Homesteading on the Kanaranzi

In the spring of 1870, John B. Shurr and his nephew, stood on a hill about one mile south of the State Line and looked out to the east over the valley of the Kanaranzi Creek. The Rock River valley was down the hill to the west behind them. They had made the trip from Waseca, Minnesota, to acquire some of the rich soil that made Iowa famous.
Over the next several months, the two men would cut timber along the Rock River and stack it on that parcel of land. An earlier arrival, Dudley C. Whitehead, was already established about four miles downstream where the Kanaranzi joins the Rock. The plan was for him to build a cabin for the Shurrs in trade for their labor of doing some “breaking”, i.e. plowing up the thick prairie sod. John and Alfred did the plowing, left a stove sitting next to the pile of wood and went back to Waseca. John, his wife Hattie and their three children would return in the fall.

After spending that fall and early winter in northwest Iowa, the family finally settled on Lone Tree Farm in the spring of 1871. The trade deal with Whitehead had some complications because the land parcel in Iowa was part of a “school section”. Since the asking price was too high for that Iowa land, the home quarter was established just over the State Line and about two miles up the Kanaranzi Creek from the original location. Here’s a link to a description of the complications and subsequent delay in getting settled on the Minnesota land:

Rivers and tributary streams were important corridors of resources during homesteading. Wood and water were essential for completing a successful claim. The new home place was up on a hill on the east side of Kanaranzi Creek just over the State Line in Minnesota.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management maintains the records for the General Land Office. The online records include the location and date of land patents granted to specific people and are available at:
This link was provided by Shirley Klosterbuer who is on the Board of the Rock County Historical Society. The online information has been used to generate a map of settlement patterns in southeastern Rock County.

Lone Tree Farm is located at the purple star on this map of Kanaranzi and Clinton Townships. Red dots mark land grants made in the 1870s; blue dots mark those made in the 1880s; and green dots are 1890s. There are some clear patterns on the map:
1) The red dots (1870s) tend to be clustered along Kanaranzi Creek and Rock River while the blue dots (1880s) are located more on the surrounding upland areas.
2) The red early parcels also show a more irregular scatter along streams compared to the more orderly arrangement of the later blue quarter sections on the uplands.
3) The green dots from the 1890s are clustered around the village of Kanaranzi in the northeastern part of the township. The village had been established in 1885 by the town site company associated with the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad (Rose, 1911, p.95).

The odd-numbered railroad lands are conspicuously empty because no small claims could be made there. Railroad companies received land grants from Federal and state governments as incentives to build the critical infrastructure. About half of each thirty-six square mile township became railroad land. The companies were given every odd-numbered section (one square mile) of land for a distance of ten miles, and sometimes up to twenty miles, on either side of the proposed right of way. That severely limited the land available for “little guy” homesteaders. Some of the company land was subsequently tied up for decades by speculators and railroad “barons”.

Even though our family settled on the farm in 1871, the abstract lists the land grant patent as 1885. That’s why it’s marked with a blue dot. Since the Homestead Act only required five or six years to “prove up”, I don’t know why there was a fifteen-year delay to get the formal patent. The abstract for the contiguous half section 33 just to the west says that the Shurrs acquired it in the 1890s.

The owner of that added parcel was a trust set up for the estate of George Harrison. His title to the land is part of the 1867 land grant to the St. Paul and Sioux City Railroad Company. In fact he was on the governing board of the railroad, was also involved in banking and had a mansion in the Twin Cities. So, information available on the Internet basically brands him as an oligarch in the Gilded Age.

In contrast, the settlers on Lone Tree Farm lived and worked on the land. Dad used to say that this ax was the original one used by the homesteaders. He said that the handle had been replaced three times and the head had been replaced twice. BUT, it was the ORIGINAL ax.

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About Lone Tree Farm on Kanaranzi Creek

Recovering academic, earth scientist in phased retirement, farm manager by default, son, husband, father, grandfather.
This entry was posted in Family History, Farm History and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Homesteading on the Kanaranzi

  1. margshurr says:

    Interesting. Wondering if all early rural settling was this complicated. I like the rural outdoor life, but I’m thinking I would not have made a very good pioneer woman. Grateful to them.

    Liked by 1 person

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