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Polly Lemon’s Land Claim

Polly Lemon’s Land Claim/tiles/non-collection/l/lfp_057imgtile1.xml
Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration
Polly Lemon’s Land Claim/tiles/non-collection/l/lfp_057imgtile2.xml
Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration


Sometime before 1828, Polly Lemon settled a homestead in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, on property that the military later seized for the use of Fort Jesup. After she petitioned for replacement of her land, Congress passed H.R. 294, granting her 640 acres in the northwestern region of the state.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the Spanish and Americans disputed the border between their territories on land acquired in the Louisiana Purchase. They temporarily resolved to remove themselves—the Spanish westward and the Americans eastward—leaving an area in what is now western Louisiana devoid of law enforcement. Rogues, squatters, and criminals took advantage of this no-man’s-land. After the United States acquired the territory in the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819, which formalized the Louisianan borders, the United States military constructed Fort Jesup in 1822 to maintain order. When the fort’s commander requested that the surrounding area be cleared of the unsavory locals 10 years later, settlers like Lemon lost their land.

Determined to continue her life in Louisiana, but with limited options for action as an uneducated woman, Lemon petitioned Congress to grant her a land claim elsewhere in the state. The House Committee on Private Land Claims, created in 1816 to handle these types of settlement issues, reviewed her petition and favorably reported a bill for her “prompt and ample relief” in 1836.

Congress passed H.R. 294, “a bill for the relief of Polly Lemon,” in March 1839. This legislation entitled her to 640 acres of “any unappropriated public land in the north-western district for the sale of lands in the state of Louisiana.” Determined to settle far beyond the reaches of Fort Jesup, Lemon claimed her new land in Caddo Parish—the northwesternmost corner of Louisiana—within a few months.

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