Reconciling the Public Land Surveying Process and the Available Records

Principal Investigator(s):

Roderick Squires, Former Associate Professor, Geography

Project summary:

Public land surveys spread throughout Minnesota during a 60-year period, from 1847-1908. There are a variety of records that can be used to trace that spread and, especially, to describe how particular individuals under contract with the federal government—first in the form of the Surveyor General of Wisconsin and Iowa (1847-1857) and then in the form of the Surveyor General of Minnesota (1857-1908)—ran the lines and established the monuments comprising the first legal descriptions of the land and water surface of Minnesota.

All of the surveying records are, in fact, related to individual deputies each working under the provisions of a particular contract and specific instructions in a particular area, work that eventually resulted in field notes from which township plats and descriptive sheets were made, thus enabling the United States to dispose of the surveyed land to individuals, railroads, and the State of Minnesota.

Such paper networks, linking together all of the records contained in the Minnesota History Center (MHC) for several deputies, would demonstrate how each piece of paper in the MHS collections fits together. They clearly show the steps in the public land surveying process and document the relationships between the various records produced at each step required by those responsible for retracing the lines and reconstructing and maintaining the corners established by the deputies. This project illustrates the public land surveying process in Minnesota by describing the records associated with the surveys carried out by six deputy surveyors.

Project details:

Reports or Products: