The Preemption Act of 1841

The Preemption Act of 1841 permitted “squatters” who were living on federal government-owned land to purchase up to 160 acres for $1.25 per acre, before the land was to be offered for sale to the general public. To qualify under the law, the squatter had to be:

  • a head of a family;
  • a single man over 21 or a widow;
  • a citizen of the United States (or an immigrant who has filed a declaration of intention); and
  • a resident of the claimed land for a minimum of 14 months.

The text of the Act is online.

The Bureau of Land Management website indexes federal land patents that were issued under this act. View the actual patent to determine if the patent was issued under the Preemption Act as not all patents issued under this act are tagged as being issued under this act in their database.

The application materials for these claims are at the National Archives.

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