July 2, 1864 President Abraham Lincoln, who had been
a lawyer for the railroads, signed the Northern Pacific
land grant - An Act granting Lands to aid in the Construction
of a Railroad and Telegraph Line. The odd numbered granted
sections were, “Known as 'indemnity strips,' these
lands were distributed in alternating square sections
that resulted in a 'checkerboard pattern' of public
and private landownership. In the Crazies, this led
to the transferring of more than 50,000 acres of public
lands to private ownership.”
"... there was
granted to the Northern Pacific Railroad Company (successor 'Railway'), its
successors and assigns,...'every alternate section of
public land, not mineral, designated
by odd numbers..."
Montana became a State
on November 8, 1889.
The “Crazy Mountains
Forest Reserve” was established by Presidential
Proclamation on August 10, 1906 by Theodore Roosevelt.
All of the Northern
Pacific Railway private lands in Montana were sold by
In 1970, the Northern
Pacific later merged with other lines to form the Burlington
Northern Railroad, which in 1996 became the BNSF Railway.
On some of the NPRC
deeds, registered in the County Clerk and Recorders
offices, you will see public access language, similar
to this one from the Crazy Mountains, 4N
10E, Section 15, "the land hereby conveyed,
being subject, to an easement in the public for any
public roads heretofore laid out or established, and
now existing over and across any part of the premises."
These deeds with the
"easement in the public" language were so
strong, just one section (3N
12E, Section 3) was the foundation for the 1948
Forest Service complaint and injuction against a Crazy
Mountain landowner attempting to obstruct public
and Forest Service access. The Judge granted the injunction
removing the locks from the gates and the "No Trespassing"
signs. The landowner settled the case, providing a recorded
Forest Service easement in 1954.