Did Ya Know

Public Land Survey System

February 22, 2017

All, I cheated this morning, all this is taken directly from Wikipedia in an article on the Public Land Survey System.

The Public Land Survey System (PLSS) is the surveying method developed and used in the United States to plat, or divide, real property for sale and settling. Also known as the Rectangular Survey System, it was created by the Land Ordinance of 1785 to survey land ceded to the United States by the Treaty of Paris in 1783, following the end of the American Revolution.

Originally proposed by Thomas Jefferson to create a nation of “yeoman farmers”, the PLSS began shortly after the American Revolutionary War, when the federal government became responsible for large areas of land west of the original thirteen states. The government wished both to distribute land to Revolutionary War soldiers in reward for their services, as well as to sell land as a way of raising money for the nation. Before this could happen, the land needed to be surveyed.

The Land Ordinance of 1785 marks the beginning of the Public Land Survey System. The Continental Congress was deeply in debt following the Declaration of Independence. With little power to tax, the federal government decided to use the sale of the Western Territories to pay off American Revolutionary War debt. The Public Land Survey System has been expanded and slightly modified by Letters of Instruction and Manuals of Instruction, issued by the General Land Office and the Bureau of Land Management and continues in use in most of the states west of Pennsylvania, south to FloridaAlabama, and Mississippi, west to the Pacific Ocean, and north into the Arctic in Alaska.

The Beginning Point of the U.S. Public Land Survey is at the border between the U.S. states of Ohio and Pennsylvania, on the north side of the Ohio River. It is near the three-way intersection of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and the northern tip of West Virginia, in both the Pittsburgh metropolitan area and the East Liverpool metropolitan area. The survey was the first mathematically designed system and nationally conducted cadastral survey in any modern country and is an object of study by public officials of foreign countries as a basis for land reform. It was conducted in the late 18th century by Geographer of the U.S. Thomas Hutchins surveying the Seven Ranges. A National Historic Landmark marker commemorating the site lies on the side of a state highway, exactly 1,112 feet (339 m) to the north of the point. Built in 1881, it was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965.

Who knew that there was a monument to the point of beginning of the public land survey system, I know I didn’t! See the photo below

Word of the day cadastral survey— The term cadastral survey refers to the official boundary surveys performed under the authority of Title 43 of the United States Code (U.S.C.). Cadastral surveys in general: create; mark; define; retrace; resurvey; and reestablish the boundaries and subdivisions of the public lands of the United States.


2.21.2017 Introduction to Section, Township & Range

Morning All, today we will talk about the Rectangular Survey System. This system of land descriptions exists in areas where either the states or the Federal Government surveyed the land and established a Rectangular System of land division before permitting individual purchaser to acquire the land. Once this was Rectangular System was established the system was and is continued to this day. A few states undertook a uniform tract division of their own design in sparsely settled areas such tracts are called “Land Lots” (Georgia) or other similar names. Land Lots are not to be confused with “Government Lots” laid out under the Rectangular Surveys of the Federal Government. Nearly three-fourths of the land area in the United States was surveyed by the Federal Government and laid out in rectangular ownerships and sections before the ownership of such land was acquired by individuals. See the map below