In 1864, Burlington and Missouri River Railroad Company got a contract and in 1870 entered Nebraska at Plattsmouth. As the company moved west through Nebraska, 20 miles on both sides of the tracks were opened up for settlement, with only the odd numbered sections in each precinct available. The federal government retained ownership of even numbered sections. All odd numbered sections in Lancaster County were railroad land. Land contracts for Nebraska were microfilmed and this film is available for inspection at the Nebraska State Historical Society with an index available.
This online data base is for only a few contracts and more will be added as time permits. It will be noted that some acres appear to be purchased twice as some contracts show that earlier contracts were cancelled by purchaser. In addition to contract terms etc. there were several questions on the contracts (several forms were used) including place of birth, last residence and length of time in the U.S. and Nebraska. Not all contracts have these questions answered however.
It is assumed that some lands were purchased by speculators as they specified that they had never been in Nebraska. I found it interesting to note that applicant signatures ranged from the "signature mark X" to great penmanship. Others show that the settler was just learning to write his name. Most of the applicants were men but women did buy some land. As with any data extraction from microfilm, there is always the possibility of retrieval errors.
Researched by Teresa Sullivan
Webmaster - Kathie Harrison
Denton Community Historical Society of Nebraska