015. Pre-Emption House Visitor Center: The Pre-Emption House Song
In 1834, in the middle of town, George Laird built the Pre-Emption House. That same year, Nathan Allen wrote,
"This house now erected the place to adorn,
To shelter the living and babes yet unborn,
We’ll call it Pre-emption, a law that’s complete,
For the use of George Laird, who says he will treat.”
The Pre-Emption Act of 1834 allowed settlers to finally make a legal claim to the land they were living on—that is, if they had improved that land with a home and crops the previous year. In no time at all, the Pre-Emption House became the biggest thing between Chicago and the Mississippi. Once a month, horse traders would travel to the Pre-Emption House from Chicago and surrounding towns for the famous Horse Market Days. In 1946, after a long, busy life (and a lot of wear and tear), she was torn down. But that wasn’t the end of her. Fifty years later, she was brought back to life, and now proudly welcomes visitors to Naper Settlement.