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Process for Receiving a Land Grant: Bounty Land

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This week is the final installment of this series. In the past four parts, I talked about the different aspects of getting a land grant – different ways to receive a patent, the entry, the warrant and survey with plat maps, and the patent. Today, I want to turn towards the State of Tennessee.

counties in the area that would later become Tennessee in 1790

State of Tennessee in 1790

During the Revolutionary War, the state of North Carolina was required to raise up troops for the Continental Line. Although the Continental Line was the army of what was to become the United States, individual states were responsible for supplying additional troops. It is important to note that this is separate from the state militias. Some states, like North Carolina, chose to entice men to serve on the Continental Line by granting land in areas that had not been settled, known as bounty land. For North Carolina, the land was in the far western parts of North Carolina in the area that would become the state of Tennessee. Not all soldiers who served on the Continental Line were eligible for bounty land. Only those on the Continental Line for no less than 24 months were eligible.

Land was based on two things – rank and months of service.  A private received 7.6 acres for each month. If that private served 84 months (7 years, in other words, the entire war), he would be eligible to receive 640 acres. The higher the rank, the more acres per month of service. For example, a captain serving 84 months was eligible for 3,840 acres. A major serving for 84 months was eligible for 4800 acres. Colonels and chaplains serving for 84 months were eligible for 7,200 acres while brigadier generals were eligible for 12,000 acres.

In some cases when a soldier died before the time that bounty land could be warranted, the land was warranted to the “heirs of….” This is very common to see, and unless one of the heirs wanted the bounty land, it was usually sold. Some took advantage of this by buying hundreds and thousands of acres of land.

In order for a soldier or the soldier’s heirs to receive a warrant, his service had to be verified. If the claim looked legitimate, the Secretary of State issued a warrant. As mentioned in part 3, a warrant authorized a specific area of land to be surveyed. Once the warrant was received, he could sell if it he wanted to. Many decided to do just that. The grant went to the person with the warrant – either the soldiers, his heirs, or someone it was sold to.

So where are the records? Generally speaking, records before TN became a state on June 1, 1796 are filed at the State Archives of North Carolina in a group of records for the Secretary of State. The State Archives of North Carolina does have microfilm for bounty land records through 1791. Records after 1797 are located at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. The State Archives of North Carolina has published a guide online that may help with understanding not only the process of bounty land, but also where to find the grants and warrants.

The Government & Heritage Library has a couple of sources. At least once a month, there is a question regarding a Revolutionary War soldier, and I often check some, if not all, of the sources below. They all work well together and each tells a fuller story than just using one source alone.

  • Bockstruck, Lloyd DeWitt. Revolutionary War Bounty Land Grants: Awarded by State Governments. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1996. This is my go-to source for those who received bounty land grants. It’s very easy to read, very straight forward – alphabetical by surname and then given name. Information for each entry gives name, state, rank, grant date, and acreage.
  • Cartwright, Betty Goff Cook and Lillian Johnson Gardiner.  North Carolina Land Grants in Tennessee, 1778-1791.  Memphis, TN: I. C. Harper Co., 1958.  Entries are handwritten and sometimes a little hard to read. Good to compare with the Bockstruck book above. Bockstruck gives names, state, rank, acreage, date of grant. This book gives grant number, name, acreage, year received, which TN county, location within that county. The names seem to match up between this book and the Bockstruck book. The relevant pages to the bounty land grants are pages 81-110.
  • Daughters of the American Revolution.  Roster of Soldiers from North Carolina in the American Revolution: With an Appendix Containing a Collection of Miscellaneous Records.  Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1972. This book contains information on warrants rather than grants on pages 233-312. Other parts of the book abstract additional information related to service in the Revolutionary War.

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