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This is a brief introduction to the LaPorte-Winamac Land Office Database, compiled by the Archives' staff with the aid of an Indiana Heritage Research Grant.
The "land office business" in Indiana began in 1801, when public lands in the southeastern corner of the Indiana Territory were put up for sale at Cincinnati. The U.S. Congress subsequently opened land offices at Vincennes in 1804; at Jeffersonville in 1807; in 1819 at Terre Haute (later Crawfordsville) and Brookville (later Indianapolis); and at Ft. Wayne in 1822. An additional land office opened at LaPorte in 1833; six years later, the office was moved to Winamac. The LaPorte- Winamac District embraced all or part of the present counties of Benton, Carroll, Cass, Elkhart, Fulton, Howard, Jasper, Kosciusko, Lake, LaPorte, Marshall, Miami, Newton, Porter, Pulaski, St. Joseph, Starke, Wabash, and White.
A significant portion of the land in the district was previously offered for sale by the Crawfordsville and Ft. Wayne Land Offices, with some 500,000 acres actually purchased. These sales are not included in the records of the LaPorte-Winamac Office. The first sale of land in the new district took place on 12 August 1833. After the LaPorte-Winamac Land Office closed on 31 January 1855, responsibility for unsold lands was transferred to the Indianapolis Land Office. When that closed, all records were transferred to the State Auditor and from there to the Indiana State Archives.
These land office records comprise the most detailed history available of the settlement of 19 counties, providing the names and residences of the purchaser; the date of purchase; and the legal description of the tract. All this information is now on a computerized database of 48,562 records, each structured in 12 fields documenting the details of a land sale.
Because the project staff did not amend or standardize the entries found in the tract books, many variants can be found for the same name. This variety simply reflects the lack of a standard orthography in a society where not everyone was literate, as well as the vagaries of 19th century clerks. Patrons, then, should search under all conceivable spellings to find the names they want.