L.S. Frederick – Tama County’s School Fund Commissioner.

The Preemption Act of 1841 was a federal law approved in Washington D.C. on September 4, 1841, and was designed to “appropriate the proceeds of the sales of public lands…and to grant ‘pre-emption rights’ to individuals” who were living on federal lands – commonly referred to as ‘squatters’. It was this law that basically opened up millions of acres – making places like Iowa and other “western” territories such as Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas, and the Dakotas attractive destinations for those back East who dreamed of owning their own land.

As part of this federal law, Sections 8 and 9 of the 1841 Preemption Act stated that when a U.S. Territory (such as Iowa) became a state (1846), 500,000 acres of land would be set aside and sold for the explicit purpose of raising funds for that state’s internal improvement projects – namely, the building of roads, railways, bridges, etc. Here in Iowa, because of our high priority on education, the State Constitution – when written in 1846 – declared that a healthy portion of the proceeds from the sales coming from this 500,000-acre land grant would go into a perpetual fund for the support of schools throughout Iowa. As part of that declaration, on January 15, 1849, the Iowa Legislature established a Board of School Fund Commissioners, and to that board – made up of one commissioner from each Iowa county – was given the oversight of the selection, care and sale of these lands for the benefit of the Iowa School Fund. Which now brings us to our rare postal cover from May, 1856…

Tama County, Iowa was formed on February 17, 1843, and named for Chief Taimah of the Meskwaki Tribe, who settled in this area (see map below) after being forced away from their camps on the eastern rivers of Iowa. Read more here.

(JP-082) This rare postal cover (above) comes from Tama County in May 1856.

As the State of Iowa expanded the statewide Board of School Fund Commissioners, Tama County’s L.S. Frederick was elected to the assignment in 1856. For the people of Tama County, this was a no-brainer since Frederick was one of the county’s earliest pioneers – moving to Spring Creek Township (see map below) in 1854…

Records indicate that L.S. Frederick and W.A. Bywater were both from Maquoketa in Jackson County, and that they made the journey to Tama County in 1853 on foot – where they selected land on Section 32, after which they journeyed on to Dubuque for the purpose of entering the land. Bywater and Frederick then returned home to Maquoketa, and that fall (1853), they sent S. S. Chapman for the purpose of building a home on their new claim. Chapman occupied the house when completed until the spring of 1854, and on April 4, 1854, the owners of the claim moved westward, taking up their abode in the Tama County cabin, and proceeded, at once, to improve their land.
Between January 15, 1849 – when the Iowa Legislature established the Board of School Fund Commissioners – until 1855, commissioners were subordinate to the Iowa State Superintendent of Public Instruction. But in January 1855 – and extending to March 1858, when the Board was finally abolished – School Fund Commissioners such as L.S. Frederick of Tama County were given exclusive authority in the management and sale of all school lands. As you can see from this information (above) L.S. Frederick was elected in April 1856, which brings us back to Frederick’s mid-May letter to Anson Hart, the Iowa Registrar of State Lands in Iowa City
(JP-082) This rare postal cover was written on May 17, 1856 by the Tama County School Fund Commissioner – L.S. Frederick – and though not postmarked when mailed from Tama, the Iowa City postmaster postmarked it on May 21, 1856 when it arrived in Iowa City. Since L.S. Frederick held a state governmental position, and letter had to do with State School Funding, we’re assuming the letter was sent with no postage cost to Anson Hart, Register of State Lands, whose office would have been in the Capitol Building in Iowa City.

Iowa State Land Office Registrar Anson Hart was born in Turin, Lewis County, New York in 1807. At age 18, Hart moved to Richmond, Virginia, and after eight years of business experience, returned home – living in New York City two years, before spending the next four doing business in Florida. Married in 1837, Hart moved west – first to Putnamville, Indiana, and then, in 1841, to Iowa City. Over the next 39 years, Hart became well known as a banker and land investor across the city, working first as the Land Agent for Iowa Territory, and then, in 1855, appointed as Registrar of the State Land Office. In 1851, Hart was also appointed as a trustee for the fledgling State University of Iowa (see below), and in the 1860’s, became secretary and librarian for the SUI Library – which was located in Old Capitol from 1859-1882.

So now, allow me to unpack the details of L.S. Frederick’s 3-page letter to Anson Hart. Let’s start with page one. Frederick’s text will be in bold italic with my commentary offered along the way…

Office of School Fund CommissionerTama County Iowa – May 17th, 1856

Dear Sir. Your favor (letter) of the 9th Inst (of this month – May 9) and D.S. Wareen of the 14th Inst (May 14) is now before me. Your package of patents to this office in March last (March 1856) I presume was received by Mr. Myers at the time.

I gave Robert Melick that certificate I had, as I supposed, received all the papers of any value that is Mr. Myers told me so. On receiving the desk that belongs to the Office I found quite a number of old papers – principally blanks. And among those, I found those patents you speak of and Mr. Melick’s among them. I will give you the numbers of those that remain. No’s 4719, 4750, 4723, 4724, 4749. Those are the nos. that remain in this office at this time.

From what we understand, Robert Melick and Mr. Myers look to be two of Tama County’s former School Fund Commissioners. As we mentioned earlier, L.S. Frederick was elected to the office in April 1856, and now that he has been in charge for a month or so, L.S. is obviously catching up on the work Melick & Myers left behind.

Registrar Anson Hart in Iowa City has a number of unanswered questions about properties in Tama County, and it sounds like, now that L.S. has control of the official “desk”, there’s a bunch of unattended items that Melick & Myers, obviously, didn’t deal with before leaving their post.

The mistake that has been made in this office in giving the Range 16 when it should have been 15, I am known to myself. Without further preliminaries, I hereby certify that the North Half of the South West Quadrant of Section 16, Township (84) Eighty-Four North of Range 16 – as contained in Sophia Eahart’s patent… (Frederick’s letter continues to page two) …should be Range 15 and that I have, this day, corrected the same on my books.

Yours etc., L.S. Frederick, School Fund Commissioner of Tama County.

Well, it appears that ole’ Melick & Myers made a big boo-boo when writing up the land patent on the Tama County property sold to Sophia Eahart! If you look at the map above, you’ll see that Range 16 is located one Township west of where the Eahart property actually was located.

It might be helpful to insert here that the Iowa School Fund Commission had pre-assigned Section 16 in every township across Iowa to be used for land grant funding. So, with Tama County having twenty townships, there were twenty different Section 16’s to be sold. It’s easy to see why Anson Hart in Iowa City was a bit frustrated when a county commissioner was too careless in his records, because with ninety-nine counties in Iowa, and about twenty townships in each county, we’re talking almost 2,000 different Section 16’s to keep track of!

PS: You will please to send me a blank book as soon as possible to record the organization of Districts, their boundaries, etc., etc.

As L.S. Frederick closes up his letter, he’s asking Hart to send him a new blank book ASAP. We guess that Frederick has a big job awaiting him as he cleans up the records of Tama County!

On page three, we find this additional information…

Explanation: Since the above was written, I have examined the books and find that Sophia Eahart paid for her land at the time she purchased it, and that Mr. Melick has failed to make a record of the numbers of the land she bought of Myers – ex School Fund Commissioner – is in Range 15 or should be. L.S. Frederick

Before L.S. mailed his letter, he obviously went through the files one more time, confirming his writings to Anson Hart. Indeed, when his predecessor, Robert Melick, wrote up the paperwork of the sale to Sophia Eahart, he not only recorded the wrong Range number, but failed to mark it as paid as well. And now, we find out that it was not only T.S.’s immediate predecessor who had it wrong, but that the fore-mentioned Mr. Myers – a former School Fund Commissioner as well – just might have played a major part in the error too! Yikes!

Thank goodness, L.S. Frederick – the accurate bookkeeper – is now on the scene – straightening out a string of old Tama County School Fund Commissioners’ miscues! Let’s hear it for L.S. Frederick!

Preemption Act of 1841, Wikipedia

The Public Lands, The History of Jefferson County, Iowa, Western Historical Company of Chicago, 1879, pp 204-218, IAGenWeb/jefferson

Map of Tama County, University of Iowa Iowa Digital Libraries

Tama County, Iowa, Wikipedia

Taimah, Wikipedia

Spring Creek Township, Chapter XXXVII, History of Tama County, IAGenWeb/Tama

Spring Creek Township, IAGenWeb/Tama

Political, Chapter XII, History of Tama County, IAGenWeb/Tama

A Pictorial History: The University of Iowa Libraries – Anson Hart, University of Iowa Libraries

Anson Hart Territorial Land Agent, State of Iowa 1925-26 Official Register

Anson Hart, State Land Agent. 1855-1857, State of Iowa 1919-20 Official Register

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