Land Records

French & Spanish Land Grants, 1790-1803

At various times between the 1680s and 1803, French and Spanish governments controlled the land of the Upper Mississippi from which the state of Missouri would later be formed. During that time, land grants were issued to settlers in the area. The United States' purchase of the area in 1803 gave rise to contentious and often bitter struggle over actual ownership of many tracts of land.

This collection contains the grants of land from the French and Spanish governments, as well as records from various U.S. land offices which determined ownership of the land after the Louisiana Purchase. Many of the documents in this collection date through the 1860s.

United States Land Sales, 1818-1903

These records give the legal land description of land purchased from the U.S. government between 1818 and 1903. The legal land description gives the name of the purchaser, amount of land purchased, section, township, and range numbers for locating actual site of land. There is an alphabetical index available for each land sale volume.

More information about U.S. land sales, such as purchase price, can be obtained by writing to:

Bureau of Land Management
Eastern States Office
7450 Boston Boulevard
Springfield, VA 22153

Archives Information Bulletin: Missouri's Public Domain: United States Land Sales, 1818-1922

Missouri Land Patent Records

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Federal land donated to the state for sale, with patents issued by the State of Missouri, include the following categories:

Township School Land , 1820 - 1900 

The federal government gave Missouri the land in each sixteenth section in every survey township in the state to benefit public education in the various counties. The land was sold, with profits going to build schools and/or pay teachers. This land was authorized to Missouri in the Act of Admission to the United States.

These records are indexed, with images, in the Land Records Database. 

Seminary and Saline Land, 1820 – 1825 

The federal government donated a quantity of land, situated in the U.S. Western Land District and not exceeding two townships, for the use and support of a seminary of learning or a state university. The land was sold for not less than $2.00 per acre. (Laws of Missouri, 1824, Volume 2, pp. 209-213)

Up to twelve salt springs, with six sections of land attached, were set aside for the state and 5% of the net proceeds were designated for creating public roads and canals. This land was also sold for not less than $2.00 per acre. The saline lands were situated in the counties of Pike, Ralls, Cooper, Saline, and Howard and were offered at public sale. (Laws of Missouri, 1824, Volume 2, pp. 239-241)

These records are indexed in the land records database.  The records have not been digitized. 

Swamp Land, 1850 – 1945 

These patents are for land situated in southeast Missouri and granted to the state by an Act of Congress in September 1850. The counties affected were New Madrid, Scott, Cape Girardeau, Dunklin, Mississippi, Wayne, Butler, Stoddard, and Ripley. The governor appointed a board of commissioners to examine the condition and situation of swamp or overflowed lands in those counties. The lands were selected and reported to the Bureau of Land Management, which then transmitted a list of swamp land to Missouri for ultimate sale by the state. The land was sold for not less than $1.25 per acre, maximum purchase of 2000 acres. The net proceeds, after costs, were paid to the county treasury to become part of the common school fund for that particular county. There is a history of corruption in the selection and sale of swamp lands, as speculators vied for cheap investments. (Laws of Missouri, 1851, pp. 232-240)

These records are indexed in the land records database.  Digital records are available through the Missouri State Archives research room. 

500,000 Acre Grants, 1843 – 1951 

An Act of Congress granted this land to the State of Missouri in September 1841. A board of commissioners selected specific sections of land in the counties of Platte, Buchanan, Andrew, and Holt counties. These tracts of land were reported to the appropriate land offices and removed from the ongoing sale of public lands by the United States. Any head of family, widow, or single man over the age of twenty-one was eligible to purchase the land at a cost of not less than $1.25 per acre, total of 160 acres. The proceeds from the sale of the land within the 500,000 Acre Grant went into the state's "Internal Improvement Fund."

Settlers were allowed pre-emption rights on up to 160 acres, provided they had filed statements with the appropriate land office within three months of their settling the land. (Laws of Missouri, 1842-1843, pp. 77, 400)

These records are indexed in the land records database.  Digital records are available through the Missouri State Archives research room.