Sunday, June 12, 2011

North Carolina Land Grants

North Carolina Land Grants

North Carolina Land Grant Procedure 1777-1800

Land Entries, Land Warrants, Land Surveys, & Land Grants in North Carolina (1777-1800):

In 1777 the legislature of the "new" state of North Carolina passed an act allowing the state to take over the title to all "vacant" land within its borders. This land had formerly been the property of the King or the Earl of Granville. In the same year, the legislature also passed an act creating a procedure for selling the land to almost anyone who had the money to pay the required fees. These "instruments" were called grants, but that does not imply the free gift of land.

The first step in the procedure was for the prospective landowner to find some vacant land. He may choose land on which he has been living, an adjoining tract, or a tract far removed from his current residence. The next step was to have the claim recorded in the land office in the county where the land was. There was a small fee to pay for recording the claim. This is sometimes called "making a land entry" or having the claim entered in the records. A land entry taker was appointed to each county land office. The land description at this point was purposely vague. The state was interested in getting the entry in the records and making sure the claimant could pay the required fees. It was understood that the land description would be clearer once a survey was made.

In 1778, all required fees were supposed to be paid when the entry was recorded (entry fees, surveying fees, & grant fees). But this soon changed, and only entry fees were required when the entry was recorded. Between 1778 and 1781, the person making an entry had to pledge allegiance to the state. This requirement was supposed to keep Tories from claiming land.

Next there was a waiting period. The purpose of the waiting period was to allow time for everyone else to know the tract had been claimed. Other people could then decide if the claim included land that was already owned by someone other than the claimant. If such problems arose, there could be a court trial to determine who was really entitled to claim (or own) the land before additional steps were taken. If there were no disputes, the entry taker would issue a land warrant. The warrant was form letter addressed to the county surveyor instructing the surveyor to survey the claim "without delay". The surveyor was paid based on the number of acres in the survey (which may be slightly different from the number of acres in the land entry).

When the survey was finished, the land warrant and two copies of the survey were sent to the North Carolina Secretary of State. Usually, surveys included the name of the surveyor and names of chain carriers. Chain carriers may be neighbors or the person whose land is being surveyed; depending on who was present on that day. The Secretary was supposed to make sure the State Treasurer had received the state's share of the fees before he proceeded with a grant. The state charged 50 shillings per hundred acres between 1778 and 1781. Beginning in 1783, the state fee was raised to 10 pounds per hundred acres. Afterward, the fee varied; lower fees were charged if the land included a swamp or was mountainous. Still later, the state's fees were changed every few years.

Using the land description in the survey, the Secretary (or one of his clerks) filled out a land grant. The Governor signed the grant. The state seal was attached to the grant by the Governor's Secretary. One copy of the survey was attached to the grant. The land description was recorded in the land grant books kept by the Secretary of State. The Secretary kept the second copy of the survey and the land warrant. The Secretary of State and Governor's Secretary were paid small fees for each grant that was processed. Prior to the Governor signing a grant, a "last minute" protest could be made. Paperwork survives for petitions dated between 1778 and 1835; such disputes were settled by a jury trial in the county where the land was located. Many times, we find a petition to the Governor, but we have difficulty determining the outcome of the trial.

The grant was returned to the grantee. Sometimes this means the grant was returned to the county court house, and an advertisement was placed in the local newspaper announcing the arrival of grants from the Secretary. The grantee (new landowner) now had one year in which to have the grant recorded in books kept by the county Register of Deeds. There was a small fee to pay for this also. For as much as 50 years, no one actively made sure each grant was recorded in the county, so some grants weren't recorded in the county.

In 1781 entry offices were closed possibly because the state wanted to change the fee structure, but there was no agreement on how much to change. Warrants could still be issued, surveys could still be done, & grants could still be issued (for entries already on the books) provided the required fees were paid. In 1783, the county entry offices were reopened, and the grant fee to the state was four times the previous amount (10 pounds vs. 50 shillings per hundred acres).

The books on land entries contain abstracts of the books kept by county land entry takers. PLEASE REMEMBER, there are many entries which were never turned into grants. So we find many more entries than warrants or grants in every county. In 1796 clerks of county courts were required to make copies of all entries dated between 1778 and 1796. The clerk was supposed to keep the original entry books and send the copies to the Secretary of State. Since 1796, some original entry books have been lost due to court house fires; most of the old originals have now been sent to the state archives. The copies are also in the archives except in a few cases: Hertford County and Edgecombe County (prior to 1783). Some entry books were destroyed during the Revolutionary War and weren't available to be copied in 1796. Examples of these are Guilford County and Randolph County. All surviving entry books dated between 1778 and 1796 have now been published.

The primary sources of land warrants are the Secretary of State's land grant files now in the North Carolina Archives. The archives has the original paperwork. The archives is busy trying to film all the original paperwork, so you will probably be directed to the microfilm if it is available. There are 2 indexes to the land grant files. The older index is a card index found only in the archives. This index isn't perfect, but it is available. The second index is on the MARS computer system. This index is being compiled by going through the counties in alphabetical order. The computer index includes only files which have been microfilmed; one day it will contain all the grant files. To use either index, you look in the index for a person's name and then for the "file number" (which some people call a shuck number). The grant shucks or files are arranged by county and then numerically by shuck number. Within each shuck (or brown envelope) will be the warrant and survey (if they survive) and, sometimes, other related material. If a shuck is empty, the land description can be learned by referring to the land grant book and page number mentioned on the cover of each shuck.

The Secretary of State's land grant books are also in the North Carolina archives. All the books are on microfilm. You will need to find the grant book and page number using the same card or computer index described above. On each card and in the computer, the grant book and page number are mentioned. The file (or shuck) numbers usually appear in the margins of pages in the grant book (beside each grant). Mrs. Margaret Hofmann is busy publishing the early state grants.

Land Grants in Tennessee by North Carolina

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, and
(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.

Margaret M. Hoffman, "Land Grants," in North Carolina Research: Genealogy and Local History, Helen E. M. Leary, Editor (Raleigh: North Carolina Genealogical Society, 1996), 313-328.

Caroline B. Whitley, North Carolina Headrights; A List of Names, 1663-1774 (Raleigh: Historical Publications Section, Division of Archives and History, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, 2001).
The Source: A guidebook to American Genealogy, Loretto Dennis Szucs, Sandra Hargreaves Luebking (2006):


Collection Title: North Carolina Land Grants and Deeds, 1711-1861; 1901.

North Carolina Land Grants in Tennessee 1778-1791.

The following is from Revolutionary War Bounty Land Grants Awarded by State Governments, Lloyd DeWitt Bockstruck (1996):

During the Revolutionary War North Carolina resorted to bounty lands in order to rains her quota of Continental Line troops. Soldiers had to serve a minimum of two years in order to qualify for bounty. The formula for allocating bounty lands to North Carolina Continental Line veterans or their heirs was based on service from 1776 to 1783 or eighty-four months. The formula was:

Private 604 acres
Non-Commissioned Officer 1000 acres
Subaltern (below rank of captain) 2560 acres
Surgeon's Mate 2560 acres
Captain 3840 acres
Surgeon 4600 acres
Major 4800 acres
Lieutenant Colonel 5760 acres
Lieutenant Colonel Commandant 7200 acres
Chaplain 7200 acres
Colonel 7200 acres
Brigadier General 12,000 acres

The 1783 law prorated the acreage so that privates with two years' service got 225 acres and those with three years' service received 274 acres. Clearly, North Carolina was the most generous in the awards given to officers. In every case the service had to have been in the North Carolina Continental Line. No militia duty was allowed even if that duty was performed under Continental orders.

The North Carolina legislature passed an act in 1780 setting aside a tract in Tennessee bounded by the Holston River, the Powell River, and the Virginia state line for bounty land for officers and soldiers in the Continental Line. When North Carolina sought to implement its bounty land policy, however, significant settlement had already occurred in the area. Accordingly, a new location had to be selected. The new North Carolina bounty land reserve was located in that part of the country annexed to the state in 1776 which became Middle Tennessee south of the Kentucky border. This vast tract northeast of Nashville was reserved and laid out in 1783 for officers and soldiers of the North Carolina Continental Line. Initially the rectangular tract was 150 miles long and 50 miles wide. Eventually the supply of vacant lands in the reserve was exhausted, and the bounty warrants were located elsewhere in Tennessee. No bounty land warrants were located within the present-day boundaries of North Carolina. Most of the North Carolina military land warrants bear the designation of Davidson or Sumner County. Finding an entry to a military warrant in the index of the records of the North Carolina Land Office does not equate to military service for the individual. Land warrants were frequently sold, and some of them actually changed hands a half-dozen times.

North Carolina issued bounty land warrants from 1783 to 1841 in two series. The first included numbers 1 to 5312, issued from 1783 to 1797, which North Carolina agents located in the military district in Tennessee. The second series of warrants, numbered 1 to 1242, which issued from 1799 to 1841 by North Carolina, but Tennessee officials located and granted the patents. A total of 6,554 Revolutionary War bounty land warrants were issued by North Carolina. Both series are in the Secretary of State's Military Land Warrant Book, which is the source used in this work. Each part is arranged in numerical order by warrant number. In addition to the name of the veteran, the acreage, the number of months of service in the Continental Line, the date of issue of the warrant, and the name of the individual to whom it was delivered also appear. In the second series the order of the acreage and the length of service is reversed.

In 1900, the North Carolina Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution issued their Roster of Soldiers from North Carolina in the American Revolution (reprinted by the Genealogical Publishing Company) which included on pages 233-312 a list of the North Carolina bounty land warrants. Unfortunately, this transcription was made from an incomplete and faulty register of the military bounty land warrants. Many of the names do not agree with the original. Moreover, the correct version contains no warrant numbered 236 but does duplicate warrant number 1171 so that all warrant numbers from 237 to 1170 are incorrectly given. They should instead be one number higher. Warrant numbers after 1171 are correct. The most serious flaw in this publication, however, is the omission of 1,579 warrants included in the Military Land Warrant Book. In other words, forty percent of the North Carolina entries are missing from the only published source heretofore available.

Illustrative of North Carolinans who benefited by both the federal and state bounty land programs was Simon Alderson who received North Carolina warrant no. 2071 in the amount of 1,000 acres for his eight-four months of service in the North Carolina Continental Line. From the federal government he received bounty land warrant no. 118884.

If a soldier died before is warrant was issued, the register usually indicates that the warrant was issued to the heirs, but does not name them. If the heirs did not have the same surname, if their names are not known, and/or if the heirs sold the warrant, it is difficult to unravel the details. Shirley Hollis Rice's The Hidden Revolutionary War Land Grants in the Tennessee Military Reservation (Lawrenceburg, Tenn.: Family Tree Press, 1991) provides some much needed assistance. She records more than 3,000 North Carolina Revolutionary military warrants assigned and deeded to someone other than the veteran. Rice examined the deeds of the counties within the Military Reserve as well as a limited number of deed books in counties outside the Reserve. Because of a courthouse fire in Jackson County, there are no entries for that county in her book. Some Revolutionary bounty land grants also appear in Goldene Fillers Burgner's North Carolina Land Grants in Tennessee 1778-1791 (Easley, S.C.: Southern Historical Press, 1981).

Another tool to be used in linking the unknown names of heirs with the veteran involves the papers of the Glasgow Land Fraud. A group of a dozen men attempted to convey to themselves illegally millions of acres in Tennessee. The scandal involved several prominent politicians, and North Carolina Secretary of State James Glasgow was charged with complicity. The group gained control of approximately 2,000 bounty land warrants. Dr. A. B. Pruitt's Glasgow Land Fraud Papers (1783-1800 North Carolina Revolutionary War Bounty Land in Tennessee (the author, 1988 and 1993) treats the complex crime and the incriminating records. The first volume is divided into four sections, and each has its own index.

One final caveat involves the provision by North Carolina for bounty lands in Tennessee to the guards and surveyors who laid out the Military Reserve. They were not Continental soldiers. A surveyor received 2,500 acres. Chain carriers, markers, and hunters received 640 acres. Guards received 320 acres. Fortunately, their warrants and patents do specify their service, so confusion ought to be minimal.

Number 13 (1975) Revised March, 2002 (LO) Raleigh, N. C.

In order to fulfill a recruiting promise made by the state to soldiers enlisting in the regular army (Continental Line) during the Revolutionary War, North Carolina set aside a large tract of land in what subsequently became Davidson and Sumner counties, in Tennessee [admitted as the 16th state June 1, 1796]. After the war, and until as late as 1841, North Carolina issued more than 6,500 warrants for grants of bounty lands; until 1797 the grants were made by North Carolina, but after 1800 the grants were made by Tennessee. The North Carolina State Archives does not have any bounty land grant records for dates beyond 1797. See the “Secretary of State: Land Grants in Tennessee 1778-1791” at the Research Room (microfilm S.108.1), as well as the “List of North Carolina Land Grants in Tennessee, 1778-1791” at the National Archives and Records Administration [NARA],, then look for Microfilm Publications Catalog and record M68.

The amount of land granted as a bounty was predicated upon the rank or grade of the soldier and upon the length of his service. For example, a private received about 7.6 acres for each month's service: 84 months' service (all seven years of the war) entitled a private to 640 acres; 60 months' service, 457 acres; 30 months' service, 228 acres, etc. Militia soldiers (home guard) were not entitled to this land. In order to claim eligibility to land, soldiers or their heirs were required to offer proof of service. Proof of service was checked against a register of the Continental Line especially prepared for this purpose. If the claim appeared valid, the Secretary of State issued a document called a warrant to the soldier or his heirs, which authorized (or warranted) the surveyor to lay off a specified number of acres. On the basis of the warrant and the surveyor's map (or plat) of the land, the Secretary of State issued a patent of title to the specified number of acres.

Register of Military Land Warrants: When warrants were issued, a notation was made in a register kept for that purpose. This register is now in the North Carolina State Archives. The warrants were numbered sequentially as they were issued. The register records the sequential number of the warrant, the name and rank of the soldier to whom it was issued, the number of acres to which he was entitled, the length of his service, the date the warrant was issued, and the name of the person who received the warrant for the soldier from the office of the Secretary of State. Names of heirs are not shown in the register, nor are names of parents, details of service, or other personal data. When the soldier or his heirs received the warrant, they could sell it to anyone else, and often they did. This means that the warrant was negotiable and sometimes legally came into the possession of a person other than the soldier or his heirs. Such a person is called the assignee. One assignee, in turn, often sold the warrant to another. The last assignee was the one who turned in the warrant and the surveyor's plat in order to get a patent of title to the land. Some warrants had as many as six or seven assignees. If the bounty grant was made by North Carolina (that is, before 1798) the original warrant and plat should be searched for in the North Carolina Archives. If the grant of bounty lands was made by Tennessee (that is, after 1800) the original warrant and plat should be sought at the Tennessee State Library and Archives in Nashville. Land records].

It is sometimes difficult to locate the original bounty land warrant and plats in the North Carolina Archives. The warrants are not filed under their original number, but are filed under a later numbering scheme. Also, when the original warrants and plats were indexed by the Secretary of State's staff, between 1909 and 1919, the name of the last assignee was reported in the index; sometimes the name of the Continental Line soldier was indexed but sometimes it was not. This means that there is no simple way to relate the warrant register to the original warrants (and resulting patents of title to military lands). Unless one already knows the name of the last assignee, it is sometimes impossible to locate the copy of the original warrant issued to a soldier or his heirs. The register of military land warrants has been indexed. Both the index and the register are available for use in the Research Room. The Archives staff will check the index to the register for inquiries by mail when specifically requested to do so. Please note that these records are not routinely searched for correspondence requests.

Proofs of Military Service in Secretary of State Records: Until the State of North Carolina ceded its western lands in 1790, it is likely that little proof other than the verbal word of a superior officer and the entry on the muster rolls was required before a military land warrant was issued. A total of 3,702 warrants were issued before 1790, and probably no proof of service will be found for soldiers to whom those warrants were issued other than entries on the Register of the North Carolina Line. However, in 1792, three commissioners were appointed by the General Assembly to approve or disapprove the claims of Continental Line soldiers. Those soldiers whose claims were not approved by the commissioners could petition the General Assembly for reconsideration. More will be said in the next subsection of this circular about petitions addressed to the legislature. By an Act of 1799 the Secretary of State was given sole authority to determine the acceptability of proofs offered by soldiers not on the Register of the North Carolina Line; the General Assembly, however, continued to consider appeals from soldiers. As this system appeared unsatisfactory, in 1807 a new state law required that no warrants be issued to soldiers not appearing on the Register of the North Carolina Line except when authorized by resolution of the General Assembly. In 1811 another law was enacted which required different kinds of proof from three categories of claimants: (1) claimants in their own right were required to submit at least one deposition showing evidence of entitlement to military lands; (2) claimants on behalf of another were required to submit the deposition and a copy of the power of attorney authorizing them to make the claim; (3) guardians were required to submit the deposition and a certified copy of appointment as guardian. Finally in 1819, the Governor, Treasurer, and Comptroller were made commissioners with full power to hear and determine all applications for military lands.

There are 1,422 folders of surviving depositions and proofs submitted by claimants under the systems of evidence just described. These folders are maintained by the North Carolina State Archives, in the Secretary of State Records, in what is known as "Revolutionary Military Papers.” The bulk of these records, a storehouse of genealogical information, was submitted after the act of 1799. Generally they date from the early 1800s, although some of the records date from the 1760s to as late as the 1850s.

A comprehensive card index to the approximately 8,000 names of soldiers and/or their parents, widows, children, siblings, other kinsmen, comrades-at-arms, neighbors, clergymen, and agents has been prepared and is available in the Research Room. The Archives staff will check the index to the "Secretary of State's Revolutionary Military Papers" for inquiries by mail when specifically requested to do so. Please note that these records are not routinely searched for correspondence requests.

Proofs of Military Service in General Assembly Session Records: A similar wealth of information can be found in the large number of petitions addressed to the legislature by soldiers and their heirs from the time of the Revolution to as late as the 1850s. As noted above, laws relating to claims for military lands recognized the ultimate authority of the General Assembly to decide the merits of a claim. Soldiers whose claims were questionable, and between 1807 and 1819 this included all soldiers whose names did not appear on the Register of the North Carolina Line, requested the legislature to intervene in their cases and authorize the issuance of a warrant for military land. These memorials and petitions generally give some details of service, name the unit in which the man fought, and sometimes give personal information. Note also that petitions to the General Assembly were not limited to appeals from Continental Line soldiers hoping for land. Other benefits resulting from service were sought by former militia soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War as well as by soldiers of the Continental Line.

These petitions are preserved in the records of the General Assembly in the North Carolina State Archives. There is no easy way to locate petitions from Revolutionary War soldiers, though the late Marybelle Delamar made a concerted effort to locate, transcribe, and index these memorials. Before her death, Miss Delamar had prepared 943 pages of typed, verbatim transcriptions of memorials and petitions that she had located in what was then called “Legislative Papers,” dated from the period of the Revolution to about 1833. She had also completed an alphabetical index to the transcriptions, which includes nearly 3,000 names, and which is available to researchers in the Research Room. Copies of the Delamar transcriptions can be made, but they cannot be certified by the North Carolina State Archives as being true copies of state records. These transcriptions can be utilized by patrons to locate the originals in the General Assembly Session Records using the date of the petition. Incidentally, these records have now been reorganized and are listed as an “L.P.” box number.

Although the Archives staff cannot undertake to search for original petitions in the General Assembly Session Records, the index to Delamar's transcriptions can be checked for researchers who inquire by mail when they specifically request such a check. Please note that these transcriptions are not routinely searched for correspondence requests.

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