Township 8 North, Range 19 East of 4th Principal Meridian (Town ofLisbon) – Survey

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Original Survey of Lisbon Township

   The Survey of Township 8North, Range 19 East of the 4th Principal Meridian

Compiled and Edited by Michael R.Reilly

Last Revised 03/03/2005

General Survey History

    The US General Land Office (GLO) was a partof the Federal government. Its main responsibility was to survey land in thecentral and western United States so that the land could be sold to settlersmoving in to the area. Surveying the land made it easier to locate and legallydescribe the parcels purchased by settlers.

Under the Ordinance of 1785, the UnitedStates Public Land Survey (USPLS) system was established with the Geographer ofthe United States as the director. This began the system of subdividing landareas into regular parcels so that it could be sold to provide income for theFederal treasury. The Act of May 18, 1796 appointed a Surveyor General, who wasgiven the power to deputize surveyors to carry out their duties. The Act ofApril 25, 1812 established the General Land Office within the Department of theTreasury. In 1849, the General Land Office into the newly-created Department ofthe Interior. In 1946, it became part of the new Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The Public Land Survey required meticulouswork by a large number of people laboring under unfavorable working conditions.What began as a way for the new Federal government to make money, turned intoquite a vast undertaking. For more information about the history of the GLO, seeSurveys and Surveyors of the Public Domain 1785-1975 (U.S. Department ofthe Interior, Washington, D.C.) by Lola Cazier (1977).

GLO surveys were completed to aid theFederal government in “disposal” of land. “Disposal”involved either selling land to Euro-American settlers or giving land to states,counties, schools, war veterans, railroads, steamboat companies, and others asrewards or economic incentives.

The primary job of the deputy surveyors wasto measure distances and mark the corners of each section.

Deputy surveyors were also required todocument their surveys by writing notes and drawing maps in their field books.As they surveyed each section line, they recorded distances and significantfeatures along the way. The majority of the notes document the surveyors’ taskof measuring, locating, and constructing survey monuments at section corners andquarter-section corners.

Deputy surveyors were also required todescribe “the face of the country.” Their notes and maps brieflydescribed the land and its natural resources (vegetation, water, soil, landform,and so on) at the time of the survey. The survey maps and notes produced by theGLO surveyors are among the few detailed, systematic data sources about Iowabefore much of it was changed to a landscape of intensive agriculture.

The GLO survey was a rectangular survey,rather than a boundary (metes and bounds) survey. In Surveys and Surveyors ofthe Public Domain 1785-1975 (U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington,D.C.), Lola Cazier (1977, p. 17) said that by using the rectangular surveymethod, “the United States, for the most part, avoided the disputes,litigation, and bloodshed inherent in a metes and bounds system.” Therewere three major steps in completing the GLO rectangular survey.

Step 1 was to survey base lines andprincipal meridians on which all other surveying measurements were based. TheGLO survey in Iowa is based on the 5th PrincipalMeridian (a north-south line at 91 degrees, 03 minutes, 42 seconds westlongitude). The 5th Principal Meridian was adopted in 1815 and runs througheastern Iowa in the vicinity of Muscatine. The 5th Principal Meridian intersectsits base line in east-central Arkansas (this east-west line is at 34 degrees, 44minutes, 00 seconds north latitude).

Step 2 was to survey township lines. Township lines weresurveyed at six-mile intervals and subdivided Iowa into townships that areapproximately 36 square miles each. Each row (tier) of townships is numbered 65through 100. Each column (range) of townships is numbered 7 East through 49West. This produces a coordinate system used to number each survey township bytier and range. By the way, the word “township” has several differentmeanings, causing some confusion. These GLO survey (Congressional) townships aredifferent than civil (political) townships, although in Iowa approximately 1,158(70 percent) of the 1,657 civil townships follow Congressional township lines.

Step 3 was to subdivide townships into sections. Sectionlines were surveyed at one-mile intervals, creating sections that areapproximately one mile square. Most sections cover an area of approximately 640acres, although there are many sections that have a smaller or larger area dueto survey correction lines, major rivers, state boundaries, or surveying errors.Monuments or other marks were made at half-mile intervals, to later aid insubdividing the sections into quarter sections of approximately 160 acres. Mostof the land parcels originally purchased were aliquot parts of a section (evenmultiples of 40 acres), although due to size variation of some sections,fractional parts or lots were sometimes purchased.

Each deputy surveyor was accompanied by several others.Each “survey party” typically consisted of the deputy surveyor, twochainmen, a flagman, and a marker (axeman). Sometimes one or two mound builderswere added to the survey party.

The deputy surveyor operated the compass (a surveyinginstrument on a tripod). The two chainmen dragged a 66-foot Gunter’s chain alongeach section line to measure distances. The flagman marked the endpoint of theGunter’s chain each time it was put in position by the chainmen. The axeman andmound builders were responsible for blazing witness trees and bearing trees,erecting posts, digging pits, and building mounds to mark the section corners.

During the Iowa GLO survey, survey parties were typicallypaid $2.75 per mile surveyed. This amount was split among all members of thesurvey party. Typically, each member was paid $15 per month plus their keep. Onedeputy surveyor said that they could make “good money” if the weatherwas optimal (often it wasn’t). Survey parties were responsible for their ownequipment, food, and other supplies. Surveying section lines within a townshiptypically took 5 to 15 days. Surveying 60 miles of section lines required about120 miles of walking. (East-west lines were surveyed twice (“over andback”) and section lines were always surveyed from south to north (not azig-zag pattern), that required walking from the north edge of the township tothe south edge five times per township.)

You can see why deputy surveyors needed help. Surveying upand down slopes, through prairie, wetlands, rivers, and woodlands was difficult.Other obstacles included weather, hauling supplies, finding food and freshwater, primitive surveying technology, limited technical training, equipmentproblems, labor problems, preemptors (squatters), hostiles (Native Americans),military maneuvers, snake pits, and the dreaded mosquitoes.

GLO surveyors wrote their survey notes by hand inleather-bound field books. After the surveyors finished surveying a township andwanted to get paid, they returned their field books to the Surveyor General,whose office was in Dubuque. (It was moved there from Cincinnati a few yearsafter the Iowa survey began.) The Surveyor General hired professional copyists,who made copies of the field notes by hand (manuscript copies). In the late1930s (circa 1938), the Secretary of State hired typists to read the manuscriptcopies and type the GLO notes using manual typewriters. These typescript copiesare stored in the library of the State Historical Society of Iowa in Des Moinesand were microfilmed in the 1970s.

For each mile of section line, deputy surveyors wererequired to write distances (in chains and links) between section corners andquarter corners. Along the section lines, they also noted distances from sectioncorners to landscape features (such as streams, escarpments, rock outcrops, linetrees, and timber stands) and cultural features (such as cabins, fields, andtrails). Sometimes, width or other dimensions of the features were recorded inthe field notes. At section corners, surveyors listed the common name, distanceand direction to at least two witness or bearing trees (if there were any withina reasonable distance). For each mile of section line, surveyors summarized thepredominant vegetation and rated the soils (first rate, second rate, or thirdrate).

For each township, deputy surveyors were required to writea general description of the township’s natural and cultural characteristics.This general description was usually one paragraph in length. It often includedthe surveyor’s assessment of land use suitability for agriculture, mining,forestry, milling, or other use of interest to settlers moving in from theeastern states. Item 20 of the 1855 General Instructions to Deputy Surveyorsrequired this description: “Besides the ordinary notes taken on line, (andwhich must always be written down on the spot, leaving nothing to be supplied bymemory,) the deputy will subjoin, at the conclusion of his book, such furtherdescription or information touching any matter or thing connected with thetownship, (or other survey), which he may be able to afford, and may deem usefulor necessary to be known- with a general description of the township inthe aggregate, as respects the face of the country, its soil andgeological features, timber, minerals, water, etc.”

Did the surveyors describe any features away from section lines?

This didn’t happen very often. The Surveyor Generalinstructed deputy surveyors to survey offsets around major obstacles, such as alake. This required that the surveyor establish a line parallel to the sectionline that would skirt the obstacle.

The Surveyor General also instructed deputy surveyors tosurvey rivers that were potentially navigable. This usually resulted inestablishing a base line somewhat parallel to the river and measuringperpendicular lines to strategic points–usually meanders (bends in the river).Special data were recorded in the field books (a meander table) about these”meandered” rivers. In Iowa there are portions of 14 rivers that weremeandered (considered by the GLO surveyors as potentially navigable).

Of course, there were places along the section lines wheresurveyors could see features off the section lines (section interiors). Theareas seen depended on the topography, vegetation, weather conditions, and otherfactors (such as whether or not they were in a hurry).

Offsets, meanders, and observations away from the sectionlines were not common. Virtually all the data recorded by the deputy surveyorswas limited to the section lines. For this reason, GLO surveys are consideredtransect surveys rather than area-wide surveys.

The Surveyor General required deputy surveyors to draw amap of the township, noting significant natural and cultural features. Thesefeatures were sketched and labeled on a diagram sewn in the field book. TheGeneral Instructions of 1843 instructed deputy surveyors to “also make outand return with your original field notes an accurate plat or sketch of yoursurveys, which must exhibit the true situation of all objects noted in yourfield book.” According to the Surveyor General’s instructions of 1855,these maps were to contain “all the objects of topography on line necessaryto illustrate the notes, viz: the distances on line at the crossings of streams,so far as such can be noted on the paper, and the direction of each by anarrowhead pointing downstream; also the intersection of line by prairies,marshes, swamps, ravines, ponds, lakes, hills, mountains, and all other mattersindicated by the notes, to the fullest extent practicable.”

Surveyors referred to these maps as”topographies.” In Original Instructions Governing Public LandSurveys of Iowa (1943, p. 11),  J. S. Dodds described topographies as”rather crude sketches and plots.” In many cases, features wereincompletely drawn because surveyors were limited to what they could measure andobserve along section lines. Even though rivers, creeks, lakes, timber stands,valley bottoms, trails, and other extensive features may be completely drawn onthe township maps, there are data points (measurements) only along sectionlines, resulting in a great deal of uncertainty about the features showninterior to the section lines.

Together, topographies and field notes were considered asthe deputy surveyors’ “returns” to the Surveyor General. Accordingto the National Archives, topographies were considered preliminary field mapsrather than finished plat maps. Topographies were used as a guide (along withthe field notes) to later draw refined maps at the Surveyor General’s office inDubuque. Official plat maps were drawn in triplicate at a scale of 2 inches permile, using colored ink. After quality control inspection, these official platmaps contained the Surveyor General’s statement and signature approving the platas correct. Some of the plat map sheets include a meander table below the map.

One copy of each township plat map was originally kept atthe Surveyor General’s office in Dubuque, then transferred to the Secretary ofState’s office, then stored in the state archives of the State HistoricalSociety of Iowa). A second copy (“headquarters plats”) was originallysent to the General Land Office in Washington, D.C. and is now at the NationalArchives. A third copy was sent to the local land office and used as an aid to”disposing” of the land. After the local land office no longer neededtheir copy, it was returned to the General Land Office in Washington, D.C. andis now at the National Archives. These copies contain additional lines andannotations referring to specific parcels and landowners.

Source: FrequentlyAsked Questions: GeneralLand Office Research – Department of Landscape Architecture, Iowa StateUniversity,

Our Town of Lisbon

Township 8 North, Range 19 East of the 4th PrincipalMeridian, was primarily surveyed by Deputy Surveyor Garret Vliet, along with twochain carriers, and a marker. An Affidavit To the Surveyor General (then inOhio), written December 1, 1835 that the survey (of the portion of town he wasassigned) was completed with the following men:

A.D. Wagner (?) chain carrier

William J. Barrie, chain carrier

Edward S. Gridley, marker.

Two other surveying teams completed lesser assignmentswithin the township:

John Brink was also a Deputy Surveyor, March 13, 1836, who worked with:

William H. Henley, William Ostrander,and Ira Egleston (?)as was,

John H. Mullett, Deputy Surveyor

, with Eles(?) E. Keeney, Samuel Hubbel,and H. Johnson.

Vliet also

completed on March14, 1836 a  survey portion of Town of Menomonee with GeorgeP. Delaplaine, chain, RichardSchustz (?), chain carrier, and SamuelSpivey, marker.

George P. Delaplainelater gained some fame and was interviewed by the editor of the Collectionsof the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Volume 11, stating thefollowing about Vliet:

November 2, 1887. This statement is the result of querieschiefly regarding General Delaplaine’s recollections of Solomon Juneau andAndrew J. Vieau. The language and arrangement are those of the editor, but thestatement as here given has been read to the narrator and his sanction to itspublication given.– Ed .

“I left Cincinnati in December, 1835,then a lad, in the company of Capt. Garret Vliet, a well known surveyor,who was coming to Wisconsin on service for the government. We went to Milwaukeeoverland via Terre Haute and Chicago. There were only two taverns in Chicago, atthe time, and everything was in a decidedly crude condition. I remember oneincident, trivial in itself, but illustrative of our experience during our briefstay. The guest who had preceded me in the occupancy of my room in the hotel,had caught a muskrat in the adjoining marsh and taken it with him to hisquarters, as a pet. He went off and forgot the animal, which fed upon one of myboots during the night, for want of better provender.

After spending the winter with CaptainVliet, chiefly in surveying around the Oconomowoc lakes, I returned toMilwaukee in the spring of 1836, and entered the employ of Solomon Juneau, as aclerk. Juneau’s store, at this time, was on the northeast corner of East Waterand Wisconsin streets. Soon after my engaging with him, perhaps in June, 1836,he sold out that plant to a Mr. Prentiss and moved to the west side, on WestWater, near Spring street, the new establishment being known as Juneau’s”yellow storehouse.” I was then placed in charge of the store, inwhich I slept, although I had my meals with the Juneau family. their dwellingbeing a nice, large two story house.[p.244]”

Below are some examples from Garret Vlietfield book as reported back to the General Surveyor. Note that Section 25 ismarked with a large area of “prairie”. This is the location whereThomas Spencer Redford and his father’s family choose to settle. With open landreadily available, it must have made clearing and planting much less of a laborduring their early settlement time.

Sketch Map by Deputy Surveyor Garret Vliet early 1836

source: Wisconsin Public Land Survey Records: Original Field Notes

Garret Vliet’s General Description of the township he surveyed in 1835-1836

    From “The History of Waukesha County,1880″, this description: The town possesses many veryfine general features. All monotony is removed from the scenery by the endlessvariety of hills and valleys, woodland and prairie.

    The soil is clay and limestonemarl, the substratum abounding in extensive beds of excellent limestone. It iswhat would ordinarily be called a heavy soil, being not easy to till. Farmersusually call this kind of land “white-oak land”, as white-oak timbergrows particularly well upon it.

    Byact of the Territorial Legislature, approved January 2, 1838, the land includedin the present towns of Lisbon, Pewaukee, Brookfield and Menomonee, was erectedinto the Town of Lisbon [1838 – the Town of Lisbon is formed within the Milwaukee CountyTerritory along with the Towns of Summit to the west), Muskego (tothe southwest), and Mukwonago (to the south). 1839/December 20 – the Town of Lisbon (which was 12miles by 12 miles square) is split into the towns ofLisbon,  Menomonee (Township 8, Range 20, East), Pewaukee and Brookfield (each 6 miles by 6 milessquare). This was approved by the Wisconsin Legislature, but not effectiveuntil after March 1, 1840. Each of the other three original Towns (see1838) divided themselves up in like manner, but all still part ofMilwaukee County. 1846 – the Town of Lisbon becomes part of the newlycreated Waukesha Countywhen the 16 western most towns split from Milwaukee County. ]; the firstelection to be held at the house of Charles Skinner. A Subsequent act, passedMarch 9, 1839, established the town lines as they are now.