Arkansas Land and Property

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When the United States organized the Missouri Territory in 1812, it agreed to recognize the private land grants previously issued by Spain and Mexico. Most of these are in Arkansas and Desha Counties. A preemption law of 1814 gave those already living on the land the first right to claim the land. Private land claims commissions were established to process these claims. Private claims to 1837 in the American State Papers are indexed in Phillip W. McMullin, Grassroots of America (Salt Lake City, Utah: Gendex Corp., 1972; FHL book 973 R2ag index; fiche 6051323).

Another helpful publication is First Settlers of the Missouri Territory, Two Volumes. (Nacogdoches, Texas: Ericson Books, 1983; FHL book 977.8 R2f). Volume l has the grants from the American State Papers, class 8, public lands. Volume 2 has the grants in the present states of Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.

As the various Indian tribes were removed from the area, their land became the public domain. The land was surveyed and sold by the United States government through land offices, in a process called land-entry. The first general land offices were established in 1818.

Records of the land offices are located in:

Arkansas State Land Commission Office
109 State Capitol
1020 West 4th Street
Little Rock, Arkansas 72201
Telephone: 501-324-9222

Patents are located at:

Bureau of Land Management
Eastern States Office
7450 Boston Boulevard
Springfield, VA 22153
Telephone: 703-440-1600
Fax: 703-440-1609

The Bureau of Land Management has an online index to land patents in Arkansas at The patent search may also provide a digital image of the original patent.

Land-entry case files and applications of those who settled in Arkansas after the Homestead Act of 1862 are in the National Archives. All of the above files are arranged according to legal descriptions of the land. The Family History Library has the land tract books and original survey plats on microfilm.

The Bureau of Land Management has digital images of the original survey plats for Arkansas at The original survey creates land boundaries and marks them for the first time.

See the "Military Records" section of this outline for information about land in Arkansas that was given for service in the War of 1812.

Subsequent transfers of land between private owners were recorded by the clerk of the circuit or county court. Some counties have two courthouses where the documents could have been filed. The Family History Library has microfilm copies of most of the county deeds and indexes. From Pulaski County, for example, the Family History Library has 57 microfilms of deeds (1819-86) and land indexes (1819-1919).