Page images




1. The public lands of the United States are ordinarily surveyed into rectangular tracts, bounded by lines conforming to the cardinal points. 2. The public lands are laid off, in the first place, into bodies of land of six miles square, called townships, containing as near as may be 23,040 acres. The townships are subdivided into thirty-six tracts, called sections, of a mile square, each containing as near as may be 640 acres. Any number or series of contiguous townships, situate north or south of each other, constitute a range.

The law requires that the lines of the public surveys shall be governed by the true meridian, and that the townships shall be six miles squaretwo 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 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 township assuming something of a trapezoidal form, which inequality develops itself more and more as such, the higher the latitude of the surveys. It is doubtless in view of these circumstances that the law provides (see section 2 of the act of May 18, 1796) that the sections of a mile square shall contain the quantity of 640 acres, as nearly as may be; and, moreover, provides (see section 3 of the act of 10th May, 1800) in the following words: "And in all cases where the exterior lines of the townships, thus to be subdivided into sections 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 lines 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, respectively, and all others as containing the complete legal quantity."

The accompanying diagram, marked A, will serve to illustrate the method of running out the exterior lines of townships, as well on the north as on the south side of the base line; and the order and mode of subdividing townships will be found illustrated in the accompanying specimen field-notes, conforming with the township diagram B. The method here presented is designed to insure as full a compliance with all the requirements, meaning, and intent of the surveying laws as, it is believed, is practicable.

The section lines are surveyed from south to north on true meridians, and from east to west, in order to throw the excesses or deficiencies in measurements on the north and west sides of the township, as required by law.

3. The townships are to bear numbers in respect to the base line either

north or south of it; and the tiers of townships, called "ranges," will bear numbers in respect to the meridian line according to their relative position to it, either on the east or west.

4. The thirty-six sections into which a township is subdivided are numbered, commencing 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 the number thirtysix in the southeast angle.

5. STANDARD PARALLELS (usually called correction lines) are established at stated intervals to provide for or counteract the error that otherwise would result from the convergency of meridians, and also to arrest error arising from inaccuracies in measurements on meridian lines, which, however, must ever be studiously avoided. On the north of the principal base line it is proposed to have these standards run at distances of every four townships, or twenty-four miles, and on the south of the principal base, at distances of every five townships, or thirty miles.


1. Where uniformity in the variation of the needle is not found, the public surveys must be made with an instrument operating independ ently of the magnetic needle. Burt's improved solar compass, or other instrument of equal utility, must be used of necessity in such cases; and it is deemed best that such instrument should be used under all circumstances. Where the needle can be relied on, however, the ordinary compass may be used in subdividing and meandering.

2. The township lines, and the subdivision lines, will usually be measured by a two-pole chain of thirty-three feet in length, consisting of fifty links, and each link being seven inches and ninety-two hundredths of an inch long. On uniform and level ground, however, the four-pole chain may be used. Your measurements will, however, always be represented according to the four-pole chain of one hundred links. The deputy surveyor must also have with him a measure of the standard chain, wherewith to compare and adjust the chain in use, from day to day, with punctuality and carefulness; and must return such standard chain to the surveyor general's office for examination when his work is completed.


3. You will use eleven tally pins made of steel, not exceeding fourteen inches in length, weighty enough toward the point to make them drop perpendicularly, and having a ring at the top, in which is to be fixed a piece of red cloth, or something else of conspicuous color, to make them readily seen when stuck in the ground.



4. In measuring lines with a two-pole chain, every five chains are called "a tally," because at that distance the last of the ten tally pins with which the forward chainman set out will have been stuck. then cries "tally;" which cry is repeated by the other chainman, and each registers the distance by slipping a thimble, button, or ring of leather, or something of the kind, on a belt worn for that purpose, or by some other convenient method. The hind chainman then comes up,

and having counted in the presence of his fellow the tally pins which he has taken up, so that both may be assured that none of the pins have been lost, he then takes the forward end of the chain, and proceeds to set the pins. Thus the chainmen alternately change places, each setting the pins that he has taken up, so that one is forward in all the odd, and the other in all the even tallies. Such procedure, it is believed, tends to insure accuracy in measurement, facilitates the recollection of the distances to objects on the line, and renders a mis-tally almost impossible.


5. The length of every line you run is to be ascertained by precise horizontal measurement, as nearly approximating to an air line as is possible in practice on the earth's surface. This all-important object can only be attained by a rigid adherence to the three following observ


1. Ever keeping the chain stretched to its utmost degree of tension on even ground.

2. Ön uneven ground, keeping the chain not only stretched as aforesaid, but horizontally leveled. And when ascending and descending steep ground, hills, or mountains, the chain will have to be shortened to one-half its length, (and sometimes more,) in order accurately to obtain the true horizontal measure.

3. The careful plumbing of the tally pins, so as to attain precisely the spot where they should be stuck. The more uneven the surface, the greater the caution needed to set the pins.


6. All lines on which are to be established the legal corner boundaries are to be marked after this method, viz: Those trees which may intercept your line must have two chops or notches cut on each side of them without any other marks whatever. These are called "sight trees,” “line trees," or "station trees.”

A sufficient number of other trees standing nearest to your line, on either side of it, are to be blazed on two sides diagonally, or quartering toward the line, in order to render the line conspicuous, and readily to be traced, the blazes to be opposite each other, coinciding in direction with the line where the trees stand very near it, and to approach nearer each other the further the line passes from the blazed trees. Due care must ever be taken to have the lines so well marked as to be readily followed.


the trees are not to be blazed, unless occasionally, from indispensable necessity, and then it must be done so guardedly as to prevent the possibility of confounding the marks of the trial line with the true. But bushes and limbs of trees may be lopped, and stakes set on the trial, or random line, at every ten chains, to enable the surveyor on his return to follow and correct the trial line, and establish therefrom the true line. To prevent confusion, the temporary stakes set on the trial, or random lines, must be pulled up when the surveyor returns to establish the true line.


7. Under circumstances where your course is obstructed by impassable obstacles, such as ponds, swamps, marshes, lakes, rivers, creeks, &c., you will prolong the line across such obstacles by taking the necessary

right angle offsets; or, if such be inconvenient, by a traverse or trigonometrical operation, until you regain the line on the opposite side. And in case a north and south, or a true east and west, line is regained in advance of any such obstacle, you will prolong and mark the line back to the obstacle so passed, and state all the particulars in relation thereto in your field book. And at the intersection of lines with both margins of impassable obstacles, you will establish a witness point, (for the purpose of perpetuating the intersections therewith,) by setting a post, and giving in your field book the course and distance therefrom to two trees on opposite sides of the line, each of which trees you will mark with a blaze and notch facing the post; but on the margins of navigable water courses, or navigable lakes, you will mark the trees with the proper number of the fractional section, township, and range.

The best marking tools adapted to the purpose must be provided for marking neatly and distinctly all the letters and figures required to be made at corners; and the deputy is to have always at hand the necessary implements for keeping his marking irons in order; for which purpose a rat-tail file and a small whetstone will be found indispensable.


To procure the faithful execution of this portion of a surveyor's duty is a matter of the utmost importance. After a true coursing, and most exact measurements, the corner boundary is the consummation of the work, for which all the previous pains and expenditures have been incurred. If, therefore, the corner boundary be not perpetuated in a permanent and workmanlike manner the great aim of the surveying service will not have been attained. A boundary corner, in a timbered country, is to be a tree, if one be found at the precise spot; and if not, a post is to be planted thereat; and the position of the corner post is to be indicated by trees adjacent, the angular bearings and distances of which from the corner are facts to be ascertained and registered in your field-book. (See article, "Bearing trees.")

In a region where stone abounds the corner boundary will be a small monument of stones alongside of a single marked stone for a township corner, and a single stone for all other corners.

In a region where timber is not near, and stone not found, the corner will be a mound of earth, of prescribed size, varying to suit the case. The following are the different points for perpetuating corners, viz: 1. For township boundaries, at intervals of every six miles.

2. For section boundaries, at intervals of every mile, or 80 chains. 3. For quarter section boundaries, at intervals of every half mile, or 40 chains. Exceptions, however, occur on east and west lines, as explained hereafter.

[The half-quarter section boundary is not marked in the field, but is regarded by the law as a point intermediate between the half mile or quarter section corners. See act of 24th April, 1820, entitled "An act making further provision for the sale of the public lands," which act refers to the act of Congress passed on the 11th of February, 1805, entitled "An act concerning the mode of surveying the public lands of the United States," for the manner of ascertaining the corners and contents of half-quarter sections.]*

* The subdivision of the half-quarter section into quarter-quarter sections is authorized by “An act supplementary to the several laws for the sale of the public lands," approved April 5, 1832.

« PreviousContinue »