Iowa State Reveals Connection Iowa Land Has to Other Land Grants

Land in Iowa was sold to generate funds for land grant universities in 26 states; see the map at Farm Progress Show

August 23, 2018, 8:18 am | Ray Hansen, Willy Klein

AMES, Iowa -- More than 1,200 parcels of land in northwest Iowa have an unusual connection to Iowa State University. The 160-acre parcels make up the federal land allocated to Iowa when the Morrill Act passed in 1862. The lease and sale of the land generated funds for the development of the land grant university, Iowa State University.

land abstract.The historical significance of these lands is the object of the Land Grant Legacy project initiated by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. The project website,, maps all the parcels tied to the start of Iowa’s land grant university, and shares historical details of the parcels and stories around the development of agricultural education in Iowa.

Over the past three years ISU Extension and Outreach researchers, along with county office staff and extension councils, have begun notifying landowners of the land’s history and asked landowners to share stories of their ties to the land. Some county extension offices have hosted events to celebrate with landowners and provided certificates of recognition.  

Landowners are encouraged to check the parcel map and their land abstract to confirm the connection with Iowa State, then share stories of the land’s use and any family ties to the university.

Land grant ties spread even further
An additional 1,700 land parcels in northwest Iowa have a slightly different, but similar connection to the Morrill Act of 1862. At the Farm Progress Show Aug. 28-30, the Land Grant Legacy project will share maps showing Iowa land first leased and sold by other states for the development of their land grant universities. The maps indicate federal land claimed by 25 states to fund their land grant universities. This was allowed when states didn’t have federal land available within their own state.

“We learned from the Bureau of Land Management that 25 states claimed federal land in Iowa under the terms of the agricultural land grant act,” said Ray Hansen, Land Grant Legacy project co-leader with ISU Extension and Outreach. “We had a landowner ask us about land grant parcels for other states, saying a neighbor owned land that was claimed by Tennessee. So we dug deeper – and acquired Bureau of Land Management records that we have used to add a layer to our project mapping.”

The project team will have maps on display in the Iowa State exhibit tent during the Farm Progress Show.

“A multi-state, international event like Farm Progress Show is a wonderful venue to share the connection Iowa land has to 26 land grant universities,” said Hansen. “It’s sort of a treasure hunt for landowners and people connected to land in the northwest corner of the state, and fun for people associated with land grant universities.”

Iowa is the first to identify and map land grant parcels within state borders, which seems natural when considering all the firsts related to agricultural education achieved in Iowa. Farm Progress Show visitors will have the opportunity to explore those firsts when the project team launches a new iPad app at the show. The app will engage visitors in a tour of Iowa, Iowa State and ISU Extension history – and perhaps spark new stories and connections with Iowa land.

Find the Iowa State exhibit at the corner of Central Avenue and Seventh Street at the 2018 Iowa Farm Progress Show, Boone.


PHOTO: Land abstract showing the Morrill Act 1862 wording, connecting the land to Iowa State University.

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