About six months ago, all of Saunders County’s deeds, marriage, probate and other records were made available online via familysearch.org.1 It’s a monstrous collection containing over 1,600 books and files of images. I was able to use the deed indexes and deed books to finally sort through how my great-great-grandfather Christian Pearson distributed his land assets to his wife and children upon his death.
Here are the eight properties that Christian acquired during his lifetime:
|A||7/23/1880||Chapman Homestead||W2 SE4 26-14-6||To Fritz (bought back from P.W.)|
|B||9/12/1882||Chapman Railroad Property||S2 NE4 27-14-6||To Lena and Lydia|
|C||15/23/1884||Chapman Greeno Property||E2SW4 26-14-6||To Lena and Lydia|
|D||11/21/1891||Chapman Merritt Property||W2 SW4 26-14-6||To Lena and Lydia|
|E||5/27/1893||Weston Lots (Hill)||5 lots in Weston||Sold 1911|
|F||4/19/1897||Chapman Smith Property||W2 NE4 26-14-6||To Ernest|
|G||2/28/1901||Stocking Precinct Property||S2NW4 & W2NE4||To Carl Oscar|
|H||2/24/1904||Weston Lots (Webster)||4 lots in Weston||still held as of 1917|
Now we will examine each separately.
A. Chapman Precinct Homestead
Christian began residence on his homestead property on May 26, 1873. He received his land patent on July 23, 1880.2
On January 17, 1905, Christian had written a letter to his son P.W., who was then living in Laramie, Wyoming working as an engineer on the Union Pacific Railroad, begging him to return home to farm. He said, “I feel sorry to rent the place away to strangers. I want my own Children to have it.” This was followed by a letter from his mother Johanna on January 25, 1905, further begging P.W. to return home. This all must have been convincing, for on April 3, 1905 Christian and Johanna sold the homestead farm to P.W. for $1.3 The deed also required P.W. to pay $220/year for the remainder of Christian’s life. On the same date, P.W. signed a lease to rent the other Chapman Precinct properties from Christian.4
On November 14, 1907, P.W. sold the farm back to Christian for the sum of $1.5 Christian turned around and deeded the homestead to Fritz that same day, also for $1.6
Family lore is that Christian gave P.W. the cash value of the homestead farm, which P.W. in turn used to buy the 160-acre Larson farm north of Ceresco. The purchase price of the Larson farm was $16,100.7 I believe P.W. paid $8,100 cash and the Larson’s carried a mortgage of $8,000. (This debt would come back to haunt Clara after P.W.’s death.) That farm near Ceresco is still in the family.
Fritz sold the homestead farm in March, 1916 to Joseph Pokorny for $10,250 and a week later bought 160 acres east of Ceresco.8
B. Chapman Railroad Property
Only two years after receiving the patent on his homestead farm, it was profitable enough that Christian was able to buy an 80-acre farm in 1882 for the price of $730.66.9 He purchased the property from the Chicago Burlington and Quincy Railroad Company. This farm was consolidated with two others and Johanna deeded these to Christian’s daughters Paulina (Lena) Peterson and Agda Alida (Lydia) Pearson following Christian’s death.
C. Chapman Greeno Property
In 1884, Christian was able to buy another 80-acre parcel, this one adjoining the west side of the homestead farm. This farm was purchased from William and Almira Greeno for $1,500.10 This farm was also one of the farms consolidated with the railroad property and deeded to Lena and Lydia.
D. Chapman Merritt Property
In 1891, Christian purchased yet another 80-acre parcel to the west of the Greeno parcel. This farm was purchased from Lizzie Merritt at a price of $2,400.11 Assuming these three 80-acre parcels were equivalent, the price of land has increase by more than 300% in less than 10 years. The Merritt property was the third of the three farms conveyed to Lena and Lydia.
All three of these farms (B, C, and D) were conveyed by Johanna to the two girls on Novenber 6, 1908 and all the brothers (and the wives of those were married) signed to the deed as well.12 This was just one month after Christian’s death.
On April 15, 1910, the girls sold the railroad farm to James Fiedler for $5,600.13 Then on June 28, 1913, Lena quit-claimed her ownership in the Merritt property to Lyida and Lydia quit-claimed her ownership in the Greeno property to Lena.14 Now each of the girls owned their own 80-acre farm to do with as they pleased.
On March 13, 1914, Lena sold the Greeno property to Rosie Shandera for $6,880.15 At the time, Lena and her husband Dave were living in Douglas County, Nebraska (Omaha) where Dave was a trolley car motorman. They may have used the proceeds to buy a farm out near Gothenburg, Nebraska but I will have to do more research to confirm.
On July 18, 1916 Lydia conveyed the Merritt property to Joseph Staska for the sum of $1 – and he agreed to assume all outstanding mortgages totaling $5,747.90.16 By now, Lydia was a widow, and I think she and her late husband Joe Novak and must have mortgaged her farm to buy other properties. I will have to do some digging to see what Lydia ended up with when Joe’s estate was settled but I suspect it was probably close to nothing.
E. Five Lots in Weston from Hill
Christian bought five lots in the village of Weston for $300 in 1893, perhaps as an investment.17 After Christian’s death, the family sold the five lots to John Wonka for $500 – not a great return on investment as compared to the farm properties.18 Interestingly, the Wonka Oil and Feed Company is still in business at this location.
F. Chapman Smith Property
(Refer to parcel F on the Chapman map above.) In 1897, Christian purchased an 80-acre farm due north of the homestead farm from Schuyler Smith. The purchase price was $2,475.19 There were a series of recessions and panics in the 1890s which probably affected the value of land commodities, but it’s only my guess. In any event, the land prices in 1897 seemed unchanged from 1891 (although there may have been peaking values in between).
This property was transferred to Ernest a year prior to Christian’s death, although Christian retained the right to all profits and leases until his death.20
Ernest held this farm until 1910. He sold it to Joseph Pokorny and used the proceeds to buy a fram near Waverly which he held for over thirty years.21
G. Stocking Precinct Property
Christian bought the Stocking farm in 1901 from Joseph and Catherine Schafer for $7,000.22 It’s amazing – I have a copy of a letter from Lena to P.W. (who was then living in Laramie, Wyoming) and she tells about this farm purchase:
I spose you have heard that we have bought 160 acres more land in Swedeburg about 2 miles from church. We bought it of Joseph Schefer. We paid $7100 for it and we paid $4600 spot cash and we have 2500 mortgage on it. Now is the time for you to help pay debt. It is a lovely place I tell you, it contains 200 peach trees, 100 cherries, 90 apricots, apples, all went apples. There is about 6 or 7 hundred fruits trees with all and big nice buildings and plenty water and close to town. We rented it away to because it was rented when we bought it so we let the renter stay there. We have all we can do with this here at home.
Note that Lena has started the pressure for P.W. to return home (“Now is the time for you to help pay the debt…”)
In 1905, Christian deeded this property to Johanna.23 This is interesting – I wonder if there was a financial motivation to put property into his wife’s name (I can’t think of one) or if he simply wanted his wife to hold property in her own name. If the latter, that seems like a move that’s ahead of his time.
In February 1908, Johanna deeded half of this farm (the east 80 acres) to Carl Oscar.24 That means that prior to his death in October, 1908, Christian and Johanna had transferred 80 acres or the cash equivalent to each of the four sons.
Also in February 1908, Johanna sold the other half of the Stocking farm to Carl Oscar for $6,000 cash.25 The Stocking Farm is still in the family to this day, held by Carl Oscar’s descendants.
H. Four Lots in Weston from Webster
Christian purchased four lots in Weston from Richard Webster in February 1905.26 They deed reads as though they are undeveloped lots. Christian conveyed these into Johanna’s name at the same time he conveyed the Stocking farm to her. I wonder if Christian and Johanna built a house at this location; I know they moved to town, and that as a widow, Johanna had a house in Weston. Johanna and Lydia continued to live in the Weston house after Christian’s death. Johanna died in 1913 and I believe Lydia continued to live in the house afterwards and possibly even during and after her marriage to Joe Novak (he died in 1915). The Saunders County deed indexes are available through 1917 and as far as I can tell, the property had not been sold as of 1917. The lots appear to be the site of the present-day rectory of the Catholic Church in Weston.
On paper, it appears that Christian and Johanna planned well for transferring their assets equally to their six children. I am especially surprised by the consideration given to the women – that Johanna had property in her own name, and that the two daughters had the equivalent of 120 acres each while the sons had 80 acres each. Of course, this could have been “evened out” by the distribution of other assets to the sons such as horses, machinery, farm houses, barns, etc.
Christian said in his letter to P.W. in 1905 that it was his wish that the homestead stay in the family. His wish did not come true; Fritz sold the homestead in 1916. But can we blame him? The value of the property had more than doubled. By selling the farm, he could take the equity and acquire a farm twice the size of the homestead. Today, the buildings on the old homestead have all been razed. The land is still owned by the Pokorny family, who acquired the property from Fritz in 1916.
Only one of the eight properties purchased by Christian is in Pearson hands today, that would be Carl Oscar’s farm in the Stocking precinct. And indirectly, the farm that P.W. purchased with cash from Christian is also still in the family, held by P.W.’s grandson Bill Pearson.
Looking at all these deeds doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know about our family’s genealogy, but it validates everything Aunt Jane wrote in her research in the 1970’s. It also fill in the gaps on interesting aspects of our family’s history and some of the family dynamics at play.
1Book and page references in all footnotes refer to to “Saunders, Nebraska, United States Records,” images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/records/images/search-results?place=394564&page=1&lifeEvent=127179&lifeEventRecordTypes=123546 : December 14, 2021); deed records; register of deeds.
2Christian Parson Final Certificate No. 9130, U.S. Lan Office at Lincoln, Nebraska; National Archives and Records Administration.
3Saunders County deed records, Book 36/Page 534
4Lease agreement between Christian Pearson and P.W. Pearson, copy in Karen’s personal files
5Saunders County deed records, Book 39/Page 487
6Saunders County deed records, Book 39/Page 491
7Saunders County deed records, Book 39/Page 488
8Saunders County deed records, Book 49/Page 206 and Book 49/Page 227
9Saunders County deed records, Book S/Page 466
10Saunders County deed records, Book V/Page 304
11Saunders County deed records, Book 16/Page 51
12Saunders County deed records, Book 42/Page 343
13Saunders County deed records, Book 43/Page 521
14Saunders County deed records, Book 48/Page 2
15Saunders County deed records, Book 46/Page 326
16Saunders County deed records, Book 50/Page 82
17Saunders County deed records, Book 18/Page 217
18Saunders County deed records, Book 44/Page 526
19Saunders County deed records, Book 23/Page 138
20Saunders County deed records, Book 39/Page 439
21Saunders County deed records, Book 43/Page 537
22Saunders County deed records, Book 26/Page 615
23Saunders County deed records, Book 30/Page 506
24Saunders County deed records, Book 39/Page 440
25Saunders County deed records, Book 44/Page 525
26Saunders County deed records, Book 30/Page 505