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Surveying History

Historical Surveyor’s you may know:

George Washington
Thomas Jefferson
Abraham Lincoln

General Land Office (GLO Surveys):

Metes and bounds or a basic legal description was used in colonial United States.  This is how property was transferred in England.  Our laws are based on old English Law, so we have similarities.

Thomas Jefferson played an integral part in developing the sectionalized survey system that most of the United States was subdivided.  He recognized the legal problems with the metes and bounds system and wanted to avoid this. 

The GLO surveyor first established a Meridian Line and surveys began from these lines.  The GLO surveyor first would establish monuments every ½ mile around the outside boundary of a six mile square township.  Generally a second GLO Surveyor would arrive within a couple of years to subdivide the township into 160 acre parcels or aliquot parts.  The second GLO Surveyor would re-run the east boundary of Section 36 from the initial survey.  He would use this to set his compass and check his chain.

The standard survey chain used was of 66’ in length.  This was used to compute acreages easy.  One mile was 80 chains square.  If you multiply the length X width in chains and divide by 10 this will give you acreage.  It was easy to compute acreage with this method and all calculations were done by hand.

The subdivision GLO Surveyor would then move to the SW corner of Section 36 and measure north, parallel with the east boundary and then check into the east boundary.  He would measure north and east as he went up through the township.  Once at the north boundary of the township he returned to the south boundary and repeated the procedure until the township was subdivided.  When the township subdivision survey was completed, corners were established every ½ mile around the exterior of the sections within the township.

The GLO Surveyors used a variety of material for their monuments.  Many used charred stakes, stones or simply posts.  A post was set above ground with the section, township, and range scribed in it.  The settlers knew what description to tell the land office when they settled on a particular piece of property.


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