“Starving to Death on a Government Claim (The Lane County Bachelor)”


"My name is Frank Taylor, a bach'lor I am, I'm keeping old batch on an elegant plan, You'll find me out west in the county of Lane, A-starvin' to death on a government claim." After much moaning about the bad conditions, the settler gives up and goes home


The song clearly dates back to the latter part of the nineteenth century, the period of Homestead Claims. The Homestead Act of 1862 had opened large areas of the western U.S. to settlement, allowing settlers to lay claim to 160 acre sections in return for nominal payments. However, the settlers were required to live on their claims for five years before they could "prove up" and gain title to the property. Many settlers, like the one here, wound up living in impossible conditions because it was the only way to stake the claim. It was not at all rare for the homesteader to give up, sell the reversion on the claim, and head back east.

Fowke's Canadian version, "The Alberta Homesteader," is very much the same song, slightly adapted to the north country and the minor differences in Canada's homesteading laws (created when Canada took over the western part of the continent from the Hudson's Bay Company in 1871, although most migrants did not start out until the 1880s). - RBW

Historical references

  • May 20, 1862 - President Lincoln signs the Homestead Act

Cross references


  • Bill Bender, The Happy Cowboy, "Lane County Bachelor" (Varsity 5144, c. 1940)
  • Edward L. Crain (Cowboy Ed Crane), "Starving to Death on a Government Claim" (Conqueror 8013, 1932)
  • Benjamin Kincaid, "The Lane County Bachelor" (Supertone 2574, c. 1933)
  • Pete Seeger, "Greer County Bachelor" (on PeteSeeger07, PeteSeeger07a, AmHist1)


  1. Randolph 186, "Starving to Death on a Government Claim" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Sandburg, pp. 120-122, "The Lane County Bachelor" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Fowke/Mills/Blume, pp. 144-146, "The Alberta Homesteader" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Fowke/MacMillan 34, "The Alberta Homesteader" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Lomax-FSUSA 70, "Starving to Death on a Government Claim" (1 text, 1 tune)
  6. Lomax-ABFS, p. 434, "Greer County" (1 text)
  7. Fife-Cowboy/West 22, "The Lane County Bachelor" (1 text, 1 tune)
  8. LPound-ABS, 83, pp. 178-180, "Starving to Death on a Government Claim" (1 text)
  9. Silber-FSWB, p. 121, "Starving To Death On A Government Claim" (1 text)
  11. Roud #799
  12. BI, R186


Alternate titles: “The Bent County Bachelor”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1910
Found in: US(Ap,MW,So) Canada(Ont)