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Holand, Hjalmar Rued, 1872-1963 / Wisconsin's Belgian community : an account of the early events in the Belgian settlement in northeastern Wisconsin with particular reference to the Belgians in Door County
(1933)

Chapter III: How the Belgians obtained their lands,   pp. [35]-45 PDF (3.7 MB)


Page 36


36         WISCONSIN'S BELGIAN COMMUNITY
many continual scouting expeditions. He could talk much
Spanish, a little English and a little French. Armed with
a compass and the various descriptions, he would plunge
into the deep woods, the little group of six or eight men
trailing after him carrying axes, blankets and food sup-
plies and wondering by what signs he was able to tell one
forty from another. But the half-breed had a remarkable
sense of distance and direction.  After a day or two of
weary traveling he would stop by some hemlock or maple
which to the Belgians looked just like a thousand other
hemlocks and maples around them. On this tree Ricard
was able to point out some mystic signs. This, he would
explain with many gestures, was the northwest corner of
such and such a one's land. Then he would lead off in an-
other direction, through swamps, ravines and tangled un-
derbrush, until another claim was located and thus continue
until all were placed. After this came laborious and per-
plexing problems for each settler to blaze a trail from his
'corner post', so he could find it again upon his next visit.
    Besides these settlers who made proper preemption
claims at the land office there were quite a large number who
had no money with which to pay entry charges.  They
usually followed their more fortunate friends to their land
locations and then "squatted" on some government land in
the vicinity, taking their chances that their claims would
not be "jumped" by some new land seekers. As none but
Belgians ventured to take land in this region, no "claim-
jumping" was done, and the squatters took their time about
entering their lands and thus becoming subject to taxation.
    Because of the blind method of selecting land describ-
ed above, the first settlers did not always get the best selec-
tions. Some very careless surveyors must have been at work


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