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Land Grants in Tennessee by North Carolina
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Grants in Tennessee are more involved because there were seven types of warrants issued by North Carolina for land in Tennessee. Those were: (1) claims recorded in county land offices, (2) claims recorded in John Armstrong's office, (3) military bounty warrants, (4) claims by surveyors who surveyed the outside borders of the military district, (5) claims by surveyors who surveyed individual military bounty claims, (6) preemption claims, & (7) claims for former members of Evans' Battalion. To further complicate things, it was possible to move warrants from their original location (prior to the survey) and many duplicate warrants were issued.
1. Claims in county land offices in Tennessee were exactly the same as claims in North Carolina counties. Each county was allowed to appoint an entry taker who recorded claims by people interested in buying vacant and unappropriated land from the State. A small fee was paid when the claim was recorded. There was a minimum 3 month waiting period so other people could learn of the claim and make sure the claimant wasn't claiming land belonging to someone else. If there were no conflicts, a warrant for survey was issued by the entry taker to the county surveyor. The surveyor was supposed to do his job "without delay". Many times delays happened because of the surveyor's work load or because the claimant wasn't ready to pay the surveying fees. When the survey was complete, two copies of the survey were sent to the Secretary of State along with the warrant. More fees were to be paid at this point. The largest of these fees was 50 shillings or 2.10 pounds per hundred acres to the State (this fee rose to 10 pounds per hundred acres in 1783). When the fees were paid, the Secretary could fill out a grant. The Governor and Secretary signed the grant. The Governor's Secretary affixed the state seal to the grant. The Secretary attached a copy of the survey to the grant. The Secretary retained the warrant and second copy of the survey. The Secretary recorded the description of the land in his grant books. The grant was returned to the new land owner. The new owner had one year to have the grant recorded in the county's deed books (after paying another small fee). This final requirement wasn't strictly enforced, so some grants went unrecorded.
Between 1778 and 1796, there were three county land offices in Tennessee. The first and largest land office was in Washington County. About 3,000 claims were recorded in this office. About 3,300 warrants were issued (including duplicates) by entry takers John Carter sr and his sons Landon Carter and John Carter jr. Sullivan County also had an office were about 800 claims were recorded. Warrants were issued by John Adair and his successors Gilbert Christian, George Christian, James Gaines, & William Snodgrass. Greene County also had an office where about 120 claims were recorded. Warrants were issued to Joseph Hardin jr. Most of these claims were used to obtain land grants in eastern Tennessee. But a few were used to obtain grants in South central Tennessee and in western Tennessee. Copies of the original entry books exist for Greene and Sullivan Counties; these copies are in the Tennessee archives. The book for Washington County was lost or burned (depending on whose account you believe). But a book has been constructed of the warrants issued from that office; this book is in the Tennessee archives. All three county entry books have been recently published. Included in the published books is a reference telling where to look in the grant files (in the North Carolina archives) for the warrant and survey, if these were found.
2. John Armstrong's office was created by a law passed in 1783. Recorded in this office were claims for land almost anywhere in Tennessee except for the military district or southeast Tennessee (still owned by the Indians). The land was in Tennessee, but the land office was in Hillsborough, NC. It was common for people in Tennessee to locate land and send the news to someone in North Carolina who would go to Hillsborough to record a claim. The remaining procedure (leading to a land grant) was very similar to the procedure outlined above for county claims. The same fees applied. In 1783 the fees could also be paid by using the certificates issued by the State during the Revolution. It was soon learned that some fees were being paid with counterfeit certificates and some warrants were issued "on credit" (because fees had not been paid). For these and other reasons, John Armstrong's office remained open only about a year. But during this year about 2,600 claims were recorded. After the office closed, the state comptroller was given the job of issuing warrants (provided the fees had been paid). Many of these warrants sort of "floated around" for several years; they were bought and sold and it might be several years before an owner would associate them with a tract of land (since it was possible to move the site of the land from the site originally claimed).
3. Military bounty claims were created because of laws in 1782 and 1783. There were approximately 5,000 bounty claims prior to 1798 and about 1,200 between 1800 and 1842 (when the last warrant was issued). Military bounty warrants were supposed to be issued to former members of the ten North Carolina regiments in the Continental Line during the Revolution PROVIDED the man served at least 2 years in service or died while in service. The amount of land depended on the length of service and the highest rank attained. The amounts ranged from 228 acres for a man who served 2 years as a private to 640 acres for a man who served 7 years (the entire war) as a private and up to 12,000 acres for a man who served 7 years and reached the rank of brigadier general. The grant procedure was slightly different when a bounty warrant was used. The first step was for the Secretary of State to issue a warrant. Warrants were issued (a) to a former soldier who came to the Secretary's office, (b) to officers who certified a man served, or (c) to heirs of deceased soldiers. Officers were allowed to certify service because the legislature had been convinced that some officers had kept better records than the State had concerning who served in their company and how long each man served. Later investigations revealed that some officers abused this method by claiming service for men who didn't serve or claiming men served longer than they actually did. The second step in the grant procedure was for the warrantee to go to Tennessee and find the correct amount of land within the military district (an area of about four million acres in North central Tennessee). After about 1796, the land could be anywhere in Tennessee. The warrantee could find land on his own, or a surveyor could help locate land. Once a site was found, the location was recorded in a book in the military land office in Nashville. Next a survey was made; the survey could be a couple of months after the location, or it could be a year later. When surveys were delayed, we often find the site has moved (this was legal). The surveyor was supposed to send the warrant and two copies of the survey to the Secretary. Because travel to North Carolina wasn't as easy as it is today, we find several warrants & surveys were sometimes sent in a package (rather than one warrant and two surveys). The Secretary filled out a grant; the Governor & Secretary signed the grant; the land description was recorded in the grant books; and the grant was returned to the new owner. One item is missing in the procedure, and that is payment of fees. No fees were recorded. Surveyors were paid in the form of "rights" which are described in item 4 below. One BIG caution about military bounty warrants: there was a lot of cheating (or hanky panky) at almost every step in the grant process. So it is necessary today to be careful when reading these records. Compare the muster roll (published in North Carolina Colonial & State Records) before assuming a man was in the army because his name is on a warrant. Also be careful as you read who bought or sold the warrant because some sales were frauds.
There are several publications about the military bounty warrants so one doesn't have to spend so much time looking through loose papers in North Carolina AND Tennessee. These books include information about every warrant that was issued, the locations recorded prior to 1798, and references about the grants issued. Martin Armstrong was in charge of the military bounty land office (in Nashville from 1783 to 1798; William Christmas, John C McLemore, and others were in charge of the office from 1800 to 1842.
4. When the military district was created, a commission was appointed to survey the outside border of this district (55 miles North to South and about 120 miles East to West). The commissioners were sort of supervisors. Beneath them were surveyors (who did the actual surveying), chain carriers (who measured distances for the surveyors), hunters (who hunted for food for the group), wagon drivers or mule skinners (who drove wagons for the group), & a guard or militia type group (who guarded against Indian attack). Each person in the group was due a warrant; the amount of land varied from 5,000 acres for the commissioners to 320 acres for chain carriers. All these claims were supposed to be recorded in a land office in Nashville operated by Samuel Barton. A warrantee located a tract of land, and Barton would issue a warrant for survey. The remainder of the grant procedure was the same as claims recorded in the county. There appears to be no complete copy of Barton's entry/warrant book. Part of the book has been resurrected by researching the warrants & surveys in the Secretary's grant papers in the North Carolina archives. A few other claims are also found in the Tennessee archives. All the warrants of this type will mention the warrantee was a commissioner for laying the line for the Continental Line, or the warrantee was a surveyor for the commissioners, or he was a chain carrier, hunter, wagon driver, or soldier in the guard. Be careful not to confuse this "guard" with any other military organization.
5. Warrants for people who surveyed individual military bounty warrants: surveyors in the military district received "rights" (in lieu of money) when they surveyed a bounty warrant. These surveyors' rights could be used just like any other warrant to obtain a grant. It appears no actual piece of paper was issued similar to a warrant for a surveyor's right. It also appears the only compilation of the amount of rights attributed to each surveyor was reported about 1799 by Martin Armstrong, but this compilation may be inaccurate. When a surveyor decided to exercise his right, he was supposed to record the location of the land in the location books in the military bounty land office. Following the location, a survey was made and grant would issue. One problem with these surveys is that almost everyone indicates the rights are due to the work of Martin Armstrong (rather than the individual surveyor). So it's often difficult to match a location with a survey. Another problem with these rights was that the surveyors claimed too much in rights. But no one mentioned this problem until 1799, so it was too late to correct the problem. Recently, the number of grants issued due to surveyors' rights has been published using the Secretary's land grant files. It is uncertain how many surveyors' rights may have been unused.
6. Preemption rights: there were people living in the military district when it was created. These "preemptors" or "adventurers" were allowed to claim 640 acres (for each household) generally surrounding the land where they were living. Once the location of the land was identified, the tract was supposed to be recorded in the Nashville land office run by Samuel Barton. Barton would issue a warrant for survey. The remainder of the grant procedure was the same as a claim recorded in a county land office. Preemption warrants can be identified because the word "preemption" is mentioned near the beginning of the warrant. Samuel Barton issued all the preemption warrants prior to 1796; but he also issued warrants to the commissioners, surveyors, guard, etc. So be sure to read the warrant to determine which kind of warrant it is. Not all preemption rights were recorded prior to 1796; and not all warrants were issued prior to 1796. There were about 400 preemption warrants in a book kept by David Shelby.
7. Warrants for Evans' Battalion (or the battalion for the defense of the Cumberland Settlement): In the 1780s the settlers in Davidson County (or near Nashville) complained about attacks by Indians. After many protests and several attacks, North Carolina raised a "battalion" of men to protect the settlers. The man in charge of this group was Thomas Evans. A good explanation of their service and hard times is in two articles in North Carolina Genealogical Society's Journal by Ransom McBride (Nov. 1992 p. 194-204 & May 1993 p. 83-94). These soldiers were paid by receiving warrants. Each soldier who served a year received two warrants: one for the first half of the year, and one for the second half of the year. Both warrants were for the same amount of land. Most of these warrants were issued in 1792 and 1794, and all were signed by James Glasgow. Be careful not to confuse these warrants with military bounty warrants issued to former soldiers in the Continental Line. Evans' Battalion warrants will generally mention they are for the first or second half years pay of a man AND they will usually mention that the man served in the battalion (or company) for the defense of the Cumberland Settlement. Many of these warrants were used to obtain grants before 1796. The first step in the procedure was for the former soldier to locate land which was suppose to be West of the Cumberland Mountains and North of the Holston River. Some locations are described on the back of the warrant, some aren't. Following the location, a survey was made, and the remainder of the grant process was the same as a military bounty warrant. Some of these warrants weren't used to obtain a grant until after 1796.
Complicating the warrant to grant process is the use of duplicate warrants and the ease of changing the location of the land prior to the survey. The idea of duplicate warrants was to address the case where someone lost the original warrant. But it soon developed that duplicates were issued even when the original wasn't lost. So we find a grant for the original warrant and a second grant for the duplicate. We also find duplicate warrants being issued during the time when Tennessee was a territory (with grants being issued by North Carolina). Relocating a warrant was originally allowed to address the problem when there was not enough land when the warrantee finally had enough money to pay for the survey. In North Carolina this relocating was soon restricted to movement within the same county. But in Tennessee there was no similar restriction. So we find a warrant for land near the Mississippi River, but the corresponding survey is for land in eastern Tennessee. And we find Washington County warrants being used to obtain a grant for land in West Tennessee. Complicating research in grants today are the number of empty files or shucks in the Secretary's grant records. When there is no surviving copy of the warrant or survey, there is only a small chance that one can determine which warrant was used; in a few instances warrant numbers or names or original warrantees are mentioned in the recorded copies of grants.
In 1796 Tennessee became a state. But it didn't have control of the land grant process. When North Carolina ceded the territory to the federal government, it reserved enough land (no specific location) to satisfy any additional military bounty warrants that may be issued. North Carolina also tried to reopen its military bounty land office in Nashville in 1800, but this didn't last long. Creating a larger problem were all the warrants which had been issued which had not been used to obtain a grant; this included the duplicate warrants (many of which should not have issued). For a time there were unsettled disputes between Tennessee officials and North Carolina about "who's in charge". About 1804 John Overton was appointed to try to negotiate a settlement. He succeeded in being allowed (with the help of clerks) to make copies of the grants and some other material in the Secretary's land grant office pertaining to Tennessee land. In 1806 a settlement was reached between Tennessee and North Carolina. North Carolina could continue to issued military bounty warrants, but the survey would be done by a Tennessee official and the grant would be issued by Tennessee. Tennessee also tried to divide the state into surveyors' districts. The surveyor in each district was supposed to resurvey all North Carolina grants (to determine if the land could be found and if two or more grants may overlap), find all warrants that hadn't been used for a grant and try to associate each with a specific tract of land, and make a report so Tennessee could determine how much land had been granted or claimed and how much remained. The people who owned an "unused" warrant were supposed to bring them before one of two commissioners so the warrants could be review (for fraud involved in the buying or selling of the warrant). One commission was in Knoxville (for East Tennessee) and the other was in Nashville (for the remainder of the state). If the commissioners found no problem, a new warrant would be issued so a survey could be made and a grant obtained from Tennessee. Beware that the commissioners didn't spend lots of time investigating each sale of each warrant. They relied heavily on the statements of people who delivered the warrant to them. So if there was fraud several years ago, that may be overlooked if the current owner said he wasn't involved. For this period, we find several location books arranged by surveyor's district in the Tennessee archives. Some of these have an index by the name of the warrantee, so have no index. There are also some books which indicate how various warrants were divided up into several grants, but these aren't easy to use. The Tennessee archives also has a card index to the Tennessee grants. So the easiest method (currently) to look for a grant is to look through the card index in the Tennessee archives. Using the information on the card, survey, or grant (if all can be found), one can sometimes determine which warrant was used to obtain the grant. Beware that in 1806 and later years there weren't as many tracts of 640 acres (or larger) in one piece in Tennessee. So many warrants were sold off in pieces: 100 acres here, 150 acres there, 50 acres there, etc. And we find several "small" grants because of one "large" warrant.
Mrs. Irene Griffey has published a book containing an index to all North Carolina grants in Tennessee (from 1778 to 1802). An index to North Carolina grants in Tennessee is also found on the web site of the North Carolina archives, using their "MARS" computer system. Barbara, Byron, & Samuel Sistler have published a two volume index to all North Carolina and Tennessee grants in Tennessee; this is a copy of the card index in the Tennessee archives.