Ohio History Journal

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We have been asked for the "facts" concerning "Land Bill" Allen.

The facts are sparse and soon stated. The fiction is ample and almost

unprecedented. The myths and popularly ac-

cepted beliefs concerning Allen's career were

sufficient to place him in the distinguished cat-

egory of Homer, William Tell and the "Man in

the Iron Mask." The curious individual known

as "Land Bill" Allen was George Wheaton

Allen. He was born in Windham, Conn., May

17, 1809, and died at Columbus, Ohio, Novem-

ber 29, 1891, in his eighty-third year. He was,

for a generation or more previous to his death,

almost universally believed to have been the

originator of the idea, the author of and the

chief promotor of the Homestead law finally

passed by Congress, May 20, 1862, and securing

to certain qualified citizens the right to enter upon 160 acres of unappro-

priated lands at $1.25 an acre and after five years' actual residence to

own it. Hence his sobriquet "Land Bill." Many supposed he was in

Congress and introduced the act. Many confounded him with congress-

man, Senator (1837) and Governor (1873) William Allen of Ohio, who

was widely called "Old Bill" Allen, "Rise Up William" Allen and "Fog

Horn" Allen.

George Wheaton Allen was never in congress, the legislature or

any public office great or small. He never had anything to do, in the

remotest degree, with the Homestead Act, any of its attempted pre-

cursors or subsequent amendments. That he was credited with being

its father is one of those historical phenomena that proves the fruitful-

ness of fiction and the unreliability of popular rumor. He who skeptically

said "Teach me anything but history for that is always false," must

have had in mind some such incident as "Land Bill" Allen. His early

youth was spent in New England, in Connecticut, Rhode Island and

New York. His father was a tailor, industrious, thrifty and well to do.

George had the benefit of a fair education and served as apprentice in his

father's business and later as apprentice in the printer's trade. He came

to Ohio in 1829 and first settled in Worthington, north of Columbus.