Winter was well on its way when Timothy Adam claimed a homestead near Moville, Woodbury County, Iowa, in December 1886. At that time, only a claim shanty existed on the property.1 I have to wonder if Timothy weathered the winter alone, with his wife and children situated somewhere in town, or if they joined him in what certainly must have been far from ideal living conditions. In any case, the next year, Timothy built a house that measured fifteen by twenty-one feet – three hundred and fifteen square feet for a family of six.2
The Homestead Act was signed by President Abraham Lincoln on 20 May 1862.3 My first ancestor who took advantage of the one hundred and sixty acres offered to qualified applicants who lived on the land for five years and made specified improvements was Jens Madsen Schmidt, a Danish immigrant who settled in South Dakota in 1870.4 I had assumed that any ancestors who claimed homesteads in the years to follow would have had to journey even further west to find available land, but as it turns out, this was not necessarily the case. It would be sixteen years before Timothy would claim his homestead to the east, in northwestern Iowa.
The new yet modest house must have seemed positively roomy in comparison to the original shanty, and perhaps it was an improvement over what may have been an even more crowded situation back in Massachusetts. Timothy had been born and raised in St. Pie, Quebec, but by the time he was twenty, he had settled in Indian Orchard, Hampden County, Massachusetts, with his wife, Odile Millette.4 For nearly two decades, they relied on the cotton mills to earn a living, although Timothy was a carpenter by trade.5 Life in Massachusetts was likely difficult; Odile reportedly gave birth to ten children, of whom only five survived to adulthood.6 At least one succumbed to scarlet fever.7
Life in Iowa proved to be a fresh start for the family. Within a few years, the homestead boasted a barn, corn crib, hen house, shed, two wells, and fencing, valued altogether at eight hundred dollars. Timothy had cultivated ninety acres, and had raised crops every season. In addition, he had become a naturalized citizen. Finally, in 1893, at the age of forty-five, Timothy Adam became the proud owner of the NE 1/4 of Section 29, Township 88N, Range 45W in Woodbury County, Iowa.8
1 Timothy Adam (Woodbury County) homestead file, final certificate no. 2560, Fort Des Moines, Iowa, Land Office; Land Entry Papers, 1800-1908; Records of the Bureau of Land Management, Record Group 49; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
2 Timothy Adam homestead file no. 2560, Fort Des Moines, Ia., Land Office, RG 49, NA-Washington, and 1895 Iowa State Census, Moville, Woodbury County, Iowa, Timothy Adam; digital image, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 21 May 2014), citing State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines.
3 Anne Bruner Eales, et al., editors, Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archives of the United States (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2000), 293.
4 “Massachusetts, Marriages, 1841-1915,” digital image, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 30 Aug 2013), Timothy Adams and Julia Mellett, 22 September 1867, Springfield. Odile Millette used the name Julia early in her life.
5 1880 U.S. census, Hampden County, Massachusetts, population schedule, Springfield, enumeration district (ED) 321, p. 23 (handwritten), dwelling 127, family 204, Timothy Adam; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 May 2014), citing National Archives microfilm publication T9, roll 536.
6 1900 U.S. census, Woodbury County, Iowa, population schedule, Sioux City, enumeration district (ED) 170, sheet 15-B, p. 77 (stamped), dwelling 291, family 333, Timothy Adam; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 May 2014), citing National Archives microfilm publication T623, roll 467.
7 “U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedules, 1850-1885,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 May 2014), entry for Abbina Adams [Albina Adam], March 1880, Springfield; citing “Nonpopulation Census Schedules for Massachusetts, 1850-1880,” National Archives microfilm publication T1204, roll 38.
8 Timothy Adam homestead file no. 2560, Fort Des Moines, Ia., Land Office, RG 49, NA-Washington.