Land Survey in Nebraska

From Nebraska and the Northwest, 1881

The present system of U.S. public land surveys is attributed to Gen. Wm. H. Harrison as its inventor. Previous to its adoption, lands were described by metes and bounds, or arbitrary lines and angles. Starting from a tree or stone, or some movable or perishable land mark, farm boundaries were often in dispute. By the system now in use we are able to definitely locate part of the Western States and Territories.

The theory of new system pre-supposes the establishment of infallible base lines and meridians, to which constant reference can be made.

Meridian lines were first established running due north from the mouth of some important river. These are intersected with base lines. There are six principal meridians in the land surveys in the West. The first principal meridian is in a line due north from the mouth of the Miami river, in the State of Ohio. The second principal meridian is in a line due north from the mouth of the Little Blue river in Indiana. The third principal meridian is in a line due north from the mouth of the Ohio river, at Cairo, Illinois. The fourth principal meridian is in a line due north from the mouth of the Illinois. The fifth principal meridian is in a line due north from the mouth of the Arkansas river. Each of these meridians has its own base line.

In numbering the townships, east or west from a given meridian, they are called Ranges, but in numbering north or south from a base line they are called Townships.

Townships are subdivided into square miles, or tracts of 640 acres, each called sections.

Upon the sixth principal meridian, with its base line the fortieth parallel of latitude, is arranged the system of surveys for public lands in Nebraska and Kansas. This meridian crosses the fortieth parallel between Gage and Jefferson counties, and also is the dividing line between Saline and Fillmore counties, having as a starting point the intersection of the base line and principal meridian.

1st. Standard parallels are run, at intervals of twenty-four mile or the width of four townships, on the north of the base line and at an interval of thirty miles, or give townships on the south of the base line.

2nd. Guide meridians are next established at distances of eight townships or forty-eight miles east and west of the principal meridian.

In this manner large parallelograms, 24 and 48 miles, are formed, whose limits are the base line, principal meridian standard parallel and guide meridian. These parallelograms are the basis of the land survey.

Each of the larger areas, twenty-four by forty-eight miles, is divided into townships six miles square, or 23,040 acres, and each township is subdivided into thirty-six squares called sections, each containing 640 acres.

3rd. Sections containing each one square mile are the units of the survey, and are numbered from right to left to the sixth section; from left to right from the seventh to the twelfth section; from right to left from the thirteenth to the eighteenth, an so on, giving the numbers one, six, thirty-one and thirty-six as four corner sections of a township.

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