Shot at, cussed at, starved

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Shot at, cussed at, starved

La Plata County families drawn by 150-year-old act remain

Local families continue to make a mark in La Plata County 150 years after President Lincoln signed the Homestead Act.

Homestead Act facts

In its original version, the Homestead Act of 1862 allowed anyone at least 21 years old who was a head of household to file for 160 acres. Easterners, immigrants, former slaves and women all homesteaded.

The homesteader had to build a 12-by-14 structure and improve the land, generally by farming, before receiving the patent or deed. (Congress neglected to put the word “foot” in the original version of the act, so scoundrels abounded.)

Homesteaders were required to live on their property for a minimum of five years.

After the richer, riparian corridors were homesteaded, the number of acres allowed increased to as much as 640 acres for raising stock.

The act saw 270 million acres (400,000 square miles), or 10 percent of the U.S., claimed and settled.

Only 40 percent of homesteaders succeeded in filing their patents.

The act was in effect until 1976 in the continental U.S. and until 1986 in Alaska.

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Shot at, cussed at, starved

In this family photograph, Pat Greer’s oldest sister, Allie Jane Greer, is a newborn in 1922 with their parents Frank and Hattie Greer in front of their home in southwestern La Plata County. The home, which also housed the Marvel post office for many years, burned down in 1961, and Pat and Lila Greer rebuilt on the exact same spot.
The homestead patent being held by sisters LaVina Mars, left, and Barbara Jefferies was filed in 1883 by their great-grandmother Elizabeth Wommer. The land is near the Forest Lakes subdivision in the Pine River Valley. The family eventually owned several homestead patents, or deeds.
Pat Greer’s father, Frank, homesteaded in Marvel in 1903 at what is now called Greer Corner. While a new house has been built where the original once stood, several buildings on the property still stand more than a century later, including the smokehouse, seen here, and two barns.
Henry and Emma Ludwig were among the early homesteaders in Barbara Jefferies’ and LaVina Mars’ family. Henry Ludwig killed himself after being involved in an altercation over water with another homesteader named Abner Lowell. Ludwig killed Lowell and shot Lowell’s son.
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