First Advisor

Gordon B. Dodds

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






Land grants -- Oregon, Wetlands -- Oregon, Political corruption -- Oregon



Physical Description

1 online resource (138 p.)


The Swamp Land Act of 1849, originally intended to give the state of Louisiana the unproductive swamplands within its borders and use the proceeds to construct the drains and levees necessary to reclaim these lands, was extended to Oregon in 1860. Oregon did not act on the matter until 1870, but once begun, it became a prolific source of political corruption, fiscal irresponsibility, fraud, and land speculation and monopolization. Even though the physiography of Oregon was much different than the states in the Mississippi Valley, millions of acres of "swampland" were filed upon and the state sold hundreds of thousands of acres long before it received legal title to these lands. In most cases final patents were never issued by the federal government. Rather than the proceeds of the sales of these lands going toward reclamation, the funds often went to the friends of state officials for dubious services. Appropriations, based on the anticipated sale of swampland, were made for the owners of wagon roads for projects never completed. This created a state indebtedness which the sale of swampland alone could not erase. A major result of the Swamp Land Act in Oregon was the withholding of arable land and water rights from actual settlers in the predominantly semiarid regions of Oregon by land speculators and by cattle barons who used it to monopolize vast tracts of grazing land. Litigation over disputed swampland claims occurred well into the twentieth century.

Because little has been written on this topic, primary sources have been extensively relied upon for the research. The most important of these sources were the Portland Oregonian, government documents of the state of Oregon, and the documents of the United States Department of Interior.


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