Ohio Lands and Survey Systems - Historic Fort Steuben

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2 the fabric of Sur veying America A series that focuses on unique By John E. Dailey, LS wrinkles in our survey heritage. Ohio Lands and Survey Systems nyone who loves chal- terms of what goods could be extracted Revolutionary War. The new nation, A lenging surveys should and shipped to England for sale. Those which had not yet settled on a name or come to Ohio, The to whom the Crown owed money were governmental structure, was deeply in Heart of It All. If you based in England, and they accepted the debt with no hard cash to pay its huge are tired of surveying Crowns land in exchange for payment. debts. squares and overworked They, too, had to rely on sketchy The Continental Congress, a loose re-running Colonial surveys, come to descriptions of their on-site managers affiliation of the thirteen former Ohio. We have it all. and explorers as to what they owned. colonies, had no taxing authority and lit- Any discussion of Ohio Lands must tle authority to encumber the colonies start with a brief history, so here we go. Overlapping Grants with any debts. It had pursued the war In the 1600s, the English Crown Since accurate maps and descriptions and had borrowed a great deal of believed it owned all of North America were non-existent, a lot of guesswork money to pay for war material. It had by right of either discovery or conquest. entered the negotiations. Having no idea also promised their soldiers some sort of Most of the landowners were in England that there was almost 3000 miles of land compensation. The time of reckoning and had never seen the Americas. The to the west, the King often granted char- was at hand. vastness of the land, difficulty of commu- ters to developers and colonies for land The Ohio country was the frontier at nication, and lack of creditable that stretched from sea to sea, namely that time. The Atlantic Coastal plane, geographic information compounded the from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific east of the Appalachian Mountains, was problems facing the Crown and the Ocean. Again, due to the lack of infor- becoming overcrowded. After England absentee landowners. mation, many of these grants renounced her claims to the Western The French were the first to actually overlapped and encroached upon each lands at the end of the war, the race was explore the area that is now Ohio. Robert other which caused legal problems on. The West had vast areas of vacant Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle, who explored almost immediately. He gave the same land, and people began to move. These the Great Lakes area and the Ohio River western land to the Connecticut Colony, were some of the original Squatters. in late 1669 and early 1670, claimed the the Penn family, the New York Colony The Native American claims had not territory for France. It became a matter of and the Virginia Colony. Any attorney yet been settled, so there were serious dispute between the French and English with a modicum of land law experience confrontations between the Indians, the until the end of the so called French and would salivate at this predicament. squatters, and other settlers moving west. Indian War in 1763. The Treaty of Paris During the Revolutionary War, Several wars, battles and treaties ensued. in 1763 assigned all of the Great West to George Rogers Clark, operating under Finally their claims were extinguished and the English. the authority of the Governor of most of the Native Americans were The Crown had many debts, accrued Virginia, sought to capture the British moved further West out of Ohio. by war and gambling, and very little hard Forts in what is now Illinois. In February, Through some serious negotiations cash to pay those debts. The one thing it 1779, Clark and his men defeated Henry and compromises, Connecticut, New did have was land. In order to satisfy Hamilton, the Lieutenant Governor of York, Pennsylvania and Virginia agreed some of the creditors, the King granted Canada, and his troops at Vincennes, to cede their western lands to the newly large tracts of land to the Penn family, the now in Indiana. With that victory, the formed government. Pennsylvania ceded Massachusetts Bay Colony, the Americans effectively took control of its western lands but maintained access to Connecticut Colony, the Virginia what was to become the Northwest Lake Erie. Connecticut ceded all her Settlement, and after the Dutch were Territory. Great Britain formally relin- western lands with the exception of a expelled from New Amsterdam, the New quished its right and interest in the strip of land 120 miles long starting at the York land developers, as well as others. Northwest Territory by the Treaty of new westerly line of Pennsylvania and The English had a rough idea of what Paris, September 3, 1783. In 1788, the lying between the 41st parallel of North they possessed along the Atlantic Coast, first permanent and legal white settle- latitude and Lake Erie. Virginia ceded its but had very little idea of what lay ment in Ohio was founded in Marietta. western lands except for an area that beyond the Appalachian Mountains. The boundary problems between the would be used to pay bounties to its The interior interested them mainly in Colonies continued until the end of the Revolutionary War veterans (more infor- Displayed with permission The American Surveyor December Copyright 2004 Cheves Media www.TheAmericanSurveyor.com

3 Original Land Subdivisions of Ohio From Original Land Subdivisions of Ohio: Ohio Division of Geological Survey, compiled by James McDonald, James W. Wright, Christian D. Steck, Lawrence H. Wickstrom, Brian D. Gara, and Lap Van Nguyen. 2003, MG-2, 1:500,000 scale, 1 plate and GIS files. Displayed with permission The American Surveyor December Copyright 2004 Cheves Media www.TheAmericanSurveyor.com

4 Ohio Township From Original Ohio Land Subdivisions: Ohio Cooperative Topographic Survey, Vol. III, C.E. Sherman, 1925. Numbering Displayed with permission The American Surveyor December Copyright 2004 Cheves Media www.TheAmericanSurveyor.com

5 vey system. The VMD contained 6,570 In 1792, in order to compensate the citi- numbered westward from the square miles, about 4.2 million acres of zens of these towns for their losses, the Pennsylvania line and the Townships are land. State of Connecticut set aside the west- numbered Northerly from the 41st paral- Over 16,000 metes and bounds origi- ern 500,000 acres of the Reserve. In lel. This was a very harsh land at the time, nal surveys are found in the VMD, 1795, each of about 1800 sufferers heavily timbered with many swamps, creating a patchwork of surveys which, received a deed to a portion of this land many mosquitos, and much fever. Several from the air, resemble a giant jigsaw puz- based on their claims of damages. This survey party members died of either zle. Because of the number of surveys area is still referred to as the Firelands dysentery or malaria. Considering the ter- and the difficulty of finding the physical or the Sufferers Land. rain and the instrumentation in use at that objects they relied upon for descriptions, The Firelands comprise of the west- time, the quality of the surveys performed this is probably the most litigated land erly 5 ranges of townships within the was quite good. The quantity of the sur- area in Ohio. Western Reserve and were created vey work completed in a very short Virginia relinquished and ceded to the before the survey of the Western period of time is also extraordinary. Federal Government its claim to any unal- Reserve began and before all the Indian Due to the irregularity of the South located land in the VMD in 1852. In claims were extinguished. The townships shore of Lake Erie, not all townships 1871, Congress deeded this land to the were numbered to agree with the later contain the full 16,000 acres. Since there State of Ohio, which in turn set it aside in survey of the Reserve, but each town- was no initial plan for the internal subdi- 1872 as an endowment for what is now ship was divided into four quarter vision of the townships such as in the The Ohio State University. At the time, townships, numbered counterclockwise PLSS, the townships were subdivided at 76,735 acres were believed available for beginning with quarter-town No. 1 in the whim of their purchaser. Some town- sale by the university. The Ohio State the southeast corner. ships have 100 lots, some have 90 sections, some have quarter townships and others have tracts. When describing land within the Western Reserve, you This was a very harsh land at the time.... Several survey have to again study the original subdivi- sion of the township. party members died of either dysentery or malaria. But the one thing you do find which in common across the entire Western University sold or quit-claimed these lands In 1795, ten years after Hutchins Reserve is the original New England fla- to individuals until the 1940s. began his survey for the Federal vor in the layout of the cities, towns and In Northeastern Ohio, other things Government, a group of New England- villages. All have a central town square were happening. In its 1786 Deed of ers purchased the remainder of the with development moving outward from Cession to the United States, the State of Western Reserve from the State of there. In many of the towns, if you did Connecticut retained the Western Connecticut. This wily bunch bought not listen carefully to the people speak- Reserve containing approximately 3.4 about 3.3 million acres of land for about ing, you would think you were in New million acres (about 6205 square miles) $1,200,000. With it, they England. The early settlers even brought including the Fire Lands. Connecticut purchased the right to subdivide the their town names with them, such as released its jurisdictional claim to this Reserve as they saw fit. The owners New London and Norwalk. land by a Deed of Cession to the United decided on five-mile-square survey town- The funds generated by this sale of States of America on May 30, 1800. ships with the township purchaser the Western Reserve were placed in trust Indian title to the Western Reserve retaining the right to subdivide the by the State of Connecticut for educa- lands lying east of the Cuyahoga River, individual townships as they saw fit. tional purposes. I understand that the was extinguished by the Treaty of Fort original principal is still intact and the McIntosh in 1785, and confirmed by the Connecticut School System still receives Treaty of Greenville in 1795. The Indian the interest from these funds. rights to lands West of the Cuyahoga River were extinguished up by the The Connecticut Western Reserve Treaty of Fort Industry in 1805. Survey was began in September, 1796, The Connecticut Western Reserve when General Moses Cleaveland led a forms all or part of 14 northeastern Ohio party of surveyors into the Western Located in Southwestern Ohio, the counties. This is a strip of land extend- Reserve. They began by sending a survey Between the Miami Rivers Survey is ing 120 miles west from the westerly line party South along the westerly line of just that, between the Miami River and of Pennsylvania between the 41st parallel Pennsylvania to locate the Southeastern the Little Miami River. Much like the of North Latitude and the south shore of corner of the Reserve, where the 41st par- Ohio River Survey, it is subdivided into Lake Erie. It was now time to do some- allel of North Latitude intersects the six-mile-square townships, ranges and thing about it. westerly line of Pennsylvania. They then sections, but in a far different manner Near the end of the Revolutionary surveyed West along the 41st parallel to from those anywhere else in the country. War, the British fleet, assisted by establish the Southern boundary of the A row of original surveyed townships Benedict Arnold, burned the towns of Reserve. At every 5th mile, a survey was running east and west constitute a Range. New Haven, Greenwich, Norwalk, run to the North to intersect with the The Ranges are numbered north from Fairfield and New London, Connecticut. South shore of Lake Erie. The Ranges are the Ohio River. To compound the prob- Displayed with permission The American Surveyor December Copyright 2004 Cheves Media www.TheAmericanSurveyor.com

6 From Original Ohio Land Subdivisions: Ohio Cooperative Topographic Survey, Vol. III, C.E. Sherman, 1925. Displayed with permission The American Surveyor December Copyright 2004 Cheves Media www.TheAmericanSurveyor.com

7 mation on the Virginia Military Survey Ohio River Survey States west of Ohio with the exception can be found below). Virginia Military Survey of Texas and Hawaii. The new government, loosely affiliated Connecticut Western Reserve Survey The Ohio River Survey controls the and operating as the Confederation or Between the Miami Rivers Survey Original Seven Ranges, The Ohio Continental Congress, now had land to Miami River Survey Company Purchase, and two Congress sell to raise money and pay off the war United States Military Survey Lands. This was the only survey per- debts. A rational method had to be South and East of the First principal formed under the Continental Congress. devised to allot and dispose of this land. Meridian Survey The surveys for the Ohio Company After much wrangling by Congres-sional North and East of the First Principal Purchase and the Congress Lands north committees, a compromise was finally Meridian Survey of the U.S. Military District are based on reached. Public land would be divided into Michigan Survey the Ohio River Survey. (Today, six-mile-square survey townships, with Hutchins Point of Beginning lies in the these being then divided into 36 sections, Throughout this article, the term city of East Liverpool, Ohio, and falls each one- mile-square. This made each sec- township will be used frequently. In within the waters of the Ohio River. A tion 640 acres, a reasonable sized parcel to the survey systems to be discussed, reference monument is set about 1112 be sold in total and subdivided by the township refers to the survey township, feet north of the original point. There is owner. a definite geographical location of land. a stone monument with plaques and So what is a new nation that is under- There is also a jurisdictional parking space so that you can see a piece capitalized but with vast land holdings to township, that is a governmental entity of Ohio and American history and still do? Become a real estate sales company. that may or may not encompass all of a keep your feet dry. ) Thus, the Public Land Survey System survey township. For instance, the City (PLSS) was created, which would then be of Cleveland contains parts of Euclid, used in the survey of all public lands, up Brooklyn, Rockport and Warrensville to and including today. The concept of an Townships, all of which are survey town- ordinary person owning title to the land ships that still exist. However, the The Virginia Military Survey, on which they lived was revolutionary, to jurisdictional townships by those names begun in 1787, is a series of indiscrimi- say the least. no longer exist, having been incorporat- nate land surveys described by metes In July, 1787, the Northwest ed into the City of Cleveland and and bounds descriptions. This land was Ordinance, one of the greatest docu- several suburban municipalities. The sur- to be granted by the State of Virginia to ments ever written, was enacted as the vey townships remain for geographical its Revolutionary War veterans in lieu of law for the Northwest Territory detailing identification. cash for services rendered. The size of the rights, privilege and duties of the the land grant depended on the rank people living in the Northwest Territory, and length of service of the veteran. The the form of government to be estab- size of the tracts varied from 100 acres lished, and how new states would be for a soldier to 15,000 acres for a Major created and brought into the United The Ohio River Survey was the General. The shapes of the tracts were States. Many of the concepts of this beginning of the Public Land Survey unrestricted and were generally laid out Northwest Ordinance were later incorpo- System (PLSS). It started in September, to encompass the best land available. rated into the Constitution of the United 1785 at the Point of Beginning, the The veteran was given a warrant for a States. intersection of the West line of certain amount of land. Then the veter- Since the frontier population did not Pennsylvania and North (or right) bank an or his agent went into the wild Ohio want large states, this document stated of the Ohio River. Thomas Hutchins, country and defined the parcel of land that there would be created in the the Chief Geographer of the United on the ground. A survey was then per- Northwest Territory not less than three States began by surveying the formed and a deed issued. The warrant, nor more than five states. Congress Geographers Line, a line extending the surveyed land and the deed often later decided to create six states. These westerly from the Point of Beginning misstated the quantity of land, usually in are now the states of Ohio, Indiana, seven ranges or 42 miles. This estab- favor of the land owner. The accompa- Illinois, Michigan Wisconsin and that lished the northerly line of the nying plates from C.E. Shermans final part of Minnesota east of the Mississippi Original Seven Ranges. Each range report Original Ohio Land Subdivisions River. This Northwest Territory now line was then run south to the Ohio given to the to the Governor of Ohio in encompasses almost all of NSPS Area 5. River. This is the original land survey 1925 shows some examples of the system in Ohio and the first logical sur- parcels described by these surveys. This Ohio's Major Surveys vey of the public lands now owned by area is referred to as the Virginia Ohio was on the edge of the frontier at the federal government. It is based on Military District (VMD). that time and it became a veritable test- six-mile-square townships, each divided VMD lands are found in 23 Ohio ing ground for survey systems and the into 36 lots and is the basic layout for counties and run from the Ohio River birthplace of the Public Land Survey all surveying of publically owned lands northward, between the Scioto and Little System, (PLSS). There are nine major in the United States. The townships are Miami Rivers, as far as 141 miles inland. survey systems in the State of Ohio and numbered from south to north and the It is one of the original nine major subdi- 46 sub-surveys. This article focuses on ranges from east to west. The PLSS visions of Ohio lands and the only one the major surveys, including the: now encompasses all of the United not using some sort of rectangular sur- Displayed with permission The American Surveyor December Copyright 2004 Cheves Media www.TheAmericanSurveyor.com

8 Miami River. This was a federal sur- vey with the townships being six-miles-square and numbered from south to north. The easterly line of the state of Indiana acts as its con- trolling meridian. The ranges are numbered east and west from the Indiana line. In Ohio they are num- bered from west to east and in Indiana they are numbered east to west. The townships are numbered from the Miami River north. The United States Military Survey (USMD) was established in From Original Ohio Land Subdivisions: Ohio Cooperative Topographic Survey, Vol. III, C.E. Sherman, 1925. 1796 to satisfy the military bounties for Continental Army veterans. The size of the bounty varied with the rank of the veteran, ranging from 100 acres for a Private to 1100 acres for a Major General. The USMD contains about 2,560,000 acres and is found in 12 counties in east-central Ohio. It is bounded North by the Greenville Treaty Line, East by the Original Seven Ranges, South by the Congress Lands and Refugee Tract and West by the Scioto River and takes in part of the city of Columbus. The VMD is divided into town- ships five miles square containing 16,000 acres with the most northern townships containing less due to the direction of the Greenville Treaty Line. The townships are further sub- divided into quarter townships instead of sections. Each quarter sec- tion is numbered counter clockwise starting in the northwest quarter. There is no uniform method for sub- dividing the interiors of these quarter lems in the area, there are two Fractional in 1799 and 1801 passing relief acts townships. Ranges along the Ohio River. The which gave these settlers the first right to townships are numbered east from the buy this land again, this time from the Miami River. federal government. (The Between the The Symmes Purchase, part of this Miamis Survey was a federal Survey survey system, includes present day that continued the Symmes Purchase The South and East of the First Cincinnati It used the Ohio and the surveys rather unorthodox system of Principal Meridian Survey is bro- Miami, two crooked rivers as its initial running Ranges of townships in an east ken into six-mile-square townships and lines causing some irregularity in both west direction northward to the are numbered according to the Land township and range numbers. The origi- Greenville Treaty Line.) Act of 1796. The townships are num- nal survey, privately performed, began at bered from west to east starting with the Ohio River and runs approximately the First Principal Meridian which is 24 miles northward. John Cleves also the boundary line between the Symmes actually sold land beyond the states of Indiana and Ohio. This sur- U.S. Patent he had received, making The Miami River Survey, not to vey lies south of the Base Line which many people technically squatters on be confused with the Between the was intended to coincide with the 41st un-surveyed federal land. Congress acted Miamis Survey, lies west of the parallel of latitude and the ranges are Displayed with permission The American Surveyor December Copyright 2004 Cheves Media www.TheAmericanSurveyor.com

9 numbered from north to south starting problem in 1817, when William Harris sur- at the base line. veyed the boundary as set forth in the Ohio Constitution. Michigan objected to the Harris Line. John A. Fulton ran anoth- er survey in 1818 based upon the language The North and East of the First in the Northwest Ordinance. Ohio object- Principal Meridian Survey lies on ed to the Fulton Line because it was the other side of the Base Line (41st par- several miles south of the Harris Line and allel) and begins at the First Principal Ohio would lose the harbor at what is Meridian, the dividing line between now Toledo. Indiana and Ohio. The townships are Congress sent a survey party to the six miles square and are numbered from disputed area in attempt to settle the west to east starting at the First Principal problem. They did not, but it is interest- Meridian and from the baseline north. ing to note that a member of that survey party was a new engineering graduate from West Point by the name of Robert E. Lee. Lee did not distinguish himself on this survey, but he did go on to big- In northwestern Ohio, there were other ger and better projects such as the first problems. The ninth survey system in flood control project on the Mississippi Ohio, The Michigan Survey, is again River at St. Louis. the result of poor geographical informa- An accommodation was finally tion and the ensuing confusion regarding reached whereby Michigan gave up its the location of the north line of Ohio claims along the border in return for when it became a state. This confusion led both statehood and the Upper Peninsula to the Michigan Border War which con- of Michigan. It is said that the only loser tinues to this day. The Michigan Survey is in this situation was Wisconsin, which located in Williams, Fulton, and Lucas lost the Upper Peninsula. Counties. It is a continuation of the feder- The surveys in the area had already al rectangular surveys based on the begun using the Michigan Meridian and Michigan Meridian and its base line, locat- baseline, so this system was retained. ed north of Detroit. This survey has townships divided into The land was claimed by both the six-mile-squares and the numbering is in State of Ohio and the Territory of accordance with the Michigan Meridian. Michigan. This dispute nearly caused a The various land transfers in Ohio war between the two in 1835. The mili- are not discussed in this article. That, tias of both Ohio and Michigan formed dear readers, is another story for anoth- up at the border, ready to do battle. er day. They did a lot of posturing and march- ing around with some minor skirmishes. John Dailey retired on June 30, 2004 Some minor injuries were inflicted before after 51 years in the surveying profes- more peaceful settlement prevailed, sion. He has served as President of which is probably a good thing. the Professional Land Surveyors of The cause of this controversy had its Ohio, NSPS, and ACSM. He currently origin in the Ordinance of 1787, when it writes columns for Cleveland was provided that, if Congress shall Surveying News and Ohio Surveying hereafter find it expedient, they shall News, and edits the newsletter for the have authority to form one or two states Computer Assisted Genealogical in that part of said territory which lies Group (CAGG). north of an east and west line drawn through the southerly bend or extreme Authors Note: I have relied heavily on of Lake Michigan. Professor C.E. Shermans 1925 Final The Act that enabled Ohio to become Report of the Ohio Cooperative Topographic a state, defined its North boundary to be Survey, Volume III. Sherman was the an east and west line drawn through Chair of the Cooperative Survey and his the southerly extreme of Lake Michigan, report was made to the Governor of Ohio. I running east until it shall intersect Lake have also freely gleaned from James L. Erie. William, P.S. of Columbus, Ohio. Jim is one Ohio was admitted to the Union with- of the foremost experts on Ohio survey histo- out Congress clearly defining its northern ry. If you ever have an opportunity to take in boundary. Congress tried to clear up the one of his programs, dont miss it. Displayed with permission The American Surveyor December Copyright 2004 Cheves Media www.TheAmericanSurveyor.com

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