What do you think of when the words “land rush” come to mind? Oklahoma, California, or maybe Alaska? Did you know that there was also a land rush in Iowa? Prior to Iowa’s territorial status most who came to the state were miners or trappers, but with the advent of steam navigation on the Mississippi, settlers began to move in to the territory for purposes of farming. Then after the Black Hawk war the Sac and Fox tribes ceded their lands in Eastern Iowa to the government via a treaty of peace negotiated in 1832 by General Winfield Scott. This gave citizens of the United States their first opportunity for legal settlement of what is now Iowa.
On June 1, 1833 the Sac and Fox indians were required to vacate their lands and at that point large numbers of settlers began to populate the area. A few years after these events the Shane family began to purchase their lands in Delaware and Jones Counties from the U.S. Government.
The Farm, Part I
Robert Shane’s farm spanned the border of Delaware and Jones Counties in Iowa. This much we know from Census, Land Purchase and Probate records. But when and how did Robert obtain the land and how much land did he hold? Was he rich or poor? How did the Shanes happen to settle in Iowa instead of another state? What was the family’s day to day routine like? These were some of the questions I set out to answer through a study of the Iowa Land Records and Agricultural Census.
In order to identify just when and where in Iowa the Shanes settled I consulted several databases including these at Ancestry.com: U.S. General Land Office Records, 1796-1907, U.S. Indexed County Land Ownership Maps, 1860-1918, Historic Land Owners Map and Reference Atlas 1507-2000 and U.S. Bounty Land Warrants, 1789-1858.
Other reference sources included the Bureau of Land Management/GLO records, and Iowa State University’s Geographic Map Server. All these sources were rich in information and I was able to locate several records pertaining to the Robert Shane family holdings:
Robert Sheahan: Certificate #5179, March 3, 1848, E 1/2 NE, 80 acres, Section 31, Twp. 87-N, Range 3-W, 5th PM, Delaware County, Iowa.
Robert Sheahan: Certificate #5322, March 1, 1848, W1/2SW, 80 acres, Section 35, Twp. 87-N, Range 3-W, 5th PM, Delaware County, Iowa.
Robert Sheahan: Certificate # 14514, June 15, 1854, SWNW, 40 acres, Section 35, Twp 87-N, Range 3-W, 5th PM, Delaware County, Iowa.
Robert Sheahan: Certificate # 10413, March 1, 1850, NWSE, 40 acres, Section 34, Twp 87-N, 3-W, 5th PM, Delaware County, Iowa.
Robert Sheahan: Certificate #9835, April 5, 1849, NESE, 40 acres, Section 34, Twp. 87-N, Range 3-W, 5th PM, Delaware County, Iowa.
Robert Shane: Certificate # 22083, June 15, 1855, SENW, Section 6, Twp. 86-N, 4-W, 5th PM, Jones County, Iowa, and, W1/2NW, Section 6, Twp.86-N, Range 4-W, 5th PM, Jones County, Iowa consisting of 95.92 acres.
As you’ll notice Robert’s surname is spelled both Sheahan and Shane, derivations of the same name which in Ireland also includes Shahan, Shehan and Sheehan (and probably others as well). We can be certain that the Robert Sheahan identified in these land records is the same person as Robert Shane as evidenced by his many years of owning the parcels of land listed above, as well as his wife Bridget’s inheritance after Robert’s death. If I’ve counted correctly this gives Robert sole ownership of more than 376 acres of Iowa farmland. In addition there were land purchases made by Daniel Sheahan and Dennis Sheahan (presumed to be brothers of Robert) and Mary Sheahan, (presumed to be Robert’s Mother). Their purchases included the following:
Daniel Sheahan: Certificate # 10414, March 1, 1850, NWNW, 40 acres, Section 35, Twp 87-N Range 3-W, 5th PM, Delaware County, Iowa
Dennis Sheahan and Mary Sheahan: Certificate # 5178, March 1, 1848, 80 acres, Section 31, Twp 87-N, Range 3-W, 5th PM, Delaware County, Iowa.
Mary Sheahan: Certificate #5210, March 1, 1848, 160 acres, Section 30, Twp 87-N, Range 3-W, 5th PM, Delaware County, Iowa.
Mary Sheahan: Certificate # 5316, March 1, 1848, 160 acres, Section 34, Twp 87-N, Range 3-W, 5th PM, Delaware County, Iowa.
Some cautious conclusions:
Robert’s holdings include six purchases, five of which are in Delaware County, one in Jones County for a total of 376.92 acres.
Mary’s holdings include two purchases of 160 acres each, plus shared ownership of 80 acres with Dennis, for a total of 400 acres. All acreage located in Delaware County.
Daniel’s holdings include 40 acres in Delaware County.
If I’m correct that Robert, Mary, Dennis and Daniel were related, the family would have owned a total of over 800 acres! If this is true my assumption that the Shane’s were not particularly well off would be completely wrong.
An additional note: Michael Sheahan also purchased 80 acres in Section 32. At this point I have no idea who Michael is but assume he was somehow related to the others.
It should also be noted that Edmund/Edward Quirk owned land adjacent to the Sheahans in Section 36. Johanna Shane, Robert’s sister was married to Edmund Quirk and they lived on the farm next door to the Shanes.
Here’s a rough drawing of where the Sheahan lands were located:
So now I have a pretty good idea of how much land the family owned and it’s location. There’s still the question of how Michael Sheahan fits in to all this and of course most of my original questions have yet to be answered.
Next I’ll analyze the Agricultural Census records and see what they reveal about the Sheahan family. Stay tuned!
Susan J. Edminster, August 15, 2010 Granite Falls Washington, All Rights Reserved.