In 1862, then-President Abraham Lincoln introduced the Homestead Act. This act granted 160 acres of government land to anyone who agreed to live on and actively improve the land for five years. If this person fulfilled this agreement, they could purchase the land for a small registration fee after five years. Unlike the earlier Donation Land Claim Act of 1850, the Homestead Act did not exclude people based on race or gender. Letitia took this opportunity to recreate the success she and David had cultivated in the Soap Creek Valley.
On June 17, 1863, she filed a claim for 154 acres In Douglas County under the federal Homestead Act. Letitia did not mention her formerly enslaved status in her claim, instead filing as a widow under the name “Letitia Carson”.
Letitia worked tirelessly to fulfill the improvements to her land as mandated by the federal act. In an affidavit submitted by neighbors as part of her Homestead Act claim, it is noted that Letitia had built a two-story log home, a barn, a granary, and a smokehouse, and had planted approximately 100 fruit trees. Additionally, she raised a herd of cattle and hogs.
This application is written and legal proof of Letitia's homesteading journey in Douglas County, where she moved with her children after the death of David Carson. She arrived on June 17th, 1863, and according to the Homestead Act of 1862, worked and cultivated the land for five years, improving it so as to claim it as her own after five years of dedication.
Finally, on October 1, 1869, Letitia’s claim was certified. She was likely the first Black woman in Oregon to successfully receive a Homestead Act claim. In the 1870 census, Letitia appears as a landowner with land valued at around $1,000, and personal property valued at $625.
Letitia's Douglas County Homestead in Archival Sources
June 30, 1870, Carson Census
This document is an 1870 census recording of the citizens residing in the Myrtle Creek Precinct of Douglas County, Oregon, where Letitia resided after the death of David Carson. This is page six of the document, which shows Letitia, "Tisha" Carson, and her son Jackson Carson living in Douglas county as housekeepers and farmers. Letitia's age is 52, and Jackson's is listed as 19, though other documentation asserts he was born in 1849, which would put him closer to 20 or 21 at the time of the census. Letitia's race is listed as Black, and Jackson's is listed as Mulatto. The value of Letitia's personal estate is listed as $625, and her value of real estate is listed as $1000. Letitia's place of birth is listed as Kentucky, and Jack's appears to be listed as Eutah (Utah) Territory, which is incorrect as he was born in Benton County, Oregon Territory.