Cal Sutherland’s homestead proof contains a wealth of information about his family situation. His wife suffered from poor health. His neighbors weren’t impressed with his farming skills. And the Land Agent assigned to his case wrote a scathing letter recommending that his application be denied. Things were not looking good for Cal.
Isaac Calvin “Cal” Sutherland homesteaded 162 acres in the area near Lorraine Drive and Clint Drive. His brother Lue had 163 acres on the south side of Clint Drive. Cal was just a few months shy of his 22nd birthday when he filed his claim in May, 1898. He got homesick after a couple of years and returned to Iowa. He is listed in the 1900 Iowa census living in the home of his older brother, Arthur.
Cal married in either 1900 or 1901 but his wife was not suited for farm life. The land entry file contains an affidavit from Allen J. Perkins, MD stating that Mrs. Sutherland suffered from neurasthenia and “sudden and severe attacks of hemicrenia”. Neurasthenia refers to depression and hemicrenia is a 19th century term for migraines.
There is also a notarized statement from Livonia Miller in which she testified that Cal rented two rooms from her in Lake Charles starting around 1902. The Homestead Act of 1862 required applicants to complete five years of continuous residence on the property. Land commissioners appeared to grant some leeway to applicants for this requirement. In his homestead proof, Lue Sutherland stated that he had been away from his property for brief periods while working.
Cal had been away from his property for much longer periods of time. In fact, the 1900 Iowa census indicates that he may have briefly abandoned his farm during the summer of 1900. One witness to the homestead claim testified that Cal had been away as much as six months at a stretch. These gaps in occupancy, as well as Cal’s admission that he had only cultivated two acres out of 162, put his application at risk.
On December 20, 1904, land agent C. W. Irwin denied the proof. He had harsh words for the would be homesteader.
No reason is assigned why the land could not be occupied by reason of the wife’s ill health. There is no allegation that the land embraced in the homestead is in an unhealth (sic) location so as to augment her ill health. No attempt has ever been made to establish a residence on the land since his marriage. The excuse appleals (sic) to me as a fabrication, manufactured to supply the lack of residence. The showing made in the way of cultivation is very poor. A party desiring 160 acres for farming purposes shows very poor faith when no more than two acres are cultivated in five years.
For the reasons above stated I recommend the rejection of the final proof.
Cal appealed the denial. On December 31, 1904, three individuals gave sworn statements on his behalf, physician Allen J. Perkins, his landlady Livonia Miller, and Ward Morgan. Morgan was listed as a witness in the newspaper notice. Only two witnesses were required for the final proof but it was customary to list four people to ensure that at least two were available to testify. Morgan’s testimony on the 31st gave reasons not only for Cal’s lack of residency but also addressed the few number of acres cultivated.
The land agent took pity on poor Cal and revised his recommendation. The land patent was issued on June 28, 1905.
It appears that Cal sold out shortly after he assumed ownership. I cannot find any record of him or his family after 1905.