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The Family That Once Lived at Area 51

As one of the most secretive locations on the planet, Area 51 has long been a source of mystery and intrigue. Anyone who has been close to the Nevada test site knows how serious the Air Force is about keeping unauthorized personnel out of the base. Rather than barbed wire fences or steal barricades, the boundary of one of the government’s most protected facilities is marked by signs warning potential trespassers that guards will defend Area 51 with deadly force if needed. Members of the Sheahan family are the only outsiders who have had the chance to go past the border of Area 51 without trouble. In fact, they had lived in the area before the government established the base.

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The Sheahan family owned the property since the 1800s and fought for their right to remain on their land. When the government began the construction of Area 51, they tried to buy the property from them. The Sheahans refused to move away from the land that had been passed down for generations. According to Joe Sheahan, the military then engaged in intimidation tactics to force them to leave, but they stood their ground. The Air Force petitioned a federal court to order the family to surrender the property, which turned into a yearslong legal battle.

In September 2015, a federal judge ruled that the family had to transfer their property to the United States government. Now that it had the support of the legal system, the Air Force lowered its offer of $5 million to around $300,000. The Sheahan family claims the property is worth at least $116 million, listing more than 100 acres of land and a mine containing precious metals. The family is still making an effort to overturn the court’s ruling on the matter, but the court says the only decision left to make is how much money the Air Force must pay for the property.

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