Early Residents of Provo lacked Land Titles.
For the first two decades after its settlement in 1849, a serious problem bedeviled the people of Provo. None of the residents – or the rest of the inhabitants in Utah Territory for that matter – possed a legal totle to the land that they were living on. The United States Congress passed laws that made it possible for homesteaders to gain ownership of a 160-acre plot of land, but this law did not help the typical Utah settler. Because of the scarcity of arable land in the Great Basin, colonists were forced to intensively farm much smaller parcels of land that were ten or twenty acres in size.
Finally, on March 2, 1867, Congress passed a law that gave the elected leader of a city or town the authority to enter a land claim on behalf of its residents for the farmland and city lots held by members of the community. After gaining legal ownership of the land, the community leader then transferred the deeds to those in possession of the land.
Brigham Young and Moyor Abraham O. Smoot urged Provo residents to file on their lands before land jumpers from the East files claims on the property. The citizens of Provo held a mass meeting and appointed Jesse W. Fox to resurvey the city plat, a total of 2,240 acres. Residents paid $1.00 per lot or $6.50 per five acres to have their land surveyed.
Fox finished his survey in March, 1868. A year later, Mayor Smoot files on the whole town site with the U.S. Land Office. This entry included not only private property, but public land like parks and roads. After Smoot received the titles to this property , he sign them over to the rightful owners.
Some people have lived on their land for decades before they received title to it through usuing this creative process. All of the original titles to land located on Provo are signed by Mayor Abraham O. Smoot.