Chapter 8 - United States Land Surveys.


The first surveys by the general government of lands in Wisconsin, were made south of the Wisconsin river and the Fox river of Green bay. The northern boundary line of the State of Illinois, fixed April 11, 1818, on the parallel of 42 degrees 30 minutes north latitude, became, properly enough, the base line of these surveys, (as indeed of all the surveys afterwards made by the United States in this State). A principal north and south line, known as the fourth meridian, was run at right angles, of course with the base line, and extending from it to Lake Superior. This meridian line is east of all the territory in Crawford county. It runs south through the center of Richland, and continues on to the base line on the east boundary of Grant and on the west boundary of Lafayette and Iowa counties. It extends north, through Vernon county, through the eastern part of Monroe, Jackson, Clark and other counties; until it strikes Lake Superior a short distance to the westward of the mouth of Montreal river.

Parallel lines to the fourth meridian were run every six miles, on the east and west sides of it. The intervening six miles between lines are called ranges. Range 1 east, is the first six miles of territory east of the fourth meridian; range 2 east, is the second six miles; and so on, to Lake Michigan. However, on the west side of the fourth meridian, the ranges are numbered consecutively westward. Range 1 west, is the first six miles of territory west of that line; range 2 west, is the second six miles, and so on, to the Mississippi river. Therefore it is that Crawford county lies in ranges 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 west.

How Crawford County Was Surveyed.

Parallel lines north of the base line (the north boundary line of the State of Illinois) were run every six miles, which crossing the ranges at right angles, cut the whole into blocks six miles square, called townships. These townships are numbered by tiers going north, from the base line; the first tier being known as township north, the second tier, as township 2 north, and so on until the extreme north boundary of the State (not covered by water) is reached, which is of course the extreme north side of the most northern of the Apostle islands, in Bayfield county. Now, if we begin at the base line and count the tiers of townships until Crawford county is reached, we discover that we have numbered six of them.

Looking upon the map of the county, we find that the first tier of townships on the south is numbered the 6th; but in this tier, there are only three townships, and these fractional. They are townships 6, in ranges 5, 6 and 7 west.

The next tier is numbered 7. In this are five townships --- all fractional, except one. They are townships 7, in ranges 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 west. The third tier going north is numbered 8. In this are five townships --- two whole ones and three fractional. They are townships 8, in ranges 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 west. The fourth tier in the county is numbered 9. In this are three whole and one fractional township. They are townships 9, in ranges 3, 4, 5 and 6 west. The fifth tier of townships is numbered 10. In this tier are three whole and two fractional townships. They are townships 10, in ranges 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 west. The sixth tier is cut in twain, the south half being in Crawford county, while the north half is in Vernon county. The tier (as a whole) is numbered 11. In it are four half townships, and one fractional half. They are (half) townships 11, in ranges 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 west.

After the several township lines were run, then each township was sub-divided into sections and quarter sections, called, in surveying language, "sectionized." As a section is a mile square, there is, of course, in every whole township, thirty-six sections of land. For convenience, these are always numbered as follows:

section map

In each whole section, there are 640 acres; and, when a section is divided into four parts, each quarter section contains 160 acres. It is usually in quarter sections that the land of the United States is disposed of; although, if desired, it will be divided into eighty acre tracts, or even forty acres.

Civil Towns and Surveyed Townships.

Only two of the civil towns of Crawford county contain each a surveyed township --- no more or less; these are the towns of Haney and Scott. The towns of Freeman, Utica, Clayton, Seneca, Eastman, Marietta, Wauzeka and Prairie du Chien, contain each more than one surveyed township; while the town of Bridgeport contains less than one.

The town of Haney has, for its territory, township 9, in range 4 west; while that of Scott has township 9, in range 3 west. All the other towns have territory so irregular in their shape, that a reference to the map is necessary to understand their size and outlines.

Dates of Surveys and Notes of Surveyors.

From the field notes of the surveyors and the government plats, many items of interest are obtained. These sources furnish the following facts: --- The township lines in Crawford county were run by W A Burt, Ira B Brunson, Pizarro Cook and John Ryan, in the years 1839, 1840, 1841, 1854, 1857 and 1881, mostly in 1839.

The sectional lines were run by Orson Lyon, Ira B Brunson, Samuel C Wiltse, A L Haren, W Barrows and John Ryan, in the years 1840, 1843, 1854, 1857, 1881 and 1882, mostly in 1840 and 1843.

The first surveying was done by Wm. A Burt, who ran nearly all the township lines in Crawford county in the 4th quarter of 1839.

The last surveying was done by Pizarro Cook, who re-surveyed the town of Haney in 1881-82.

Township 6 north, of range 5 west (southwestern part of Wauzeka) was surveyed by Orson Lyon assisted by Truman B Gorton, Samuel Kirkpatrick, chainman, and I K Vinderburgh, in the 2d quarter of 1840.

Township 6 north, of range 6 west (part of the town of Bridgeport and a portion of the city of Prairie du Chien) was surveyed by Orson Lyon, United States deputy surveyor, in March, 1840. He was assisted by Truman B Gorton, Samuel Kirkpatrick, chainman, and I K Vinderburgh. The surveyor says: "Surface of this township is hilly, rocky and poor second rate. Except the river bottom, which is low, level, wet, and not fit for cultivation. Well timbered with oak, maple, ash and elm. The upland is thinly timbered with white, black and burr oak, and some hickory undergrowth."

Township 7 north, of range 3 west (a fraction of section 6 only). Orson Lyon surveyed this township in April, 1840. He was assisted by T B Gorton and S D Kirkpatrick.

Township 7 north, of range 4 west (in Marietta and Wauzeka) was surveyed by Orson Lyon, assisted by T B Gorton, S D Kirkpatrick, chainman, and F Cox. The surveyor has this to say of this township:

"The surface of this township is hilly and well timbered, north and east of the Kickapoo river. Timber is oak, lynn, elm and sugar tree. The river bottoms of the Wisconsin and Kickapoo, are low, swampy and third rate.

"The upland between the river bottom and bluff is rolling and good second rate land, with some first rate. The land in the hills is rocky, and poor second and third rate.

"West and south of the Kickapoo river the land is hilly and thinly timbered with white and black oak, with an undergrowth of grape vine.

"The river bottom is level, swampy and third rate."

Township 7 north , of range 5 west (Wauzeka) was surveyed in the 2d quarter of 1840, by Orson Lyon, United States deputy surveyor, who was assisted by Truman B Gorton, S D Kirkpatrick, chainmen, and Isaac K Vinderburgh. This township, says the surveyor, "is hilly and broken, soil third rate and poor second rate, also some little first rate land. Timbered with black oak, with but little undergrowth."

Township 7 north, of range 6 west (part of Bridgeport, and of the city and town of Prairie du Chien) was surveyed in the 1st quarter of 1840 by Orson Lyon, assisted by T B Gorton, hind chainman; S D Kirkpatrick, fore chainman; J B Cartz, marker.

In his field notes, Mr. Lyon says: "The surface of this township is hilly, and in many places broken and rocky. The soil with few exceptions is poor second and third rate lands.

"The timber is principally white oak, with little undergrowth.

The hollows are mostly without timber. Soil, first rate."

Township 7 north, of range 7 west (town and city of Prairie du Chien, in part) was, some portions of it, surveyed in March and July, 1857, by Ira Brunson.

Township 8 north, of range 3 west (part of Marietta) was surveyed in the 2d and 3d quarters of 1840 by Orson Lyon, assisted by T Cox and John Corley. The surveyor says: "Surface hilly, soil broken, bushy and might be called third rate.

"The timber is oak, lynn and sugar-tree, excepting on the river and creek bottom, where the timber is elm, ash, maple and oak, with an undergrowth of the same."

Township 8 north, of range 4 west (parts of Marietta, Wauzeka and Eastman), was surveyed in the 3d quarter of 1840, by Orson Lyon, assisted by John Corley and T Cox. In his notes Mr. Lyon states that the surface is hilly, soil broken and poor second rate.

"East of the Kickapoo river, is well timbered with lynn, sugar-tree and oak, with an undergrowth of the same, with prickly-ash, briars and grapevines. In that part of the township lying west of the Kickapoo river the soil is second rate, hilly and broken, thinly timbered with oak."

Township 8 north, of range 5 west (parts of Eastman and Wauzeka) was surveyed by Orson Lyon, in the 2d quarter of 1840; he was assisted by chainman S D Kirkpatrick and marker, I K Vinderburgh. The notes of the surveyor are as follows: "Surface hilly and broken, in many places, and might be called poor second rate land. Is thinly timbered with white, black and burr oak. The creek bottoms are prairie and first rate land."

Township 8 north, of range 6 west (a part of Eastman) was surveyed by Orson Lyon, deputy surveyor, in March and April, 1840, assisted by T B Gorton, S D Kirkpatrick, chainman, and J B Chartz, marker.

Township 8 north, of range 7 west (a part of Eastman) was surveyed in March and July, 1857, by Ira B Brunson.

Township 9 north, of range 3 west (Scott) was surveyed in the 2d quarter of 1843, by Samuel C Wiltse, deputy surveyor. "Majority of this township," says the surveyor, "is composed of first and second rate qualities of land. Whole township is heavily timbered, maple and oak predominating. Every section contains a capital 'sugar orchard' and some of them are covered with little else. The streams which are all bordered with a dense undergrowth are permanent and full of mountain trout. The water is clear, cold and soft, running over pebbly bottoms."

Township 9 north, of range 4 west (Haney) was surveyed July 2-11, 1843, by Samuel C Wiltse, deputy surveyor, assisted by J B McFardin, W J Curtiss, chainmen, and E D Smith, marker. Re-surveyed by Pizarro Cook, November and December, 1881.

Township 9 north, of range 5 west (part of Seneca) was surveyed in the 2d quarter of 1843 by A L Haren, deputy surveyor, assisted by Austin Wilder, C C Carter, chainman, and C Hamilton, marker. The surveyor says: "Surface broken. Timber of an inferior quality, with the exception of a few groves on the west side of the township."

Township 9 north, range 6 west (part of Seneca), was surveyed by A L Haren, in the 4th quarter of 1843. He was assisted by S P Folsom, S N Lester, chainmen, L Davis, marker.

Township 10 north, of range 3 west (a portion of Clayton), was surveyed by Samuel C Wiltse, in the 3d quarter of 1843, assisted by J B McFardin, W T Curtiss, chainmen, and E D Smith, marker. The surface of this township says Mr. Wiltse, "is uneven, the soil shallow. Is valuable chiefly as a grazing district. Water excellent and abundant."

Township 10 north, of range 4 west (parts of Utica and Clayton), was surveyed by S C Wiltse in the 3d quarter of 1843. He was assisted J B McFardin, W T Curtiss, chainmen and E D Smith, marker. The surveyor says: "Surface of this township is hilly, timber and land of little value." This township was re-surveyed by Pizarro Cook Dec. 7, 1881 --- Jan. 13, 1882.

Township 10 north, of range 5 west (parts of Utica and Seneca) was surveyed in the 3d quarter of 1843, by A L Haren, assisted by Austin Wilder, C C Carter, chainmen, C Hamilton, marker. This township is mostly broken, says the surveyor, and hilly. The prairie in the southeastern part is rolling first-rate land. The soil excepting on the hill sides is a rich sandy loam. The hill sides are covered with loose rock and flint. Township is exceedingly well watered, on the west by streams running into the Mississippi and on the east by streams running into the Kickapoo.

Township 10 north, of range 6 west (parts of Freeman and Seneca) was surveyed in the 4th quarter of 1843 by A L Haren, assisted by L Davis, S N Lester and S P Folsom. The surveyor says: "Township is broken and hilly and is mostly fertile, excepting the steep side hills and bluffs. Upland generally well timbered."

Township 11 north, of range 3 west (a part of Seneca) was surveyed in the 3d quarter of 1843, by W Barrows deputy surveyor, assisted by Ed. Fitzpatrick, W V Anderson, chainmen, and W P Easley marker.

Township 11 north, of range 4 west (parts of Clayton and Utica) was surveyed in the 3d quarter of 1843, by S C Wiltse, assisted by J B McFardin, W T Curtiss, chainmen, E D Smith, marker.

Township 11 north, of range 5 west (parts of Utica and Freeman) was surveyed in the 3d quarter of 1843, by A L Haren, assisted by Austin Wilder, C C Carter, chainmen, Louis Davis, marker. The surveyor says: "Soil mostly rolling, first-rate land or good second-rate land. Soil sandy loam."

Township 11 north, of range 6 west (a part of Eastman) was surveyed in the 3d quarter of 1843, by A L Haren, deputy surveyor, assisted by Austin Wilder, C C Carter, chainmen, and Louis Davis, marker. "Surface extremely broken and hilly."

Township 11 north, of range 7 west (a part of Freeman) was surveyed in the 4th quarter of 1843, by A L Haren, deputy surveyor, assisted by S P Folsom, S N Lester, chainmen, Louis Davis, marker.

Land Districts.

The first land offices in Wisconsin were established under an act of Congress approved June 26, 1834, creating additional land districts in the States of Illinois and Missouri, and in the territory north of the State of Illinois. The first section provides "that all that tract lying north of the State of Illinois, west of Lake Michigan, south and southeast of the Wisconsin and Fox rivers, included in the present territory of Michigan, shall be divided by a north and south line, drawn from the northern boundary of Illinois along the range of the township line west of Fort Winnebago to the Wisconsin river, and to be called --- the one on the west side, the Wisconsin land district, and that on the east side the Green Bay land district of the territory of Michigan, which two districts shall embrace the country north of said rivers when the Indian title shall be extinguished, and the Green Bay district may be divided so as to form two districts, when the President shall deem it proper;" and by section three of said act, the President was authorized to appoint a register and receiver for such office, as soon as a sufficient number of townships are surveyed.

An act of Congress, approved June 15, 1836, divided the Green Bay land district, as established in 1834, "by a line commencing on the western boundary of said district, and running thence east between townships 10 and 11 north, to the line between ranges 17 and 18 east, thence north between said ranges of townships to the line between townships 12 and 13 north, thence east between said townships 12 and 13 to Lake Michigan; and all the country bounded north by the division line here described; south by the base line, east by Lake Michigan and west by the division line between ranges 8 and 9 east," to be constituted a separate district, and known as the "Milwaukee land district." It included the present counties of Racine, Kenosha, Rock, Jefferson, Waukesha, Walworth and Milwaukee and parts of Green, Dane, Washington, Ozaukee, Dodge and Columbia.

An act was approved March 3, 1847, creating an additional land district in the territory. All that portion of the public lands lying north and west of the following boundaries, formed a district to be known as the Chippewa land district: Commencing at the Mississippi river on the line between townships 22 and 23 north, running thence east along said line to the fourth principal meridian, thence north along said meridian line to the line dividing townships 29 and 30, thence east along such township line to the Wisconsin river, thence up the main channel of said river to the boundary line between the State of Michigan and the territory of Wisconsin. The counties now included in this district are: Pepin, Clark, Eau Claire, Dunn, Pierce, St. Croix, Polk, Barron, Burnett, Douglas, Bayfield, Ashland, Taylor, Chippewa and parts of Buffalo, Trempealeau and Jackson.

An act of Congress, approved March 2, 1849, changed the location of the land office in the Chippewa district from the falls of St. Croix to Stillwater, in the county of St. Croix, in the proposed territory of Minnesota; and by section two of the act, an additional land office and district was created, comprising all the lands in Wisconsin not included in the districts of land subject to sale at Green Bay, Milwaukee, or Mineral Point, which was to be known as the Western land district, and the President was authorized to designate the site where the office should be located. Willow river, now Hudson, was selected. The district was usually known as the St. Croix and Chippewa district, and included St. Croix, La Pointe and parts of Chippewa and Marathon counties.

By an act of Congress, approved July 30, 1852, so much of the public lands in Wisconsin as lay within a boundary line commencing at the southwest corner of township 15 north, of range 2 east of the fourth principal meridian, thence running due east to the southeast corner of township 15 north, of range 11 east, of the fourth principal meridian, thence north along such range line to the north line of the State of Wisconsin, thence westwardly along said north line to the line between ranges 1 and 2 east of fourth principal meridian, thence south to the place of beginning, were formed into a new district, and known as the Stevens Point land district, and a land office located at that place. The boundaries enclosed the present counties of Juneau, Adams, Marquette, Green Lake, Waushara, Waupacca, Portage, Wood, Marathon, Lincoln and Shawano.

Wisconsin Land District.

It will be remembered that the Wisconsin land district, by the organic act of the territory, was to be extended north of the Wisconsin river "when the Indian title should be extinguished." Now, as that event took place in 1837, it follows that when what is now Crawford county was surveyed into townships by the United States surveyors, it was in the Wisconsin land district, the land office being at Mineral Point. It was usually called the "Mineral Point land district." The surveys into sections and quarter sections were nearly all made while in the same district; hence the early settlers went to Mineral Point to enter their land.

La Crosse Land District.

An act of Congress, approved March 2, 1849, formed the La Crosse land district, including within its limits the following territory:

"Commencing at a point where the line between townships 10 and 11 touches the Mississippi river, [in the present county of Crawford,] and running thence due east of the fourth principal meridian; thence north to the line between townships 14 and 15 north; thence east to the southeast corner of township 15 north, or range 1 east of the fourth principal meridian; thence north on the range line to the south line of township 31 north; thence west on the line between townships 30 and 31 to the Chippewa river; thence down said river to the junction with the Mississippi river, thence down said river to the place of beginning."

This included, though it has since been lessened, so much of Crawford as lies north of the line between townships 10 and 11, all of the present county of Vernon, likewise that of La Crosse, Monroe, Buffalo, Trempealeau, Eau Claire, Clark and parts of Juneau and Chippewa counties.

By act of Congress, approved Feb. 24, 1855, an additional district was formed of all that portion of the Willow river land district lying north of the line dividing townships 40 and 41, to be called the Fond du Lac district, the office to be located by the President as he might from time to time direct. The present counties of Douglas, Bayfield, Ashland and part of Burnett were included within its boundaries.

By an act of Congress, approved March 3, 1857, so much of the districts of land subject to sale at La Crosse and Hudson, in the State of Wisconsin, contained in the following boundaries, were constituted a new district, to be known as the Chippewa land district. North of the line dividing townships 24 and 25 north; south of the line dividing townships 40 and 41 north; west of the line dividing ranges 1 and 2 east; and east of the line dividing ranges 11 and 12 west. The location of the office was to be designated by the President as the public interest might require. The present counties of Chippewa, Taylor, Eau Claire and Clark were in this district.

La Crosse Land Office.

There are at the present time six land offices in the State. They are located at Menasha, Falls of St. Croix, Wausau, La Crosse, Bayfield and Eau Claire. By the provisions of law, when the number of acres of land in any one district is reduced to 100,000 acres, subject to private entry, the secretary of the interior is required to discontinue the office, and the lands remaining unsold are transferred to the nearest land office, to be there subject to sale. Under this provision, Crawford county is in the La Crosse land office.

Pizarro Cook's Re-Survey in Crawford County.

Under an act of Congress, of Feb. 9, 1880, for the survey of all that portion of township 9 north, of range 4 west, lying east of the Kickapoo river in Crawford county, also township 10 north of the same range, east of that stream, Pizarro Cook, county surveyor of Crawford county, was employed by the United States to do the work, under the direction of the commissioner of the general land office. The township lines had been run; but the land had not been "sectionized." However, as it had originally been returned as having been run into sections, the work of Mr. Cook is called a re-survey. He began work Oct. 25, 1881, and finished about the middle of January, 1882. Congress appropriated, by the act already mentioned, the sum of $1000 for the work. Mr. Cook's bill amounted to $984.18.

The Lyon Survey.

When the United States surveyors crossed the Wisconsin river to enter upon the survey, in this region of public lands, they found, upon their arrival, within what are now the limits of Crawford county, certain tracts that were in fact not United States lands and had already been surveyed. Of course, these tracts were not again surveyed. They were the private land claims already treated of very fully in the previous chapter, which were surveyed by Mr. Lyon, deputy United States surveyor, in 1828.


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