lieu of lands embraced in private claims, but not taken in place

87,573. 44 Being an increase of 4,429.84 acres over the previous fiscal year.

8,979, 661. 10 Lands patented to States as swamp, under act of September 28, 1850... 75, 388.08 Being a decrease, as compared with amount patented and certified during the previous fiscal year, of 127,537.77 acres.

9,055, 049. 18 Lands certified for railroad purposes..

278, 334. 11 Being a decrease of 328,006.54 acres, as compared with the previous fiscal year. Total number of acres disposed of during the fiscal year, being

an increase of 647,204.41 acres, over the previous fiscal year.... 9,333, 383. 29 While the report shows a falling off of 773,026.29 acres in cash sales,

a military bounty land warrant and scrip locations, State selections, and land transferred on account of railroad and swamp grants, the increase in the area taken up by settlers as homesteads and for the purpose of timber culture has been sufficient not only to counterbalance this falling off, but to make the aggregate disposals for the year greater by 647,204.41 acres than the disposals for the previous fiscal year. .

The policy of disposing of the public lands under existing laws for homesteads and timber culture necessarily leads to small receipts of money, and accordingly it is shown that during the last fiscal year, with a larger disposal of land, there were received from all sources $1,883,113.56, less by $139,418.60 than the amount received during the fiscal year ending June 30, 1878.

In exhibiting the surveying operations of the fiscal year, the report gives statements showing the amount of appropriations by Congress for the survey of public lands and of private land claims, the apportionment thereof by the Secretary of the Interior to the sixteen surveying districts, the instructions to the surveyors general for applying the amounts assigned to their respective districts according to law, the operations of those officers pursuant thereto, and affording information touching special examinations instituted for testing the work of deputy surveyors on charges or complaints made against them; articles relating to the survey of the Cherokee Indian lands in North Carolina, the resurvey of the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation in New York, the survey of the old Cherokee Reservation in Arkansas, the Red Cloud and Spotted Tail Reservation in Dakota Territory, the boundary line between Colorado and Utah, and of Lake Calumet in Illinois, with copy of a circular issued,

nd abstracts of decisions rendered, during the fiscal year, relating to urveys.

A general exhibit is presented in the report of the business transacted in connection with the disposal of public lands through ninety-three district land offices during the fiscal year. This includes pre-emption claims adjusted, entries allowed for cash, and locations with warrants and scrip, at ordinary private entry, or under the provisions of the homestead, timber culture, desert land, and mineral laws; disposals of Indian and military reservations under special acts of Congress providing therefor; transfers of land under the swamp, railroad, internal improvement, school indemnity, and other grants; the examining and adjusting accounts, and reporting them to the Treasury for payment, and the issuing of patents to parties entitled. Copies are given of circulars issued during the fiscal year, giving instructions to the district officers and for the information of the public regarding the provisions of the laws treated of, and copies or abstracts are given of decisions rendered in a great variety of cases which have arisen and been adjudicated during the same period.

In addition to the foregoing, the report presents a statement of what has been done by this office pursuant to the instructions of the Secretary for protecting from depredation the timber on the public lands, for carrying into effect the laws for ascertaining private land claims and transferring the land to the claimants, of the work which has been performed in opening to private entry the public lands in the States of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Florida, pursuant to the act of Congress of June 22, 1876, and includes a statement of military reservations on the public lands declared or enlarged during the fiscal year.

Referring to the large accumulation of undelivered patents remaining on file in this office, the Commissioner again urges the necessity of an appropriation sufficient to pay for completing lists of the patents for lands in the respective counties in the older States, in order that they may be furnished to the proper county officers, with a view by this means of bringing to the knowledge of parties in interest the fact that such patents remain in this office, and how they can be obtained by them.

Attention is again called to the large demand upon this office by inter. ested parties for certified copies from its files and records, diverting clerical labor from the performance of general business. It is recommended that such legislation be requested of Congress as would admit of using the fees paid for such copies to employ clerks to make the copies, instead of depositing the fees in the United States Treasury as now by law required.

In regard to the Absentee Shawnee lands, the New York Indian lands, and the Miami lands, in Kansas, reference is made to statements in previous annual reports regarding the same, with a recommendation of legislation to provide for disposing of such portions thereof as remain vacant, for the reason that parties occupying the lands frequently apply to this ottice for permission to enter the tracts occupied by them, which in the absence of the proper legislation cannot be given.

In the case of the abandoned inilitary reservations of Fort Sabine, La., Camp McGarry, Nev., and part of the Fort Bridger Reservation in Wyoming Territory, the disposal of which was provided for in the act of Congress of February 21, 1871, by appraisement and public offering thereof, and subsequent sale by private entry, at the appraised value, of any tracts not sold at the offering, it is recommended that Congress provide for the disposal thereof according to the general laws for the disposal

of the public lands, the reason being that they are found to have no special value, and that loss, not gain, would result to the Treasury from pursuing the method of disposal provided for in said act of 1871. The same recommendation is made with regard to Fort Thorn, N. Mex., and Camp Floyd, Utah, for the disposal of which there is no legal provision.

The continuance of the public offerings of the lots embraced in the Detroit Arsenal grounds, in Michigan, with the improvements thereon, under the act of Congress of March 3, 1875, is attended with considerable expense, and but little result in the way of sales. In consideration thereof, and it being the general opinion that the property is held at prices too high, under the appraisement made pursuant to that act, it is recommended that Congress provide for a reappraisement of the lots and improvements remaining unsold, and that after the same shall have been offered at public sale at the prices thus established, any lots not then disposed of shall be subject to ordinary private sale, with the improvements thereon, at not less than their appraised value.

In view of the acts of Congress of March 3, 1879, and July 1, 1879, allowing parties who by previously existing laws were restricted in making homestead entries to eighty acres of land within the limits of Congressional land grants for railroads or military roads, to enter an additional eighty acre tract of contiguous vacant land, if any there be, or to surrender the existing entry and make another elsewhere for the full maximum of one hundred and sixty acres, the provisions of which acts do not, however, extend so as to embrace cases of the kind occurring in the States of Alabama and Mississippi, and of the similar restriction formerly imposed upon settlers on lands both within and without the limits of such grants, in the States of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Florida, under the act of July 21, 1866, the Commissioner recommends the enactment of a law to apply the principles of the acts of March 3, 1879, and July 1, 1879, to all cases in which parties were restricted by law to eighty acres of land in making homestead entries.

As in the last annual report, the Commissioner renews in this the recommendation of legislative action on the subject of lapsed railroad grants looking either to the enforcement of the forfeiture of the grants or extending the time for the completion of the roads, and expresses the earnest hope that such action will be taken at an early day. The reason therefor is to remedy an evil thus stated in the annual report for 1877, viz:

Great bodies of land which have not been earned, and which of course cannot be patented to the States or corporations under the grants, are withheld from sale or entry, and there is no manner now by which settlers can acquire title to them. The companies cannot sell, and this office has no authority to recognize appropriations made under the various laws.

The subject of the consolidation of the homestead and pre-emption laws in one statute, which has been recommended in previous annual reports, is again adverted to, the relations of the two systems of laws pointed out, and the opinion expressed that the subject should receive the careful consideration of Congress.

In connection with the pre-emption, homestead, and timber culture laws, the recent decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States the cases of Atherton vs. Fowler and Hosmer vs. Wallace are co mented on, and in veiw of the fact that the principle therein announced admits of the occupancy of unoffered public lands without restriction by parties who do not seek to acquire title in the methods prescribed by existing laws, as against other parties who do, it is recommended that the matter be brought to the attention of Congress, with a view to having it regulated by legislation.

The report states the present condition of the law for the refunding of money paid for land erroneously sold, or in excess of what was re. quired by law, and recommends legislation to provide for cases of the kind in which the parties are justly entitled to relief that cannot be extended under the law as it now stands, referring to cases in which the title was perfect in the United States when the sale was made, but in which, from circumstances subsequently occurring, it is not in the power of the government to convey the legal title, and to other cases in which erroneous and illegal exactions were made by the district officers over and above what the law required to be paid.

Examination made by a competent geologist, deputed for the purpose, shows the existence of large deposits of both coal and iron in the public lands in Alabama. Most of the coal fields are far removed from means of transportation, the expense necessarily attending their proper development is large, and the available capital in that region is limited. It is very probable that to withhold the lands indicated as mineral in Alabama from disposal, except as such, would postpone their disposition for a long period. It is, therefore, recommended that the advisability of disposing thereof on the same terms as agricultural lands, fol. lowing the course adopted with regard to mineral lands in Missouri and Kansas in the act of May 5, 1876, be favorably suggested to Congress. Respectfully submitted.

J. M. ARMSTRONG,

Acting Commissioner. Hon. C. SCHURZ,

Secretary of the Interior.

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