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Swamp Lands (1850)

Swamp Land patents were a result of the Federal Swamp Land Act of 1850 whose intent was to provide a mechanism for transferring title of federally owned swamplands into private ownership. This Act described swampland in part as “those swamp and overflowed lands which may be or are unfit for cultivation…” As a result, approximately 65 million acres were ceded to more than a dozen states. The state(s) then issued patents on these lands (at little or sometimes no cost) on the condition that the lands had to be drained and put back into productive use -- presumably for agricultural purposes. Arkansas was the third largest benefactor of this legislation putting over 7.6 million acres into private ownership trailing only Florida (20.3 million) and Louisiana (9.4 million).


When researching swampland patents, you will find the following information helpful:


Patent Books-The patent books are organized in date order from August 1855 through March 2001.


Entry Books-The entry books are organized by Township & Range and can be the most confusing when doing research. It is important to remember that in the early 1850s there were six different land offices in the state. Little Rock served as the headquarters and there were field offices in Helena (Phillips County), Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), Batesville (Independence County), Jacksonport (Jackson County), Washington (Hempstead County) and Champagnolle (Union County). There were also other locations added later including Clarksville and Dardanelle before being consolidated. The entry books are a compilation of the records from those different field offices so it is not uncommon for the same Township and Range to be in multiple books. If you are researching a patent in 5 South-1 West, be sure to look at all four S & W entry books. Also, entry dates are not the same as patent dates. It was ordinary procedure for an entry to be made on a particular date and a patent not be issued until years later.


Governor’s Patents Book B (1855-1860) Governor’s patents are arranged in date order beginning in August 1855-January 1860. This book serves as a cross reference for the patent and entry books. Governor’s Book A is on loan to the Arkansas History Commission.


Plat Book (North & East)-Unfortunately this is the only existing book of plat maps that accompany swampland patents.


Swamplands Sold-The sales books are listed in sale number order beginning in 1868 coinciding with the creation of the Commissioner of State Lands and Immigration Office.


Book 1: Sale #1 (Sept. 17, 1868) through Sale #3272 (Oct. 15, 1872)


Book 2: Sales #3273 through 4899 have been lost.


Book 3: Sale #4900 (Nov. 10, 1882) through Sale #6612 (March 1, 1923)


Helena Land Office- These are the only original pages known to exist from one of the field offices of the General Land Office (1853).