Three friends from Indiana, Arza Millikan, Harry Kincaid and Elmer Davis filed homestead claims in New Mexico in February 1907. They moved out to their claims in August 1907. According to the Homestead Act of 1862, if they “improved” their claims—put up a house, fencing if needed; lived on the land & farmed it for 5 years, they would receive it free from the US Government (aside from filing fees.) However, they could also get the land quicker if they improved the land (put up a house & put in crops) and resided on it for 6-8 months. They would then pay a certain amount of money per acre to get the title to the land. The original Homestead Act set the price at $1.25 per acre. I’m not sure if this was still the price in 1907.
When a homesteader was ready to take legal possession of the land, they would get 2 neighbors or friends to vouch for the fact that they made improvements to the land and that they resided there for the required time period. These witnesses would sign the “proof” document. Notice of the intention to “prove up” was published in the local newspaper for 5 weeks to allow anyone who didn’t agree to contest the claim. When we visited New Mexico in 2007, we found actual newspapers from that time in a museum and saw the “proving up” notices for the three friends.
Harry’s notice was in the May 1, 1908 edition of the Nara Visa Register. Elmer’s notice was in the May 8 edition of the Nara Visa New Mexican.
On May 22, 1908, the Nara Visa Register included Arza’s “proving up” notice.
The friends were witnesses for each other. The notices were recorded from the land office in Clayton, New Mexico, which was the county seat for Union County. So I guess the young men would have traveled the 39 miles up to Clayton to the courthouse to file their paperwork. This picture shows the Union County Courthouse as it would have looked at that time. It was hit by a tornado later in the year and had to be rebuilt.
One final notice in the Nara Visa Register from June 12, 1908:
Then on June 19, 1908, the Sheridan News reported the return of the young men to Indiana
So the three friends have returned home to the Indiana farms where they were born and raised. The New Mexico report indicates that they were going home for the Summer and would return to New Mexico in the Fall. As far as I know, they did not go back to live on the land. Perhaps they realized farm life would be easier on land in Indiana than New Mexico. Whatever the reason, they stayed in Indiana.
Arza made an entry in a farm ledger book January 1, 1909. In it he summarized his New Mexico adventure. I’ve already included part of that entry in some parts of this story. The rest follows: “We boys proved up and came back to Indiana June 13, 1908. A few days ago I rec’d Patent from the Gov’m’t. My claim cost me $600. beside almost a years time & hired help at grandpa’s.”
I have a copy of Arza’s land patent from the Bureau of Land Management’s website. The original is in the possession of a family member.
The land is still in the family. We visited it in 2007—it’s a pretty barren piece of property. But one must consider that the Dust Bowl affected this area of the country. Hard to imagine the land with any crops as the pictures saved from 1907/08 show the same thing we found—dirt and tufts of grass. Comparing it to the Indiana farmland where the young men came from, I think I can figure why they stayed in Indiana.
Arza continued helping on his Grandfather, Clark’s farm until he got married in 1916 and took over the farm of his Father, Elwood. Elmer stayed on the farm just down the road from Arza’s the rest of his life. Harry got married to one of the girls from the Sunday School class, Florence Hinshaw. He worked at an automobile factory.
Here is one final picture of the three friends, Harry, Arza and Elmer, probably taken in the 1950’s:
They shared an adventure in New Mexico—maybe trying to find their fortunes with land—but ended up back home in Indiana where their fortune could be found much easier.
© MJM 2018