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Plat book of Dane County, Wisconsin: drawn from actual surveys and the county records
(1890)

Government surveys,   p. [4]


Page [4]

GOVERNMENT
SURVE YS4
ITISTORITCAL,
ThE rectangular system of surveying G overnment lands, termed the
Land System of the United States, was adopted by al act of Congress
passed May 20, 17S4  The ordinance provided for townships six liles
square, containing L:;lrty-six sections of one mile square. The region
embraced by the surveys under this law forms a part of the present
State of Ohio, and ib usually styled "Old Seven Ranges."  The town-
ships, six miles squ',4r  were laid out in ranges, extending northward
from the Ohio River, the townships being unmbered from south to
north, and the ranges from east to west. Ill these initial surveys only
the extcrior lias of the townships were surveyed and mtile corners were
e'tablisled ott tite townsip lilies, but the plats were marked by subdi-
vi ucas into sections oi one mile square. The sections were numbered
from otto to thirty-six, conmmnciniig with number one in the southeast
corner of tile township, and running front sootth to north in each tier to
nmber thirty-six in the mortl'oest corner of the township. These first
public surveys .were made under the direction of the Geographer of the
United States.
Tile act of Congress approved May 18, 1796, provided for the appoint-
mient of a snrvevor-general, and directed the survey or the lands north-
west of the Ohio River and above the mouth of the Kentucky River,
"in which the titles of the Indian tribes have been extinguished."
Under this law one-half of the townships surveyed were subdivided into
sections "by rtntliug through the saone, each way, parallel liles at tile
end of every two miles, and by making a corner on each of said liles at
tile end of every mile,'" and it further provided that " the sections stall
be numbered, respectively, beginning with the number one in the
nortlleast section, and proceeding west and east alternately, through
the township. with progressive numbers till tite thirty-sixth be com-
pleted."'  This method of numbering the sectiots is still in use.
Tile act of Congress, approved February 11, 1805, directs the subdi-
vision of the public lands into quarter sections, and provides that all
the corners marked in the public surveys shall be established as the pro-
per corners of sections or subdivisions of sections which they were iil-
tended to designate, and that corners of half and quarter sections ant
Veorked shall be placed as nearly as possible "equidistant from those
two corners which stand on the same line."
The act of Congress, approved April 25, 1812., provided " That there
shall be established in the Department of tile Treasury an office to be
denominated the General Land Office, the chief officer of which shall
be called the Commissioner of the General Land Office, whose duty it
shall be, under the direction of the head of the department, to superin-
tend, execute, and perform all suchl acts and things touching or respect-
Ing the public lands of the United States and other lands patented or
granted by the United States, as have heretofore been directed by law to
be done or performed in the office of the Secretary of State, of the See-
retary and Register of the Treasury, and of the Secretary of War, or
which shall hereafter by law be assigned to the said office.''
Tile act of Congress approved July 4, 18:10, provided for the reorgani-
zation of the General Land Office, and that the executive duties of said
office "shall be subject to the supervision and control of the commlis-
sioner of the General Land Office under tile direction of the President
of the United States.'' The repealing clause is, " That such provi-
sions of the act of the twenty-fifth of April, in the year one thousand
eight hundred and twelve, entitled ' All act for the establishment of a
General Land Office in the Department of the Treasury,' and of all
acts amendatory thereof as are inconsistent with the provisions of this
act, be, and the same are hereby, repealed."
From tile wording of this act, it would appear that the control of the
General Land Office was removed from the Treasury I)epartment, and
that the Commissioner reported directly to the President, but as a mat-
ter of fact, the Secretary of the Treasiry still had supervisory control,
for the aet of Congress, approved March 3, 1849, by which the Depart-
ment of the Interior was established, provided "That the Secretary of
the Interior shall perform all the duties in relation to the General Land
Office, of supervision and appeal, now discharged by the Secretary of
tihe Treasury.'' By this act the General Land Office was transferred to
the Department of the Interior, where it still remains.
RECTANGULAR SYSTEMS.
The public lands of the United States are ordinarily surveyed into
rectangalar tracts bounded by lines conforming to the cardinal points.
The principal lines are designated as teridian, base, township, range,
and section lines, and the bodies of land thus formed are known as
townships, sections, and lots. The first recorded use of the terms
"township" and "section," as applied to the public lands of the
United States, is in an ordinance reported to Congress April 26, 1785.
SURVEYING.
Initial points from which the lines of the public surveys are to be
extended must be established whenever necessary under such special
instructions as may be prescribed in each case by the Commissioner of
the General Land Office. The locus of such initial points must be se-
lected with great care and due consideration for their prominence and
easy identification, and must be established astronomically. The in-
tial point having been established, the lines of the public survey are to
be extended therefrom as follows:-
PRIINCIPAL MERIDIAN AND BASE LINES
are extended north and south and east and west from the initial point
by the use of solar instruments or transits, as may be directed by the
Surveyor General. in order to check errors iu mneasuremnlent, two sets
FnoM INSTRUCTIONS BYJ. A. WIlLLAMS(ON, (OitisSuINER.
of chainmen, operating independently of each other, nst be employed,
and t ile proper corners established. Principal meridians are designated
by number or name, as tie Fourth and Fifth principal meridians in
illinois, Wis'onsiui, MIinnesota, Iowa, Missouri, and eastern )akota,
or the "Black Hills' meridian in western 1)akota, and the Salt Lake
meridian in Utah.
STANDARDS AND AUXILIARIES.
Standard parallels, which are also called correction lines, and aux-
iliary or guide meridians, are run from time to time, and are designated
by number, and as north, south, east, or west, as the ease may be, frnm
their respective base lines and principal meridians ; parallels and aux-
iliaries are now run at intervals of twenty-four miles, dividing the
country into tracts of twenty-tbur miles square, or sixteen townships.
TOWNSHIPS ANDI RAN(GES.
Township lines are run cast and west parallel with and six miles
from the base line and from each other, and the spaces between these
liles are known as townships north or south, and designated by nun-
tiers according to their numerical distance from the base line. Rangc
lines are run north and south on a true meridian, six miles fron and
parallel, as near as may be, with the principal meridian, and the spaces
between them are known as ranges, and are described as east or west
of the principal meridian, and consecutively numbered from that line.
The bodies of land six miles square, formed by the intersection of the
township and range lines, are called
CONGRESSIONAL TOWNSHIPS,
and contain, as near as may be, 23,040 acres. Congressional town-
ships are described and located as being north or south of the base line
and east or west of the Principal Meridian from which, that particu-
lar survey is made. Thus township one north, range three west of
the Fifth principal meridian, would be the first township north of the
base line and in the third range west from the principal meridian. The
law requires that the lines of the public surveys shall be governed by
the true meridian, and that the townships shall be six ail"s sqtware,
two things involving, in connection, a mathematical impossibility, for,
strictly to conform to the meridian, necessarily throws the township
out of square, by reason of the convergency of the meridians, and hence,
by adhering to the true meridian, results the necessity of departing from
the strict requirements of law, as respects the precise area of townships
and the subdivisional parts thereof, the townships assuming something
of a trapezoidal form, which inequality develops itself more and more
as such, the higher the latitude of the surveys.
Congressional townships are subdivided into thirty-six tracts, called
SECTIONS,
each contoning as r.ear as may be 640 acres. The thirty-six sections
into which a township is subdivided are numbered, commencin'g with
number one at the northeast angle of the township, and proceeding
west to number six, and thence proceeding east to number twelve, and
so on, alternately, until they number thirty-six in the southeast angle.
In all cases of surveys of fractional townships, the sections should bear
the same number as they would if the township was full. in all cases
where the exterior lines of the townships, thus subdivided into sec-
tions or half sections, shall exceed, or shall not extend six miles, the
excess or deficiency shall be specially noted, and added to or deducted
from the western or northern ranges of sections or half sections in such
township, according as the error may be in running the liites from east
to west, or from south to north ; the sections and half sections bounded
on the northern and western lines of such townships shall be sold as
containing only the quantity expressed in the returns and plats respec-
tively, and all others as containing the complete legal quantity.
Sections are divided into quarters by straight lines run from the es-
tablished quarter section corners-Urited States surveys-to the oppo-
site corresponding corners, and the point of intersection of the liles so
run will be the corner common to the several quarter sections, or, in
other words, the legal centre of the section ; these quarter sections are
designated as northeast quarter, northwest, southwest, or southeast,
according to their location with regard to their common corner.
In the subdivision of quarter sections, the quarter quarter corners are
to be placed at points equidistant between the section and quarter see-
tion corners and between the quarter corners and the eonmmon centre
of the section, cryrpt on the last half mile of the lines closing on the
north or west boundaries of a township, where they should be placed
at twenty chains, proportionate measurement, to the north or west of
the quarter section corner.
Fractional sections and those containing meandered rivers and lakes
are also divided into 40 acre lots, as near as may be, these fractional
lots are nnbered from one upwards in each section. By an examina-
tion of the accompanying diagram and of the maps on other pages of
this work, the careful student will be enabled to describe or locate any
piece of land. Numbers 1, 2-0 are the numbers of the meandered lots.
A is the north sixty acres of the north half of the northwest quarter;
B1, south twenty acres north half northwest quarter ; C, northwest
quarter of tile southeast of tile northwest quarter ; Di, east one-half
southeast northwest ; e is the section corner, f north quarter corner,
y west quarter corner, h quarter quarter corner.
Proceeding down stream, the bank oiu the It hand is termed the
"left bank" and that on the right hand the "right bank."    These
terms are to be universally used to distinguish the two banks of a river
or stream.
MARKING LINES.
All liles on which arc to be established the legal corner boundaries
are to be narked after this method, viz : Those trees which may in-
tercept your liue must have two chops or notches cut on each side of
them without any other marks whatever. These are called " sight trees"
or " lie trees. " A sufficient numnber of other trees slanding within tifty
links of the line, on either side of it, are to be blh ad on two sides diag-
onally, or quartering towards the line, in order to render the inue con-
spicuous and readily to be traced, the blazes to be opposite each other,
coitciding ii direction with the line where the trees stand very near it
and to approach nearer each other the farther the line passes fromn the
blazed trees. 1)ue care mttst ever be taken to have the lines so well
marked as to be readily followed, and to cut the blazes deep enough to
have recognizable sears as long as the tree shall stand. Where trees
two inches or more ill diameter are found, the required blazes must not
be omnitted. Bashes on or near the line should be bent at right angles
therewith, and receive a blow of the axe at about the usual height of
blazes from the ground sufieient to leave them in a bent position, but
not to prevent their growth.
CORNERS.
Tile following are the different points for perpetuating corners, viz
For township boundaries, at intervals of every six miles. For section
boundaries, at intervals of every umile, or eighty chains. For quarter
section boundaries, at intervals of every half mile, or forty chains; ex-
ceptions, however, ocecur, as has already been explained. Meander cor-
ners are established at all those points where the lines of the public
surveys intersect the banks of such rivers, bayous, lakes, or islands as
are by law directed to be meandered. Corners may be marked by a
cross (x) marked at exact corner point on a rock iu place, or by marks
oil a tree growing at the corner. Corners are also mtrked by stones,
posts, burnt stakes, charcoal, mounds of stone and earth, and pits.
Witness corners or hearing trees are also established to assist in identi-
\'iug the true corner. Township corners common to four townships,
and section corners coumlon to four sections, are to be set diagonally in
the earth, with angies in the direction of the liles. All other corners
are to be set square, with sides facing the direction of the liles. Stones
and posts at township corners are marked with six notches oil the edges,
stones and posts at section corners are marked on the south and east.
edges with as ntany notches as the corner is distant in miles from the
south and cast township lines.
IE-ESTABLIS1MENT OF LOST CORNERS.
The original corners, where they can be found, must stand as the
true corners they were intended to represent, even though not exactly
where strict professional care might have placed them in the first in-
stance.
Missing corners should be re-established in the identical localities
they originally occupied. When the point cannot be determined by
the existing landmarks in the field, resort must be had to the field notes
of the original survey. The law provides that the lengths of the lines,
as stated in the field notes siall be considered as the true lengths thereof,
and the distances between corners set down in the field notes constitute
proper data from which to determine the true locality of a missing cor-
ner ; hence the rule that all such should be restored at distances pro-
portionate to the original measurements between existing original cor-
ners. That is, if the measurement between two existing corners dif-
fers from that stated in the field notes, the excess or deficiency should
be distributed proportionately among the intervening section lines be-
tween the said existing corners standing in their original places. Miss-
ing corners on standard township and range lines should be restored
by proportionate measurement between tie nearest existing original
corners on those lines. Missing section corners in the interior of town-
ships should be re-established at proportionate distances between the
nearest existing original corners north and south of the missing corners.
As has been observed, no existing original corner can be disturbed,
and it will be plain that any excess or deficiency in measurements be-
tween existing corners cannot in any degree affect the distances beyond
said existing corners, but must be added or subtracted proportionately
to or from the intervals embraced between the corners which are still
standing.
S.W.N.W.-A -----
Quarter Sdction.Ljli8
South West I
Quarter
seotioni
i


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