Land patent

A land patent is an exclusive land grant made by a sovereign entity with respect to a particular tract of land. To make such a grant "patent", a sovereign (proprietary landowner) must document the land grant, securely sign and seal the document (patent), and openly publish the documents for the public to see. An official land patent is the highest evidence of right, title, and interest to a defined area. It is usually granted by a central, federal, or state government to an individual or to a private company.

Besides patent, other terms for the certificate that grants such rights include first-title deed and final certificate. In the United States, all claims of land ownership can be traced back to a land patent, first-title deed, or similar document regarding land originally owned by France, Spain, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Russia, or Native Americans.

A land patent is known in law as "letters patent", and usually issues to the original grantee and to their heirs and assigns forever. The patent stands as supreme title to the land because it attests that all evidence of title existent before its issue date was reviewed by the sovereign authority under which it was sealed and was so sealed as irrefutable; thus, at law the land patent itself so becomes the title to the land defined within its four corners.

History of land patents in the United States of America

Land in the United States of America was acquired by annexation, purchase, treaty or war from France, Great Britain, the Kingdom of Hawaii, Mexico, Russia, Spain and the Native American peoples.

As England, later to become Great Britain, began to colonize America, the Crown made large grants of territory to individuals and companies. In turn, those companies and colonial governors later made smaller grants of land based on actual surveys of the land. Thus, in colonial America on the Atlantic seaboard, a connection was made between the surveying of a land tract and its "patenting" as private property.

Many original colonies' land patents came from the corresponding country of control (e.g., Great Britain). Most such patents were permanently granted. Those patents are still in force; the United States government honors those patents by treaty law, and, as with all such land patents, they cannot be changed.

After the American Revolution and the ratification of the Constitution of the United States, the United States Treasury Department was placed in charge of managing all public lands. In 1812, the General Land Office was created to assume that duty.

In accord with specific Acts of Congress, and under the hand and seal of the President of the United States of America, the General Land Office issued more than 2 million land grants made patent (land patents), passing the title of specific parcels of public land from the nation to private parties (individuals or private companies). Some of the land so granted had survey or other costs associated with it. Some patentees paid those fees for their land in cash, others homesteaded a claim, and still others came into ownership via one of the many donation acts that Congress passed to transfer public lands to private ownership. Whatever the method, the General Land Office followed a two-step procedure in granting a patent.

First, the private claimant went to the land office in the land district where the public land was located. The claimant filled out entry papers to select the public land, and the land office register (clerk) checked the local registrar records to make sure the claimed land was still available. The receiver (bursar) took the claimant's payment, because even homesteaders had to pay administrative fees.

Next, the district land office register and receiver sent the paperwork to the General Land Office in Washington. That office double-checked the accuracy of the claim, its availability and the form of payment. Finally, the General Land Office issued a land patent for the claimed public land and sent it on to the President for his signature.

The first United States land patent was issued on March 4, 1788, to John Martin.[1] That patent reserves to the United States one third of all gold, silver, lead and copper within the claimed land.

STA Patent OH0030.411.PDF
A land patent for a 39.44-acre (15.96 ha) land parcel in present-day Monroe County, Ohio and within the Seven Ranges land tract. The parcel was sold by the Marietta Land Office in Marietta, Ohio in 1834.

Usage restrictions (e.g., oil and mineral rights, roadways, ditches and canals) placed on the land are spelled out in the patent. Such private property rights can also be thereafter negotiated in accord with the terms of private contracts. The rights inherent in patented land are carried from heir to heir, heir to assignee, or assignee to assignee, and cannot be changed except by private contract (warranty deed, quitclaim deed, etc.). In most cases, the law of a particular piece of patented land will be governed by the Congressional Act or treaty under which it was acquired, or by terms spelled out in the patent. For example, in the United States the laws governing the land may involve the Homestead Act or reservations placed on the face of the patent, or the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which governs certain jurisdictional dicta relating to large amounts of land in California and adjoining territories.

Because most people become familiar with land rights only when they acquire real estate either by inheritance or through the process of a purchase contract, they never learn the difference between land and the property appurtenant to it. Accordingly, their familiarity with land law remains virtually non-existent; and, they only become accustomed to State statutory regulations relative to the property appurtenant to the land, that is to say: property taxing, zoning and building codes, etc.

Former U.S. territories

When a territory agreed to enter the Union of the United States of America, an Enabling Act was agreed to as a condition precedent of statehood. The Enabling Act requires that all unappropriated (not yet privately owned) lands be forever disclaimed by the territory and the people of the territory, and the title ceded to the United States for its disposition.[2] For example, the enabling act of the Washington Territory declares, in part:

... that the people inhabiting said proposed States do agree and declare that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within the boundaries thereof, and to all lands lying within said limits owned or held by any Indian or Indian tribes; and that until the title thereto shall have been extinguished by the United States, the same shall be and remain subject to the disposition of the United States. ..

After the right and title to land was disclaimed by the people of the territory, it was held in trust by the United States until someone proved a claim to it, typically by improving the homestead parcel for a certain period of time. Once a proper claim has been filed, the General Land Office (now the Bureau of Land Management) certifies that the claimant has paid for a survey, as well as depositing another sum of money. Then, pursuant to the various land acts of Congress, the land is granted to the private owner by letters patent under the signature and seal of the President of the United States of America.


Legal entities other than natural persons (such as trusts and corporations) cannot obtain land patents except by express act of the United States Congress. An example of Congress granting land through patents to corprate entities is the railroad grants made to compensate the railroad companies for building railroads across America.

A land patent is permanent and cannot be changed by the government after its issuance except in case of fraud, clerical error, or failure to pay the initial administrative fees. A statute of limitations applies.


  1. ^ U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office Records
  2. ^ The Republic of Texas, however, retained its unappropriated lands, and Hawaii was a conquered territory.

External links

Ariaanje Coeymans House

Ariaanje Coeymans House is a historic home located at Coeymans in Albany County, New York. It was built in c.1690 and has a 2- to ​3 1⁄2-story main block with a 1- to 2-story wing. It is constructed of stone and brick and has a gambrel roof. Ariaanje Coeymans (1672–1743) was the heiress of a 17th-century flour and saw milling fortune. Her father, Barent Coeymans, held title to the land patent and died in 1710 intestate. Also on the property are the archaeological remains of mills and outbuildings.It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

Blenheim, New York

Blenheim is a town in Schoharie County, New York, United States. The population was 377 at the 2010 census. The town was named after a land patent, which itself was named after the Battle of Blenheim.

The Town of Blenheim is in the southwest part of the county and is east of Oneonta, New York.

Broad Creek Memorial Scout Reservation

Broad Creek Memorial Scout Reservation, more commonly called just Broad Creek, is the sum of eight separate areas in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The reservation is 3 miles (4.8 km) from the Maryland and Pennsylvania border within Harford County, 25 miles (40 km) from the Maryland and Delaware border, and 28 miles (45 km) from Baltimore. During the summer Camp Saffran focuses on older youth while Camp Spencer focuses on younger youth. Camp Oest was focused on younger youth, but that operation moved to Camp Spencer in 2016. Camp Oest is now used for large events, such as Woodbadge and NYLC. During the off-season Camp Oest, Camp Saffran, and Camp Spencer are open for weekend tent and cabin camping. Five other less developed areas of the reservation used for outpost camping and hiking are called Camp Cone, Camp Finney, The Pines, The Hemlocks, and OA Hill. The facilities at the reservation are used by 36,000 youth each year, 17% of whom are not affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America.

Clifton Park, New York

Clifton Park is a suburban town in Saratoga County, New York, United States. According to the United States Census Bureau, the 2010 population was 36,705. The name is derived from an early land patent. The town is in the south part of the county and is located approximately 12 miles (19 km) north of Albany, 7 miles (11 km) northeast of Schenectady, and 10 miles (16 km) south of Saratoga Springs.

Color (law)

In United States law, the term color of law denotes the "mere semblance of legal right", the "pretense or appearance of" right; hence, an action done under color of law adjusts (colors) the law to the circumstance, yet said apparently legal action contravenes the law. Under color of authority is a legal phrase used in the US indicating that a person is claiming or implying the acts he or she is committing are related to and legitimized by his or her role as an agent of governmental power, especially if the acts are unlawful.

Fall Hill

Fall Hill is a plantation located near the falls on the Rappahannock River in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Though the Thornton family has lived at Fall Hill since the early 18th century, the present house was built in 1790 for Francis Thornton V (1760–1836). The land on which Fall Hill is located is part of an 8,000 acres (3,200 ha) land patent obtained by Francis Thornton I (1657–1727) around 1720. The present-day town of Fredericksburg, Virginia is located on that original patent.

Gravesend, Brooklyn

Gravesend is a neighborhood in the south-central section of the New York City borough of Brooklyn, on the southwestern edge of Long Island in the U.S. state of New York. As of 2010, Gravesend had a population of 29,436.Gravesend was one of the original towns in the Dutch colony of New Netherland. After the English took over, it was one of the six original towns of Kings County in colonial New York. It was the only English chartered town in what became Kings County. It was designated as the "Shire Town" when the English assumed control in 1664, as it was the only one where records could be kept in English. Courts were removed to Flatbush in 1685.

Gravesend is notable as a town founded by a woman, Lady Deborah Moody. Governor Willem Kieft granted her and a group of English settlers a land patent on December 19, 1645. Moody, along with John Tilton and wife Mary Pearsall Tilton, came to Gravesend after choosing excommunication, following religious persecution in Lynn, Massachusetts. Moody and Mary Tilton had been tried because of their Anabaptist beliefs, accused of spreading religious dissent in the Puritan colony. John Tilton became the first town clerk of Gravesend and owned part of what later would become Coney Island. Moody, the Tiltons, and other early English settlers were known to have paid the Lenape for their land. Another prominent early settler was Anthony Janszoon van Salee.

The Town of Gravesend encompassed 7,000 acres (2,800 ha) in southern Kings County, including the entire island of Coney Island. This was originally used as the town's common lands on the Atlantic Ocean. It was divided, as was the town itself, into 41 parcels for the original patentees. When the town was first laid out, almost half of the area was made up of salt marsh wetlands and sandhill dunes along the shore of Gravesend Bay.

The Town of Gravesend was annexed by the City of Brooklyn in 1894.


A headright is a legal grant of land to settlers. Headrights are most notable for their role in the expansion of the thirteen British colonies in North America; the Virginia Company of London gave headrights to settlers, and the Plymouth Company followed suit. The headright system was used in several colonies, including Maryland, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Most headrights were for 1 to 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) of land, and were given to anyone willing to cross the Atlantic Ocean and help populate the colonies. Headrights were granted to anyone who would pay for the transportation costs of a laborer or slaves. These land grants consisted of 50 acres (200,000 m2) for someone newly moving to the area and 100 acres (0.40 km2) for people previously living in the area. By giving the land to the landowning masters the indentured servants had little or no chance to procure their own land. This kept many colonials poor and led to anger between the poor slaves and wealthy landowners.

Indian Territory

As general terms, Indian Territory, the Indian Territories, or Indian country describe an evolving land area set aside by the United States Government for the relocation of Native Americans who held aboriginal title to their land. In general, the tribes ceded land they occupied in exchange for land grants in 1803. The concept of an Indian Territory was an outcome of the 18th- and 19th-century policy of Indian removal. After the Civil War (1861–1865), the policy of the government was one of assimilation.

The term Indian Reserve describes lands the British government set aside for indigenous tribes between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River in the time before the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783).

Indian Territory later came to refer to an unorganized territory whose general borders were initially set by the Indian Intercourse Act of 1834, and was the successor to the remainder of the Missouri Territory after Missouri received statehood. The borders of Indian Territory were reduced in size as various Organic Acts were passed by Congress to create incorporated territories of the United States. The 1907 Oklahoma Enabling Act created the single state of Oklahoma by combining Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory, ending the existence of an Indian Territory.

Johnson v. M'Intosh

Johnson v. M'Intosh, 21 U.S. (8 Wheat.) 543 (1823), is a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that held that private citizens could not purchase lands from Native Americans. As the facts were recited by Chief Justice John Marshall, the successor in interest to a private purchase from the Piankeshaw attempted to maintain an action of ejectment against the holder of a federal land patent.

The case is one of the most influential and well-known decisions of the Marshall Court, a fixture of the first-year curriculum in nearly all US law schools. Marshall's prosaic and eminently quotable opinion lays down the foundations of the doctrine of aboriginal title in the United States, and the related discovery doctrine. However, the vast majority of the opinion is dicta; as valid title is a basic element of the cause of action for ejectment, the holding does not extend to the validity of M'Intosh's title, much less the property rights of the Piankeshaw. Thus, all that the opinion holds with respect to aboriginal title is that it is inalienable, a principle that remains well-established law in nearly all common law jurisdictions.

Citation to Johnson has been a staple of federal and state cases related to Native American land title for 200 years. Like Johnson, nearly all of those cases involve land disputes between two non-Native parties, typically one with a chain of title tracing to a federal or state government and the other with a chain of title predating US sovereignty. A similar trend can be seen in the early case law of Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. The first land dispute involving an indigenous party to reach to the Supreme Court was Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831).

Little Nine Partners Patent

The Little Nine Partners Patent was the final land patent granted in Dutchess County, New York, United States. It was given in 1706 by Edward Hyde, 3rd Earl of Clarendon to nine of his close friends, which included his secretary. The grant was likely illegal, and was seen as corruption on Hyde's part. Eventually it would become part of Hyde Park, New York, famous as the home of Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was located in the northern part of the county, and comprises all or parts of the modern towns of Milan, Pine Plains, and North East. Roughly triangular in shape, it was bounded on the north by Columbia County, on the south by the Great Nine Partners Patent (1697) and on the west by the Schuyler (1686) and Rhinebeck (1697) patents. Its eastern boundary was the area known as The Oblong, a narrow strip of land along the eastern edge of Dutchess County, bordering the state of Connecticut.

Although awarded in 1706, it was not until 1744 that the allocation of each of the nine partners was associated with a specific lot through a Dutchess County Court process that involved a lottery system, drawn by "two boys...under the age of sixteen."

Monmouth Tract

The Monmouth Tract, also known as the Monmouth Patent, Navesink Tract or Navesink Patent was a large triangular tract of land granted as a land patent to settlers of New Jersey during the early American colonial period.

New Barbadoes Township, New Jersey

New Barbadoes Township was a township that was formed in 1710 and existed in its largest extent in pre-American Revolutionary War times in Bergen County, New Jersey. The Township was created from territories that had been part of Essex County that were removed by royal decree and added to Bergen County. After many departures, secessions and deannexations over the centuries, New Barbadoes Township exists today as Hackensack, which adopted its present name in 1921.

The township was named for the then-British colony of Barbados. Soon after British annexation of the Dutch province of New Netherland in 1664, Philip Cartaret, governor of what became the proprietary colony of East Jersey, granted land to Captain John Berry in the area known as Achter Kol He soon took up residence and called it "New Barbadoes", having previously resided on the Caribbean island. The original land patent encompassed area between the Hackensack River and the Saddle River. The early colonial owner is recalled in the name of a stream in the New Jersey Meadowlands, Berrys Creek, and the historic Yereance-Berry House.

As originally constituted, the Township included all of present-day Bergen County west of the Hackensack River, including portions beyond the Passaic River, and added the whole territory between the two rivers from Newark Bay once known as New Barbadoes Neck (including the western part of present-day Hudson County), northward to the boundary with New York and west to the boundary line of Sussex County.

In 1716, Saddle River Township was created from all portions of New Barbadoes Township west of the Saddle River. New Barbadoes then consisted of all lands west of the Hackensack River and east of the Passaic and Saddle Rivers.

In 1775, Harrington Township was formed by royal charter from the northern portions of both New Barbadoes Township and Hackensack Township.

Lodi Township was formed in 1821 from the southern portion of New Barbadoes Township.

In 1871, Midland Township (now Rochelle Park) was created from the northern portions of New Barbadoes Township.

The Hackensack Commission was formed within New Barbadoes Township in 1868. New Barbadoes Township remained in existence until 1921 when it was replaced by the City of Hackensack.

Northampton, Fulton County, New York

Northampton is a town in Fulton County, New York, United States. The population was 2,670 at the 2010 census. The name comes from an original land patent. Northampton is in the northeast corner of the county and is northeast of Gloversville.

Nowadaga Creek

The Nowadaga Creek basin drains portions of the towns of Danube, Stark, and Little Falls, as well as a small portion of the town of Warren, in southern Herkimer County before converging with the Mohawk River in Indian Castle, New York. The drainage basin is approximately 49 percent forested. The creek has an average slope of 1.7 percent over its entire stream length of 10.0 miles. On a 1790 land patent map it is spelled "Inchanando Creek".

Onesquethaw Creek

Onesquethaw Creek is a 14.5-mile-long (23.3 km) creek in Albany County, New York. It is a tributary of the Hudson River. It rises in the town of New Scotland, to the west of the hamlet of New Salem, in the Helderberg Mountains, and flows to Coeymans Creek in the town of Bethlehem, southwest of Delmar.

Pawling (town), New York

Pawling is a town in Dutchess County, New York, United States. Its population was 8,463 at the 2010 census. The town is named after Catherine Pauling, the daughter of Henry Beekman, who held the second largest land patent in the county. A misprint caused the U to change to a W and the name stuck.

The Town of Pawling is in the southeast part of the county. The town has a village of Pawling.

Poplar Springs, Maryland

Poplar Springs is a town located in western Howard County in the state of Maryland in the United States.

The town is named for the "Poplar Spring Branch" where Levin Lawrance settled in 1741 and Captain Philimon Dorsey settled in 1750 on a land patent named "Dorseys Grove".Old Frederick Road was built through the town, following a Native American foot trail. In 1783, two weekly stagecoaches traveled the road. In 1835, eight daily coaches traveled through town. In the summer of 1843 and 1844 Samuel Morse used Poplar Springs as a vacation spot while experimenting with the single wire telegraph.

After the civil war, members of the 1st Maryland Infantry, CSA would hold regular reunions at the hotel in town. By 1888 the town population was 48

Slates Hot Springs, California

Slates Hot Springs (also known as Big Sur Hot Springs, Slate's Hot Springs, Slate's Springs, and Slate's Hot Sulphur Springs) is an unincorporated community in the Big Sur region of Monterey County, California. It is located 8 miles (13 km) north-northwest of Lopez Point, at an elevation of 118 feet (36 m).Thomas B. Slate filed a land patent for the site and adjacent land on September 9, 1882. He built a home on the site of the springs in 1868 and developed the springs for tourists. He claimed that the waters cured him of arthritis and it attracted others seeking a cure for their physical ailments. He sold the property to Salinas physician Dr. Michael Murphy in 1910, whose family owned it until 1967, when Michael Murphy and Dick Price bought it from the estate of Michael's grandmother, Vinnie McDonald Murphy. They incorporated the business as Esalen Institute.

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