As promised, here are details on the 1909-10 homesteads of Axel, Isaac, Oscar, and Smith Larson. Using the GLO (Government Land Office) website, I found the “legal description” (section, township, and range) for each homestead. With map knowledge I picked up in the Forest Service, I could visualize the boundaries of each parcel within its section (square mile). Then using a web site designed for the purpose, I located the sections on Internet maps such as Yahoo maps, Google maps, and especially Google Earth. I highly recommend Google Earth software, which is free, and takes you by satellite photos anywhere on earth, with astonishing clarity.
Finally, I drew in the boundaries and labels with a photo editing program. Here is a wide view showing all four homesteads. The area shown is approximately 8 miles wide. Location is about 25 miles south-southeast from Sidney, MT. The thin white line near the left (along the west boundary of “Smith’s” land) is the Montana-North Dakota border.
*”Ron Whited’s house” is significant, as Ron is a grandson of Axel Larson. I don’t know who owned the land originally, but in the 1930’s, that farm was occupied by the Walter Hart family. My mother, Reatha, was working for the Hart’s when my father, Lovell, met and courted her. By the time I was born, it was farmed by Ron’s parents, Lila Larson Whited and her husband “Skeeter.” Ron, incidentally, is the only relative I know of who still lives and ranches in the area, which is now very sparsely populated.
In the following image (which is not even the largest available blow-up), you can clearly see houses and farm buildings. This image is approximately 1.5 miles wide.To view it yourself, give Google Earth or any map Website a latitude & longitude, such as the corner where Isaac’s and Smith’s land meet (NW corner of Sec. 14, Township 146N, Range 105W per legal description), which are: 47.4646375, -104.0333190. It is easy to spot the section and quarter-section lines, as that is where the seams appear where the photos are “stitched” together. That made it very easy to draw the property lines.
I identified the houses based on my visit to the site in 2003, expertly guided by cousin Larry. It is easy to recognize nearby features, such as the large barnyard to the south of Isaac’s house, and the pond west of Oscar’s. Here are photos I took of the two houses back then.
I’m not quite as certain that I hit the exact location of the original shack from the “famous” 1910 photo, but it is fairly close.
It doesn’t show up here, but near the dead tree is an indentation in the ground where the shack stood. According to Larry, the tree is the same one shown in the old photo (I am a bit skeptical of that).
Next: Finding Private Larson.
3 CommentsLEAVE A COMMENT
Sep 24, 2009
As I remember, your descriptions of the propteries are extremely accurate. Before the Walter Harts lived where Ron Whited’s house is located. there was a Fred Ramus family whose house was located a short distance away. They were extremely good friends with my parents.
A couple things now intrigue me: Why were Axel and Smith alloted 300 acres while Isaac and Oscar got only 160 acres. I would have thought that all homesteaders would have been alloted the same acreage?????
Also, how was the title of Smith’s property transferred to Isaac? I have tried to find out through North Dakota land records but get to the point where they want $100.00 for information and that stops me.
Sep 25, 2009
Wow thanks. Good memory, Uncle I. Frank Ramus and Adolf Ramus were each issued a half section about 2 miles to the west, in 1914. No doubt they could have expanded even closer to the Whited house. I hope to get hold of the 1916 plat maps for that county…oops, North Dakota I mean. Those places are on the Montana side though. I don’t have a line on those yet.
Yes, I am also curious about the transfer of land from Smith to Isaac. Not $100 worth though 🙂
Also a very good question about the double-sized allotments. I’m guessing it may have to do with the amount of arable land on the parcel. I know the land to the north of “Isaac’s house” is very hilly, with real badlands at the ridgetops, extremely barren. The north portion of Axel’s parcel looks even worse on the photos, although I haven’t been there in person.
Lois Larson Hall
Oct 28, 2009
The homesteading act allowed 160 acres per person so a husband and wife could each file on a claim and get 320 acres between them. That doesn’t explain how Smith, with no wife, could have homesteaded 300 acres, or why only Isaac but not Anna filed, unless Grandpa came out to North Dakota, staked his claim, went back to Wisconsin to claim his bride, and by the time they got back all the land was spoken for. You did mention that some of the land was probably considered fairly useless for farming so that certainly could have been used as criteria for the size of land grants and the reason for Smith’s 300 acres.
My Nelson grandparents homesteaded 640 acres in this manner: In a nutshell, my grandmother Alice Erickson came to North Dakota from Minnesota as a young single woman with her father, Aaron Erickson. They each claimed a 160 acre homestead. My grandfather Henry Nelson and his brother Billy each had a 160 homestead. Billy died so Henry took over his land. All totaled up that eventually gave Alice and Henry 640 acres.