PLSS Trivia--How does your State stack up
Several days ago there was discussion about the necessity, or lack thereof, for including certain information relative to the PLSS in descriptions for tracts surveyed. Above is the layout for the State of Kansas. The north boundary is the 40th Parallel and the baseline for all work in Kansas. The location of the Sixth Principal Meridian is shown to be 108 miles (18 townships) west of the intersection of the Missouri River with the 40th Parallel. Of the 105 counties, only three are split by the P.M. A total of 59 are completely to the west of the P.M. and a total of 43 are to the east. All townships are SOUTH.
If one is writing a description in all but three counties the identification of the county name effectively eliminates the need to add the EAST or WEST of the 6th P.M. Including the SOUTH is unimportant as there is no NORTH. So one might call out something like: The southwest quarter of Section 14, Township 28, Range 20, Kiowa County, Kansas. We find such wording routinely in old deeds prepared by non-surveyors. On the other hand, most surveyors today will include the full description: The southwest quarter of Section 14, Township 28 South, Range 20 West of the 6th Principal Meridian, Kiowa County, Kansas.
The maximum number of Ranges west of the P.M. is 43. The maximum number of Ranges east of the P.M. is 25. The maximum number of Townships South of the 40th Parallel is 35. The standard parallels are every five Townships. Note that many counties, especially in the western part of the State, have one or two boundaries running along standard parallels. Many counties are rectangular or nearly so due to the minor jogs created along the standard parallels. Only 10 counties have a river forming some part of their boundary. Only the Missouri River and the Kansas/Big Blue River are used as county boundaries,
The two-letter county identifiers appear on automobile license plates so one can determine quite easily the home county for that vehicle. A common traveling game to play with youngsters is to have them learn those two-letter county identifiers and then try to find the vehicle the most distant from its home. It's a great way to educate them a bit about geography. Kansas City, Kansas is in Wyandotte (WY) and Wichita is in Sedgwick (SG). The University of Kansas at Lawrence is in Douglas (DG), Kansas State University at Manhattan is in Riley (RL) and the State Capitol at Topeka is in Shawnee (SN). The wild west town of Dodge City is in Ford (FO) while the famous cattle town of Abilene is in Dickinson (DK). One of the challenges for the youngsters is to keep track of counties with very similar identifiers such as: CA = Clark; CD = Cloud; CF = Coffey; CK = Cherokee; CL = Cowley; CM = Comanche; CN = Cheyenne; CR = Crawford; CS = Chase; CY = Clay. Learning the ones beginning with "S" is even tougher with 12 possibilities.
Oklahoma has only two principal meridians and guide baselines. The Indian Meridian Initial Point was a random point south of Ft, Arbuckle that the horizon could be seen for the entire 360 degrees. It was not determined by an even longitudinal line. I'd have to look but from memory the Indian Meridian runs north to maybe T27 or 29N and south to maybe T9S. Ranges E & W probably run in the mid twenties...I don't work near the edges much... Everything in Oklahoma except the three counties in the panhandle are described from the Indian Meridian.
The Cimarron Meridian (the last Meridian established in the lower 48) is a different story. It was meant to be 103 degrees west with the north terminus at 37 degrees north, being the western boundary of the panhandle's border with NM. From that point they chained south until they stepped in Texas. Originally there were only Townships N and E. But in the thirties (I think) it was discovered the Cimarron base line was not established on the north boundary of the Texas panhandle. A resurvey determined there was actually a Township 1 South for the Cimarron Base Line.
Come to think of it I don't think there is a common boundary between Oklahoma and Texas that didn't get litigated. Why doesn't that surprise me?
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The simplicity of the PLSS is striking to someone who practices in a metes and bounds system Compare the standard checkerboard of PLSSia to even a fairly regular pattern such as that of Dallas County, Texas where the positions of land grants are identified by polar coordinates, i.e. so many miles on a specified bearing from the point indicated as "Dallas" on the county map.
Kent McMillan, RPLS Austin TX
All of North Dakota is referenced to the 5th P.M., which passes through Minnesota, and has its initial point and baseline in Arkansas. So all the townships are North and West of the 5th P.M. Standard parallels, aka correction lines, occur every four townships. I've not seen any plats without the North and West designations.
Louisiana has 2.
Louisiana meridian that encompasses most of the state as defined by the Louisiana Purchase. Townships are N/S and E/W.
St. Helena meridian is the land acquired from Spain of the Republic of West Florida. Baseline is the 31st parallel as surveyed by Andrew Ellicott.
Eventually LA-MS border, do everything is south but also E & W.
Yes it does split parishes, i.e. Counties.
But we like our descriptions to be fully complete with information so that anyone reading can comprehend anywhere and place in time without some provincial knowledge of county location.
A PLSS-like system was attempted in North Texas at the effort of the Peters Colony, whose head agent/surveyor was an Englishman, Henry Hedgecoxe. He was described as having foreign and officious manners that irritated the colonists. The initial point was at the confluence of the Elm Fork and the West Fork of the Trinity River in West Dallas/East Irving. The Peters Colony had difficulties meeting the terms of their contract and fending off squatters from its reservation. The contract expired in 1848 and unappropriated land was open for settling. Colonists met at Dallas on July 15, 1852 where Hedgcoxe was accused of fraud and corruption by an investigating committee. On July 16, 1852, John J. Good led about 100 armed men from the mass meeting to Hedgcoxe's office in Collin County. Hedgcoxe's files were seized and removed to the Dallas County Courthouse. Hedgcoxe was ordered to leave the colony. Not sure on the time sequence of the surveys shown in Kent's map, but a lot of the PLSS system was discarded in survey work following Hedgecoxe. This section of the 1852 map shows both the rectangular system and the maverick surveys that are oriented to the watershed.
http://www.glo.texas.gov/ncu/SCANDOCS/archives_webfiles/arcmaps/ZoomWork/1/196 5"> http://www.glo.texas.gov/history/archives/map-store/zoomer.cfm?z=http://www.glo.texas.gov/ncu/SCANDOCS/archives_webfiles/arcmaps/ZoomWork/1/1965
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Rick Taylor, post: 423880, member: 304 wrote: All of North Dakota is referenced to the 5th P.M., which passes through Minnesota, and has its initial point and baseline in Arkansas. So all the townships are North and West of the 5th P.M. Standard parallels, aka correction lines, occur every four townships. I've not seen any plats without the North and West designations.
Iowa similarly has only the 5th PM and the baseline in Arkansas. So everything is North, but we do have East and West of the PM and 2 counties are split E/W. The official descriptions I've seen nearly always include the North and East/West, but there is a lot of use of abbreviated descriptions (14-69-21 or S14-T69-R21 for sec 14 Township 69 North Range 21 West) in tax documents and unofficial notes.
We have a base line that isn't used as the basis for numbering and two Correction Lines. The correction lines produce jogs in the shape of many counties that straddle them. I laugh at the town of Correctionville, which straddles the 2nd Correction Line. They have a slogan "Jog down our main street" referring to the offset of some tens of yards where it crosses the correction line. What most don't realize is the offset in sections is about 3 3/4 miles, being in the western part of the state where the convergence has added up from the eastern part of the state.
Our license plates used to have the county's number, assigned by alphabetical order, in large numerals as the prefix to the plate number, and we played the game of finding as many different ones as possible when we traveled. At one time I could write a list of the majority of the county names versus number, but haven't practiced in years. Now the license plates use the more common 3-letter 3-number system with the county name in fine print below.
Holy Cow, post: 423842, member: 50 wrote: The standard parallels are every five Townships.
Rick Taylor, post: 423880, member: 304 wrote: Standard parallels, aka correction lines, occur every four townships.
Standard parallels north of the 6th PM (in Nebraska) are spaced every four townships, and standard parallels south of the 6th PM (in Kansas) are every five townships. I've often wondered why, but I have yet to read any reasoning for it. I suppose it makes for smaller corrections north of the baseline where the convergence is greater.
As far as I know, the early surveys of both states that set the pattern happened at or near the same time. As the surveys progressed west into Colorado, the same pattern was continued. There are some counties in Colorado that have standard parallels spaced every 5 townships (south) and every 4 townships (north) within the same county.
I did a little looking on Google Earth to see if the same pattern carries over from earlier surveys from the 5th PM. I think the answer is sorta, but there are a lot of irregularities and some places look like there are a lot of miles between correction lines.
The following is found on what is labeled as page (2) but shows up as page 8 of 41: 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 in meridian lines, which, however must 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.
The application of the PLSS in Kansas began in 1854 with the surveying of the baseline/40th Parallel so the use of the 1855 Instructions for survey districts created after 1850 seems to explain why this system was used.
We have FIVE principle meridians in Mississippi, including Spanish Land Grants and rivers where the principle meridian surveys terminate. There is Mississippi land in Arkansas and Louisiana and vice-versa along the Mississippi River. The Chickasaw Meridian goes to part of the Gaines Trace and the old Tombigbee River in the northwestern part of the state. That river also has changed courses since the 1830's meridian terminating limits with some lands governed by the Chickasaw Meridian on the east side of the river while parts of the Huntsville Meridian lie on the west side of the river. Mixed in with all of that is the Tenn-Tom Waterway cutting through this area further complicating both meridians's old section, township and range lines. The old traditional boundary between the Chickasaw Nation and Choctaw Nation was a diagonal line running northwest-southeast across the northern part of the state. The Chickasaw Meridian and Choctaw Meridian dividing lines, however, were run in cardinal directions, resulting in really odd shaped townships. Some sections are about 600 feet wide and one mile long rectangles, and a lot of townships are L-shaped. My home county of Chickasaw is fairly routine; however, if I step outside of my comfortable county, then I always research the usgs quad maps and GLO township plats with old field notes.
I love the historical aspects of surveying. I like knowing local history, and then going out there and seeing it on the ground, and recovering the old evidence. Fascinating!
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