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Book of the Week — The American Settler’s Guide: A Brief Exposition of the Public Land System

To the people of Europe, where the high price of real estate confers distinction upon its owner, it seems almost beyond belief that the United States should give away one hundred and sixty acres of land for nothing. Yet such is the fact; a compliance with the Homestead Law, and the payment of small fees and commissions to the local officers, secure title to a quarter-section of Government land. Laborers in other countries, who find it difficult to support their families, can here acquire wealth, social privileges, and political honors, by a few years of intelligent industry and patient frugality.

Timber Culture

The object of the timber culture law is to promote the growth of timber by providing a method of acquiring title to public lands on condition that timber shall be grown thereon to an extent and for a period of time therein specified. The wisdom of this law is seen in the increased annual rainfall in regions heretofore subject to frequent droughts.

Who may apply and for what kind of land.

Any person who is the head of a family, or who has arrived at the age of twenty-one years, and is a citizen of the United States, or who has filed his declaration of intention to become such, as required by the naturalization laws of the United States, may make a timber culture entry without regard to how much land he already owns.

A single woman, duly qualified, who has made an entry under the timber culture act, and subsequently marries, is not thereby debarred from acquiring title to the lands(s).

The American Settler’s Guide
Henry N. Copp (1843-1912)
Washington: H. N. Copp, 1880
HD221 C66 1880

This is a comprehensive ‘how-to’ for the Western settler, explaining the public land system of the United States. According to Henry Copp, a Washington, D.C. land attorney, this guide “is a popular exposition of the public land system of the United States, especially the homestead, pre-emption, and timber culture laws, and is intended to promote migration from the crowded East to the public land States and Territories South and West.” Copp presented the Homestead Act of 1862 as United States legislation that made the country a true land of opportunity.

He detailed gaining American citizenship, finding and claiming a plot of land, and entering a claim to obtain government relief for the now-familiar crop-devastating grasshopper infestations.

As amendments were made to the Homestead Act, and conditions changed, Copp published new editions of this guide to keep would-be homesteaders abreast of those changes. Nineteen editions of the amended work were published before 1892.

Bound in the original blue buckram cover with gold tooling. A Henry N. Copp card is glued to the front flyleaf, and an original prospectus is inserted.

For more on the European encounter with the American West, see our digital exhibition, The Roar of Distant Breakers.

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