The Armed Occupation Act was one of the first official attempts by the U. S. government to populate Florida with settlers. Florida during the time was still a territory and the Seminole Tribe was not keen on being pushed further south into the Everglades. This Act, passed in August 1842, gave up to 160 acres of free land if settlers met certain criteria which is as follows: be a U.S. citizen (or intended citizen), settle and cultivate at least five acres in eastern or southern Florida for five years, and be willing to provide militia service if needed. The last criteria allowed the United States to maintain a military force in the territory (Florida became a state in 1845) without having to have soldiers present. This was incredibly important to them as the Seminole Wars (there were three in total) were still ongoing.
In 1862, the Armed Occupation Act was replaced by the Homestead Act. The conditions were similar but it did bar anyone who had taken up arms against the U. S. government from being included. This was incredibly important verbiage during the time as the Civil War (1861-1865) was raging. The five year residency requirement could also be deducted from time served in the U. S. army, a big perk to Union veterans post–Civil War. The other difference was that there was also a small filing fee ($1.25 per acre) and they were not required to join the militia.
For those in Manatee, both acts allowed new settlers to seek new opportunities. To see a map of local land acquired through federal land grants (such as those through these programs), Manatee Village has one hanging on the second floor of the Wiggins Store (two-story brick building).