Timeline

General Land Office Research

Department of Landscape Architecture

Iowa State University 

For more information, see Frequently Asked Questions

Quotations from field notes or

Visit Paul Anderson's summary page


 GLO Timeline

Timeline of GLO survey and related events.  Sources for each event are listed at the end of the timeline.

1600s
1700s
1800
1820
1840
1860
1880
1900s

1626 Edmund Gunter, an English surveyor, died.  He invented and promoted "Gunter's Chain," a 66-foot surveying chain of 100 links. Stilgoe 1982, p. 100
1656 Settlers of Groton petitioned the Massachusetts General Court that "they be not strictly tied to a square form in the line laying out" their town Stilgoe 1982, p. 99-100
1673 Marquette and Jolliet paddled down the Mississippi River Sage 1974, p. 28
1682 Rene Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle claims the land in the Mississippi River valley for the King of France Wessel 1995, Timeline
1717 Sir Robert Montgomery's plan for Azilia (never built) featured districts subdivided into units of one square mile, each containing 640 acres Stewart 1935, p. 4
1735 Sauk and Fox Indians, of the Algonquian language division, became federated Sage 1974, p. 24
1736 Two townships were surveyed in Maine and five in Massachusetts.  Each township was six miles square. Stewart 1935, p. 4
1762 France secretly transferred their lands west of the Mississippi River to Spain Sage 1974, p. 34
1764 Colonel Henry Bouquet (assisted by Thomas Hutchins) proposes a plan for frontier settlement, featuring one-mile squares, each containing 640 acres, allowing 40 acres for streets and public uses, 50 acres for 100 houses, and 100 lots of 5.5 acres each Stewart 1935, p. 5
1767 Mason & Dixon surveyed the Pennsylvania-Maryland state line Johnson 1976, p. 36
1779 Thomas Jefferson suggested that every Virginia county be divided for school-support purposes into townships five or six miles square Stilgoe 1982, p. 102
1784 Thomas Jefferson proposed surveying of public lands of the west in geographic units called "hundreds," areas ten miles square based on the decimal system (later replaced by townships six miles square) Stilgoe 1982, p. 103
1781 Thomas Hutchins was appointed Geographer of the United States Cazier 1977, p. 15
1785 Ordinance establishing the Land Office and rectangular survey of public domain lands in the "backlands of the U.S." in townships six miles square (May 20) Johnson 1976, Preface i;  Stilgoe 1982, p. 99
The Ordinance provided that the proceeds from the sale of section 16 in each township would be set aside for maintenance of public schools Cazier 1977, p. 15
1788 Julien Dubuque began operating lead mines (Mines of Spain) Johnson 1976, p. 87
1796 Ordinance directing surveyors to measure lines at 2-mile intervals and posts at one-mile intervals and changed the numbering system of sections within each township Johnson 1976, p. 56; Cazier 1977, p. 25
The new Ordinance set the Surveyor General's salary at $2,000 per year and raised the pay of deputy surveyors from $2.00 to $3.00 per mile of section line surveyed Cazier 1977, p. 35
Rufus Putnam was appointed first Surveyor General (October 1). Putnam instituted the contract system of surveying, which specified each surveying assignment for deputy surveyors, responsibility for their expenses, performance standards, and accountability. Johnson 1976, p. 55; Cazier 1977, p. 36
Julien Dubuque secured a land grant from Spain, estimated to include approximately 100,000 acres Sage 1974, p. 34-35; Wall 1987, p. 28
1799 Louis Honore Tesson received a land grant from the Spanish government for a tract of land in what is now Lee County Wessel 1995, Timeline
1800 Napoleon reclaimed the Mississippi Valley from Spain Sage 1974, p. 35
Basil Giard received a land grant from the Spanish government for a tract of land in what is now Marquette Wessel 1995, Timeline
Act of March 1 specified that section corners set by deputy surveyors are true corners, even if later surveys indicate that they were placed incorrectly Cazier 1977, p. 36
Act of May 10 specified that township would be divided into half sections of 320 acres each and that any excess or deficiency in measurement be placed in the north mile and west half mile in each township Cazier 1977, p. 37
1802 In Indiana, deputy surveyor Thomas Freeman regularly used "peace trees" to mark the treaty line he surveyed Cazier 1977, p. 40
1803 Louisiana Purchase by Thomas Jefferson through the Treaty of Paris (April 30) Sage 1974, p. 41
France was paid $15 million for the Louisiana Purchase, an area of 827,987 square miles ($0.028 per acre) Fulton 1870, p. 7; Schwieder 1996, p. 11
Jared Mansfield was appointed second Surveyor General, replacing Rufus Putnam (November 3) Johnson 1976, p. 57, 73; Cazier 1977, p. 47; White 1983, p. 209
Isaac Briggs was appointed surveyor of the lands south of Tennessee Cazier 1977, p. 47
1804 Act directing subdivision of lands into quarter sections Johnson 1976, p. 60
District of Louisiana created from lands of the Louisiana Purchase (March 26).  This District included land that was to become the State of Iowa.  The district was administered by the Territory of Indiana. Sage 1974, p. 39
Land office opened in Vincennes, Indiana Johnson 1976, p. 61
Treaty council in St. Louis involving Black Hawk, Appanoose, Pashepaho, Keokuk, Poweshiek, Taimah, and Wapello Sage 1974, p. 25
1804-6 Lewis and Clark Expedition Sage 1974, p. 36
On August 20, Sergeant Charles Floyd died near what is now Sioux City while a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition Schwieder 1996, p. 25
1805 Act decreeing that each section shall be considered to be the size measured by the GLO surveyors; monuments installed have precedence over measurements in field notes Johnson 1976, p. 61
Lieutenant Zebulon Pike explored the Mississippi River north of St. Louis, including the De Moine Rapids, near Keokuk Sage 1974, p. 37
District of Louisiana became the Territory of Louisiana (March 3).  This District included land that was to become the State of Iowa. Sage 1974, p. 40
1807 Land office opened in Jeffersonville, Indiana Johnson 1976, p. 61
Congress passed legislation to prohibit squatters on public lands before surveys were complete and the land was open for settlement (March 3).   Sage 1974, p. 40-41
1808 Fort Madison (originally called Fort Bellevue) was established to protect trading houses who did business with the Indians Sage 1974, p. 41; Wessel 1995, Timeline
1810 Congress revised the land law to try to stymie land speculation Stilgoe 1982, p. 103
Julien Dubuque died Sage 1974, p. 45
1811 Lead mining was a major activity around Galena Johnson 1976, p. 87
1812 Josiah Meigs was appointed Surveyor General, replacing Jared Mansfield Cazier 1977, p. 49; White 1983, p. 209
General Land Office was established in the Department of the Treasury Johnson 1976, p. 61
Edward Tiffin was appointed as the first Commissioner of the General Land Office (May 7) Cazier 1977, p. 49; White 1983, p. 194
Land office opened in Shawneetown, Illinois Johnson 1976, p. 61
Territory of Louisiana was divided into the State of Louisiana and the Territory of Missouri, including land that was to become the State of Iowa Sage 1974, p. 42
1813 Fort Madison was abandoned Wessel 1995, Timeline
1814 William Rector was Surveyor General for Illinois, Missouri, and Arkansas Cazier 1977, p. 42
Records of the General Land Office in Washington, D.C. were destroyed by fires set by British troops near the end of the War of 1812 Cazier 1977, p. 50
Josiah Meigs was appointed as the second Commissioner of the General Land Office at the same time as Edward Tiffin was appointed Surveyor General (October 11) Cazier 1977, p. 50; White 1983, p. 194
1815 Manual of Instructions to Regulate Field Operations of Deputy Surveyors was based on instructions issued in 1804 by Jared Mansfield Johnson 1976, p. 57; Cazier 1977, p. 111-112
Surveyor General Tiffin reemphasized that distance measurements were to be made horizontally, not along the slope Johnson 1976, p. 76
Surveyor General Tiffin required deputy surveyors to use "a good compass of Rittenhouse construction" and "a two pole chain of 50 links" Cazier 1977, p. 13
Surveying began in central Arkansas for the 5th Principal Meridian, used later in Iowa GLO surveys Johnson 1976, p. 74; Stewart 1935, p. 44
On October 27, deputy surveyor Joseph C. Brown began the survey of the baseline for the Fifth Principal Meridian at the confluence of the Mississippi and St. Francis Rivers and ran it due west.  On the same day, Prospect C. Robbins began the survey of the Meridian at the confluence of the Arkansas and Mississippi Rivers and ran it due north.  On November 10, Robbins intersected the baseline in the 58th mile of the Meridian, approximately 26 miles west of the Mississippi River.  This initial point for the Fifth Principal Meridian controlled surveys in all of Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, North Dakota, and most of Minnesota and South Dakota. White 1983, p. 67
Commissioner of the General Land Office said that it was "indeed a more difficult task than imagined to survey with the correctness which the laws of the United States contemplated" Johnson 1976, p. 74
1816 Land office opened in Edwardsville, Illinois Johnson 1976, p. 61
John C. Sullivan surveyed the northern limits of the Osage cession.  This nearly east-west Sullivan line later became the state border between Iowa and Missouri. Sage 1974, p. 64-65
1817 Josiah Meigs, Commissioner of the General Land Office, directed registers of local land offices to make regular weather observations Cazier 1977, p. 50
1818 Speculation in public lands peaked Johnson 1976, p. 19
1819 Land offices opened in Terra Haute and Brookville, Indiana Johnson 1976, p. 61
Army officer Stephen Harriman Long stopped at Council Bluffs on his trip to the Rocky Mountains Sage 1974, p. 43
First steamboat on the Missouri River reaches Iowa Wessel 1995, Timeline
1820 Act offering land for public auction at no less than $1.25 per acre in tracts of 80 acres Johnson 1976, p. 61
Territory of Missouri was divided into the State of Missouri and the remaining unnamed territory Sage 1974, p. 43
Expedition of Lieutenant Stephen W. Kearney from Council Bluffs to Wabasha on the Upper Mississippi Sage 1974, p. 43
First steamboat on the Mississippi River reaches Iowa Wessel 1995, Timeline
 
1821 Captain Hervey Parke walked over 500 miles from Camden, New York to Michigan to become a deputy surveyor.  Parke surveyed townships in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Cazier 1977, p. 53-54
1822 John McLean was appointed Commissioner of the General Land Office (September 11) White 1983, p. 194
1823 An error was discovered in the surveying of the 5th Principal Meridian Stewart 1935, p. 45-46
George Graham was appointed Commissioner of the General Land Office (June 26) White 1983, p. 194
1824 General William Clark was appointed interim Surveyor General of Illinois and Missouri at St. Louis from October until May 17, 1825 White 1983, p. 82
Half-Breed Tract (119,000 acres) was ceded by the Sioux and Fox Indians and purchased by the Federal government for the half-breeds of the two tribes Johnson 1976, p. 122; Sage 1974, p. 44-45; Petersen 1952, p. 293
Chief Mahaska (White Cloud) visited Washington, D.C. Fulton 1870, p. 10
1825 Erie Canal opened Johnson 1976, p. 6
1827 After the Florence fire, Surveyors General were instructed to rent buildings for their offices separate from any others.  Offices were not allowed in buildings where people lived.  Several plans were devised for constructing fireproof buildings and metal-encased vaults, but none were ever funded.  Annual rent payments were typically about $500. White 1983, p. 118
1829 William Lytle was appointed Surveyor General in Ohio (July 3).  The office was moved from Chillicothe to Cincinnati.  Lytle died March 18, 1831. White 1983, p. 209
Deputy surveyor William A. Burt received the first U.S. patent for the typewriter (typographer, as he called it) Cazier 1977, p. 63
1830 Report of the Committee on Public Lands Johnson 1976, p. 59
Elijah Hayward was appointed Commissioner of the General Land Office (September 30) White 1983, p. 194
The first school on record in Iowa was established by Dr. Isaac Galland near Keokuk Sage 1974, p. 46
Lucius Langworthy tried to take from the Indians the Mines of Spain at Dubuque that Julien Dubuque established in 1788.  Major Stephen W. Kearney's troops forced Langworthy and his men back to Illinois. Sage 1974, p. 45-46
A 40-mile wide Neutral Ground in northeast Iowa was established to separate the Sioux from the Sauk and Fox Sage 1974, p. 47
Act of May 29 made it illegal to obstruct surveys of public lands and called for protection of government surveyors in the discharge of their official duties Cazier 1977, p. 59
1831 Elijah Hayward, Commissioner of the General Land Office, issued detailed instructions to the Surveyors General Cazier 1977, p. 112
Micajah T. Williams was appointed Surveyor General in Ohio (April 13) White 1983, p. 209
1832 Act allowing quarter-quarter tracts (40 acres) to be sold Johnson 1976, p. 61
End of Black Hawk War and government purchase of Black Hawk's land following the treaty of September 21 Johnson 1976, p. 64
Survey of Half-Breed Tract began, but was interrupted by the Black Hawk War Johnson 1976, p. 122
Contract for the survey of the Half-Breed Tract was between deputy surveyor Jenifer T. Sprigg and William Clark, Superintendent of Indian Affairs Wall 1987, p. 26
Indian Agent Henry Rowe Schoolcraft explored and mapped the Iowa Territory and the upper Mississippi River to its source at Lake Itaska in Minnesota Johnson 1976, p. 80
Dubuque was a "straggling, unkempt village" Johnson 1976, p. 87
1833 George W. Harrison, engineer from Galena, Illinois, made the first survey of the city limits of Dubuque. Benjamin Tucker and William R. Ross surveyed the front line of two blocks at Burlington. Petersen 1952, p. 299
Indian Agent Joseph M. Street traveled in the vicinity of the Wapsipinicon and Turkey Rivers and found that the "country was so full of game" Petersen 1952, p. 353
The average rate paid to deputy surveyors was $3.00 per mile surveyed; the rate for township lines was $3.50 per mile and for section lines $2.75 per mile Stewart 1935, p. 62
Deputy surveyor Hervey Parke, who later surveyed in Iowa, was asked to resurvey T1S R7E in the Territory of Michigan.  The controversial resurvey was not actually done until 1845. White 1983, p. 95, 103
1834 General Instructions to Deputy Surveyors required random lines and retracing them when surveying townships.  Later, in western Iowa, "fallings" were allowed (lines obtained by following the compass without rechecking the random lines). Johnson 1976, p. 74; Stewart 1935, p. 159
The Surveyor General in St. Louis required 4 bearing trees for section corners and 2 bearing trees for quarter corners, each "of the kind and size which experience teaches will be the most permanent and lasting." Where there were no trees within 10 chains, mounds of earth covered with sod were to be erected. Stewart 1935, p. 122
Deputy surveyors were required to blaze each bearing tree with the number of the tier, range, and section in which it stood Stewart 1935, p. 122
McCormick's reaper was patented Johnson 1976, p. 153
The unnamed territory that included what is now the State of Iowa became part of the Territory of Michigan.  The portion west of the Mississippi was divided into two counties: Du Buque and De Moine. Sage 1974, p. 43, 53; Garver 1909, p. 441
Abraham Lincoln began a series of contract surveys for private individuals and town developers based on earlier surveys completed by GLO deputy surveyors in 1822 Cazier 1977, p. 59
The autobiography of Sac Chief Black Hawk was translated by Antoine LeClaire, published in Rock Island, and printed in Boston Petersen 1952, p. 283
Chief Mahaska was killed about 60 miles from his home on the Nodaway Fulton 1870, p. 10
Fort Des Moines #1 was established along the Mississippi River near the Des Moines rapids Wessel 1995, Timeline
1835 Ethan A. Brown was appointed Commissioner of the General Land Office (July 24) White 1983, p. 194
Robert T. Lytle was appointed Surveyor General in Ohio (April 23) White 1983, p. 209
While surveying in northwest Indiana in January, deputy surveyor Uriah Biggs reported that in T33N R6W had only a small part that could be cultivated and swamp that could be approached only when it was frozen Cazier 1977, p. 43
Lieutenant Albert Miller Lea and the First United States Dragoons accompanied Stephen Kearney on an 1,100 mile trip up the Des Moines River valley Petersen 1952, p. 273
Adolphus Allen first surveyed the town of Fort Madison Petersen 1952, p. 299
1836 The Territory of Michigan was divided into the State of Michigan and the Territory of Wisconsin, including the District of Iowa (April 20) Johnson 1976, p. 8; Sage 1974, p. 57
In the U.S., public land sales were at a peak.  Total revenues exceeded $25 million in 1836. White 1983, p. 96
Burlington was selected as the second temporary capital of the Wisconsin Territory Sage 1974, p. 57
Population of the District of Iowa was counted by sheriffs and reckoned to be 10,531 Sage 1974, p. 59
Speculation in public lands peaked again Johnson 1976, p. 19
More than 10,000 squatters occupied lands in eastern Iowa Johnson 1976, p. 64-65
More than 100 claim clubs protected squatters against claim jumpers.  Other estimates put the number at 26 claim clubs. Johnson 1976, p. 65; Sage 1974, p. 68
Keokuk's Reserve (400 square miles along the lower Iowa River) was purchased by the Federal Government Johnson 1976, p. 122; Sage 1974, p. 58
GLO surveys of Iowa began in what is now Scott County in the fall by A. Bent [Burt] and Son.  At this time, the Surveyor General's office was in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Prior surveys of the Half-Breed Tract were not GLO surveys, but were special surveys for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Petersen 1952, p. 298-300
George Wallace Jones was elected delegate to Congress by a vote of 3,522 to 669 over Moses Meeker Petersen 1952, p. 304-307
Albert Lea published his Notes on Wisconsin Territory, Particularly with Reference to the Iowa District, or Black Hawk Purchase describing his 1,100 mile trip up the Des Moines River valley Petersen 1952, p. 273
Act of July 2 authorized post roads to Burlington, Mount Pleasant, Bellevue, Keokuk, Fort Des Moines No. 1, Gibson's Ferry, Clark's Ferry, Davenport, Parkhurst, Dubuque, Peru, Durango, and Weyman's Ferry. Petersen 1952, p. 308
De Moine County was subdivided into Des Moines, Lee, Van Buren, Henry, Louisa, Cook, and Muscatine Counties Garver 1909, p. 441; Petersen 1952, p. 306
Joseph C. Brown resurveyed the northern border of Missouri, resulting a line about 13 miles north of the Sullivan line (surveyed in 1816). Sage 1974, p. 65
The Act of July 4 reorganized the General Land Office and placed the responsibility for surveying the public lands in the hands of the Commissioner of the GLO, ending the continuing conflict with the various Surveyors General. Cazier 1977, p. 112
James Whitcomb was appointed Commissioner of the General Land Office (October 21) White 1983, p. 194
Robert T. Lytle was Surveyor General in Cincinnati from October 6, 1836 to November 30, 1837.  Sam'l Williams was Chief Clerk. Dodds 1943, p. 352
Deputy surveyor Hervy Parke arrived to survey 6 townships in Iowa. After subdividing 12 more townships in 1837, he surveyed islands in the Mississippi River. Stewart 1935, p. 77
Deputy surveyor William A. Burt was instructed to extend with care one of the range lines of the Missouri survey to create a meridian from which to survey Stewart 1935, p. 77
Deputy surveyor William A. Burt extended the Fifth Principal Meridian into Iowa via offsets White 1983, p. 97
Deputy surveyor William A. Burt received a patent on his solar compass, used especially in areas with iron ore deposits.  For this accomplishment, he was awarded a premium of $20 and a Scots Legacy Medal by the scientific committee of the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia. Cazier 1977, p. 63; White 1983, p. 96
1837 John Deere established his factory in Moline, Illinois to manufacture self-scouring plows Johnson 1976, p. 154
Arrowhead shaped tract of land was purchased by the Federal Government Johnson 1976, p. 122
George W. Jones was a delegate to a District of Iowa conference on September 6 in Burlington.  Jones later became Surveyor General in Dubuque. Sage 1974, p. 59
National economic recession slows the flow of settlers into Iowa Wessel 1995, Timeline
On November 21, Surveyor General Robert T. Lytle wrote deputy surveyor Willard Barrows of Davenport, Iowa Territory, that on July 29, he had inadvertently switched contracts sent to him and to John T. Haight of Oak Creek, Wisconsin Territory.  "As there has been so much delay, by the circumstances above mentioned, in commencing the survey of your district, you will please lose no time in executing the work." Dodds 1943, p. 369
Thomas Cox surveyed eight townships in Iowa, all in what is now Jackson County. Cox went on to serve in the territorial legislative assembly and then survey the area around Iowa City for the new state capitol. Lucke 2002, p. 183

Territorial period

1838 Iowa Territory was organized separately from the Territory of Wisconsin (July 4).  Robert Lucas of Ohio was appointed Territorial governor. Johnson 1976, p. 8; Sage 1974, p. 60-61
Population of the Territory of Iowa was reported to be 22,859 Sage 1974, p. 70
Iowa News (August 18) described the squatters' motives as "the kind and generous spirit for which the squatters are characteristic" Johnson 1976, p. 66
Dubuque County was subdivided into Dubuque, Clayton, Jackson, Benton, Linn, Jones, Clinton, Johnson, Scott, Delaware, Buchanan, Cedar, Fayette, and Keokuk Counties Garver 1909, p. 441; Petersen 1952, p. 306
Surveyor General's Office opened in Dubuque Johnson 1976, p. 122
E.S. Haines was Surveyor General at the Surveyor General's office in Cincinnati Dodds 1943, p. 262
Albert G. Ellis was appointed Surveyor General at the Surveyor General's office in Dubuque (June 28) White 1983, p. 205
Land Office was opened in Dubuque (September 24) Johnson 1976, p. 128, 131
Land Office was opened in Burlington (October 1) Johnson 1976, p. 131
Land in Iowa surveyed by GLO surveyors was first offered for sale to settlers Petersen 1952, p. 298
Major Albert M. Lea was appointed by Congress to head a boundary commission to resolve the border dispute between Iowa and Missouri involving the Sullivan line and Brown line.  The commission favored the Sullivan line. Sage 1974, p. 65-66
The Territorial legislature required each organized county to elect a county surveyor.  This continued to be a required, elected, two-year position until 1911 Wall 1987, p. 44-45
Chief Black Hawk died in October, on the Des Moines River, near the scene of his conquest over the Iowas Fulton 1870, p. 11
1839 Claim club in Johnson County had its own laws, 6-page constitution, and plat map Johnson 1976, p. 65
Legislative assembly of the Territory of Iowa enacted a temporary statute to suspend the interdiction of squatters rights, originally approved by Congress in the Act of March 3, 1807 Johnson 1976, p. 129-131
The Honey War, a one day militia skirmish was fought over the collection of taxes in the Farmington area of Van Buren County.  The disagreement was prompted by the border dispute between Iowa and Missouri, involving the Sullivan line and Brown line. Sage 1974, p. 66-67
Dillon's Furrow road was established from Dubuque to the Missouri border Wessel 1995, Timeline
Act of March 3 established the eastern boundary of the Iowa Territory as the middle of the main channel of the Mississippi River Wall 1987, p. 16
Louisa-Slaughter county boundaries were altered.  Henry County was reduced in size.  Jefferson County was created.  Lee-Des Moines county boundaries were altered.  Slaughter County was renamed Washington and enlarged. Garver 1909, p. 441
Surveyor General's office in Dubuque opened (February) White 1983, p. 205
Elisha Dwelle was Chief Clerk at the Surveyor General's office in Dubuque, working for Surveyor General A.G. Ellis Dodds 1943, p. 263
The Appropriations Act of March 3 authorized payment per mile to exceed the traditional limit of $3 to $4.  It provided that up to $8 per mile could be paid to deputy surveyors in Louisiana, because the Surveyor General could not find qualified surveyors to work for less. White 1983, p. 98
1840 Population of the Territory of Iowa was reported to be 43,116 Sage 1974, p. 70
Population density was 0.8 persons per square mile (based on an area  of 55,475 square miles) Sage 1974, p. 92
Act of July 20 granted up to two townships of land for a university after Iowa statehood Wall 1987, p. 16
Joseph N. Nicollet completed his report to Congress on his survey of the hydrographical basin of the Upper Mississippi Petersen 1952, p. 275
The Commissioner of the General Land Office was concerned that long contracts with deputy surveyors delayed the sale of land to settlers.  Therefore, contracts with deputy surveyors were limited to the number of townships that could be surveyed in three months (or four, if distant from the Surveyor General's office in Dubuque). Stewart 1935, p. 51
Field examination of surveys became standard for all townships. The Surveyor General paid Inspectors (examiners) by reserving 3% to 5% from each surveying contract.  Wm. A. Burt, Wm. I. Anderson, and Wm. J. Neely were among the examiners that worked in Iowa.  Problems found included no corner markings, stake without pit or mound, bad measures, bad courses, fraud, and forgery. Stewart 1935, p. 51-52
The average pay for chainmen, flagmen, axemen, and markers was $15 per month. Deputy surveyors also paid for food, equipment, and transportation costs out of the amount of their contracts with the Surveyor General. Stewart 1935, p. 62
A.G. Ellis was Surveyor General in Dubuque Stewart 1935, p. 159
George W. Jones was appointed Surveyor General at the Surveyor General's office in Dubuque (February 4) White 1983, p. 205
George W. Jones was Surveyor General October 16, 1840 to July 27, 1841 Dodds 1943, p. 353
The Surveyor General was paid $2,000 per year, the Chief Clerk $1,500 per year, draftsmen $400 to $1,300 per year, clerks price per word copied, registers $500 per year plus 1% of land sales, receivers $500 plus 1.5% of land sales (some were as high as $5,000 total).  Stewart 1935, p. 62
1841 Pre-emption Act allowed squatters who preceded the survey to gain the right to make "improvements" and purchase up to 160 acres at a minimum price of $1.25 per acre Johnson 1976, p. 39, 64
The territorial capital was moved from Burlington to Iowa City, even though the new Stone Capitol wasn't ready until December 1842 Sage 1974, p. 63-64
Territorial Governor Robert Lucas was replaced by John Chambers Sage 1974, p. 81
Elisha Dwelle was Chief Clerk at the Surveyor General's office in Dubuque, working for Surveyor General George W. Jones Dodds 1943, p. 264
Fort Atkinson was built on the Neutral Ground in what is now Winneshiek County Wessel 1995, Timeline
Settler Lyman Dillon was employed to break a new trail from Dubuque to Iowa City using a team of oxen to plow a furrow as straight as the topography would allow Sage 1974, p. 64
Act of September 4 provided for 500,000 acre grant to each state for "internal improvements" Wall 1987, p. 16
Act of September 4 also provided that states would receive 10 percent of the net proceeds of public land sales.  This generosity was because public land sales brought large sums of money into the Federal Treasury, producing a surplus and bringing the Federal government out of debt.  White 1983, p. 100
Deputy surveyor William Burt surveyed 1,100 miles of section lines in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, recording special topographic, geological, and weather observations.  These special records represented the forerunner of the US Geological Survey. White 1983, p. 100
Elisha M. Huntington was appointed Commissioner of the General Land Office (July 3) White 1983, p. 194
Commissioner Elisha M. Huntington sent a letter on July 7 to all Surveyors General recommending that Burt's Solar Compass be put to use in all surveys (it wasn't) White 1983, p. 99
James Wilson of Keene, New Hampshire, was appointed Surveyor General at the Surveyor General's office in Dubuque (April 24) White 1983, p. 99, 205
1842 Dubuque Land Office was temporarily moved to Marion, upon personal petition by a local resident Johnson 1976, p. 131
Land Office was opened in Fairfield Sage 1974, p. 69
James Wilson was Surveyor General May 26, 1842 to July 14, 1845 Dodds 1943, p. 354
GLO policy became firmly established that the subdivision lines and surrounding township lines were to be surveyed by different deputy surveyors.  The intent was that the subdivision survey would act as a check on the prior township line survey, but this idea didn't work--deputies typically didn't blow the whistle on each other. White 1983, p. 100
Treaty council in St. Louis involving Keokuk, Appanoose, Pashepaho, Poweshiek, and Territorial Governor John Chambers (October 11).  Under the provisions of the treaty, the Sauk and Fox could stay in the area east of the Red Rocks until May 3, 1843. Sage 1974, p. 71-72
Act of August 16 provided for pre-emption rights for the Dubuque claim Wall 1987, p. 16
Act of August 23 provided for the selection of school lands for Lee County in lieu of those granted to the half-breeds of the Sauk and Fox Wall 1987, p. 16
Thomas H. Blake was appointed Commissioner of the General Land Office (May 19) White 1983, p. 194
1843 Dubuque Land Office was moved back from Marion to Dubuque, upon orders from President Tyler Johnson 1976, p. 131
Approximately 25% of Iowa's townships had been surveyed Stewart 1935, p. 73
Land Office was opened in Iowa City Sage 1974, p. 69
Where mounds were used as corner monuments, deputy surveyors were instructed to deposit beneath the posts one of the following:  rock(s) weighing at least 10 pounds, a cylinder of charcoal at least 6" by 2", or at least a half pint of glass or cinder from a blacksmith's shop Stewart 1935, p. 122-123
Act of March 3 provided for the survey of the northern boundary of the Half-Breed Tract in Lee County Wall 1987, p. 16
Act of June 15 repealed the Act of March 3 and declared that the line surveyed and marked by deputy surveyor Jenifer T. Sprigg in 1832 and 1833 under contract with William Clark, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, is the correct north boundary of the Half-Breed Reservation in Lee County Wall 1987, p. 17
Elisha Dwelle was Chief Clerk at the Surveyor General's office in Dubuque, working for Surveyor General James Wilson Dodds 1943, p. 272
Nine new counties were established.  Two existing counties were reduced in size. Garver 1909, p. 441
Fort Des Moines #2 was established in Des Moines at the Raccoon Fork Wessel 1995, Timeline
1844 Population of the Territory of Iowa was reported to be 75,150 Sage 1974, p. 70
Territorial Assembly voted to organize a convention to consider the question of statehood status (October 7).  The committee on boundaries studied alternatives for the northern boundary of the state, including the Lucas Boundary (based on river confluences) and the Nicollet Boundary (based on the 94 30' meridian and 44 10' parallel) Sage 1974, p. 82-87
Boundaries of Davis County were redefined. Madison County was proposed. Garver 1909, p. 441
1845 Sauk and Fox sold remaining land in Iowa to the Federal Government Johnson 1976, p. 122
Augustus C. Dodge, Iowa's territorial delegate to Congress, supported the Nicollet Boundary, for fear that a larger state area would not be supported by Congress Sage 1974, p. 87-88
A draft constitution for Iowa, approved by Congress and signed by President Tyler, is twice rejected by popular vote of the people of Iowa Wessel 1995, Timeline
James Shields was appointed Commissioner of the General Land Office (April 16) White 1983, p. 194
George W. Jones was appointed Surveyor General at the Surveyor General's office in Dubuque (May 9) White 1983, p. 205
George W. Jones was Surveyor General in Dubuque July 14, 1845 to December 11, 1848 Dodds 1943, p. 356
Act of March 3 granted two townships for a public university, five sections for public buildings, use of salt springs, and 5 percent of net proceeds from land sales for public roads Wall 1987, p. 17
Johnson-Washington county boundaries were altered.  Marion County was created. Garver 1909, p. 441

Statehood period

1846 Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, chair of the House Committee on Territories, proposed that the northern boundary of Iowa be the 43 30' parallel and the western boundary the Missouri and Big Sioux Rivers.  This line was supported by Augustus C. Dodge, Iowa's territorial delegate to Congress, and was approved by Congress. Sage 1974, p. 89-90
Iowa statehood legislation signed by President James K. Polk (December 28)  Johnson 1976, p. 122; Sage 1974, p. 90-91
Population of the State of Iowa was reported to be 96,088 Sage 1974, p. 70
Twelve new counties were created.   Boundaries of Marion, Jasper, Polk, and Dallas counties were altered.  Kishkekosh County was renamed Monroe. Garver 1909, p. 441
44 counties had been established by statehood Sage 1974, p. 96
Founding of the State University of Iowa in Iowa City Sage 1974, p. 103
Land Office was opened in Iowa City (August 14) Johnson 1976, p. 131
Elisha Dwelle was Chief Clerk at the Surveyor General's office in Dubuque.  Later that year, Surveyor General George W. Jones described "the ill health, inability and misconduct of my late Chief Clerk Elisha Dwelle, during my absence last winter" as the reason for tardiness in sending completed work to Washington, D.C. Dodds 1943, p. 282-283
On April 23, Surveyor General George W. Jones acknowledged that "two sets of chain carriers will not and cannot report the same measurement exactly; and that deputies frequently differ slightly in arriving at the variation of the needle" Dodds 1943, p. 376
On December 22, Surveyor General George W. Jones reprimanded deputy surveyor Paul C. Jeffries by writing, "consider it deserved in the highest degree" because of "delay without assignable cause or even apology" and "returns deficient in the most important point and complete disregard of your instructions." Dodds 1943, p. 289-290
Deputy Surveyor Uriah Biggs completed township lines for 32 townships in the La Crosse River region in Wisconsin Johnson 1976, p. 99
Treaty with the Potawatomi involving land in the western part of the state Sage 1974, p. 72
Mormon emigrations began across southern Iowa, beginning at Nauvoo, Illinois (Sugar Creek on the Iowa side of the Mississippi River) and continuing to Council Bluffs Sage 1974, p. 74-75
James Shields was Commissioner of the General Land Office Dodds 1943, p. 283
Lucius Lyon was appointed Surveyor General for Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan Cazier 1977, p. 58
Act of August 8 granted alternate sections of unsold land within 5 miles of the Des Moines River for navigation improvements downstream from the Raccoon Fork Wall 1987, p. 17
Captain James Allen published his report on his 1844 march of the Dragoons in the Des Moines Valley Petersen 1952, p. 275
1847 Richard M. Young was appointed Commissioner of the General Land Office (January 6) White 1983, p. 194
Congress authorized a geological survey of the Chippewa land in Wisconsin and Iowa by David Dale Owens Johnson 1976, p. 97
An additional 7 counties were established since statehood Sage 1974, p. 96
Boundaries of Polk, Clayton, and Fayette counties were altered.  Allamakee, Winneshiek, Ringgold, Taylor, Page, Fremont, and Pottawattamie Counties were created. Garver 1909, p. 441
Great Seal of the State of Iowa was adopted by the first General Assembly Wessel 1995, Timeline
In September, Surveyors General were asked to submit estimates of the total area of swamp lands that had been surveyed.  This eventually led to the Swamp Lands Acts of 1849 and 1850. White 1983, p. 111
During the latter half of the 1840s, more and more examinations in the field were made by deputy surveyors under instructions from the Surveyor General.  Those examinations would prove to be largely fiction.  Just as a subdividing deputy seldom squealed on a fellow surveyor who did township lines, an examining deputy would seldom squeal on a subdividing deputy because that same person might be hired to examine his own work. White 1983, p. 110
1848 End of the War with Mexico Sage 1974, p. 117
Iowa Senators George Wallace Jones of Dubuque and Augustus Caesar Dodge of Burlington seated in Congress (December 7) Sage 1974, p. 117
The state legislature established general requirements for the conveyance of state lands Wall 1987, p. 68-69
Boundaries of Lucas and Clark counties were altered. Garver 1909, p. 442
Approximately 50% of Iowa's townships had been surveyed Stewart 1935, p. 73
Henry A. Wiltse was Chief Clerk at the Surveyor General's office in Dubuque December 15, 1848 to January 24, 1849 Dodds 1943, p. 357
1849 General Land Office was transferred from the Department of the Treasury to the Department of the Interior because public land sales ceased to be a major source of revenue for the Federal Treasury.  The discovery of gold in California was of more immediate importance to the government. Johnson 1976, p. 61; White 1983, p. 112
The Swamp Lands Act of 1849 granted to the State of Louisiana all the "swamp lands and overflow lands unfit for cultivation."  The purpose was to aid the state in the diking, drainage, and reclamation of those lands.  The state was to pay for surveys and other expenses in determining which lands fit the criteria.  Because "unfit for cultivation" was not well defined in the Act, the vague criteria were the source of much contention and litigation in later years.  White 1983, p. 112
Justin Butterfield was appointed Commissioner of the General Land Office (July 1) White 1983, p. 194
Caleb H. Booth was appointed Surveyor General at the Surveyor General's office in Dubuque (January 12) White 1983, p. 205
C.H. Booth was Surveyor General in Dubuque February 9, 1849 to May 30, 1850 Dodds 1943, p. 358
Captain Lee of the U.S. Topographical Engineers established the starting point of the Iowa-Minnesota border in New Albin, Iowa Johnson 1976, p. 123
Fort Atkinson, built on the Neutral Ground, was abandoned Wessel 1995, Timeline
The border dispute between Iowa and Missouri, involving the Sullivan line and Brown line, was finally resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of Iowa--the state boundary would follow the line surveyed by John C. Sullivan in 1816. Sage 1974, p. 67
Deputy surveyor James M. Marsh and the seven members of his survey party were robbed of their food, equipment, and nine horses by a band of eleven Sioux Indians in Range 30 along the 2nd correction line (now western Webster County) Dodds 1943, p. 564-565
Deputy surveyor Ira Cook bought half interest in Colonel John Evans' contracts to survey 10 townships in Iowa Cazier 1977, p. 60-61
1850 The first large railroad land grant to the Illinois Central Railroad.  The standard price to settlers became $2.50 per acre. Johnson 1976, p. 144
Swamp Land Act granted the states the acreage of "swamp and overflowed" land on the condition that the income from the sales would be used for reclamation.  This Act extended to Iowa and other states the same grants that Louisiana had received in the Swamp Land Act of 1849. Johnson 1976, p. 192; Cazier 1977, p. 56-57
The GLO considered the "geodetic method" of surveying, using an alidade and plane table, to make a topographic map as the township subdivisions were being surveyed.  The method was used only along the Willamette Meridian in Oregon. White 1983, p. 114
C.H. Booth, Surveyor General at Dubuque described difficulties in marking section corners in prairie areas, especially when trying to build pits and mounds in the winter Stewart 1935, p. 50
On orders from the U.S. Supreme Court, the Sullivan line was extended west by surveyors to the Missouri River to complete the border between Iowa and Missouri Sage 1974, p. 67
Population of the State of Iowa was reported to be 192,214 Sage 1974, p. 92
Number of farms was reported to be 14,805 Sage 1974, p. 92
Act of September 28 granted bounty lands for military service in the War of 1812 War with Mexico, and Indian Wars Wall 1987, p. 18
Very little snow fell in 1850 (7.9 inches) or the year before (9.4 inches) Fulton 1870, p. 85
1851 An additional 45 counties were established since 1847 Sage 1974, p. 96
49 new counties were created.  Boundaries of Guthrie County were redefined. Garver 1909, p. 442
Approximately 75% of Iowa's townships had been surveyed Stewart 1935, p. 73
George B. Sargent was appointed Surveyor General at the Surveyor General's office in Dubuque (March 24) White 1983, p. 205
George B. Sargent was Surveyor General in Dubuque May 8, 1851 to April 1, 1853 Dodds 1943, p. 360
On May 13, Surveyor General George B. Sargent instructed Alexander Anderson to carefully determine the ordinary water line of the Missouri River as he surveyed township lines and meanders Dodds 1943, p. 320
On May 24, Surveyor General George B. Sargent appointed Henry A. Wiltse as special examiner of surveys in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota at a salary of $1,600 per year plus $3 per diem for expenses. Dodds 1943, p. 321
On August 13, Surveyor General George B. Sargent appointed Thomas J. McKean of Marion, Iowa, as Examining Assistant at a salary of $1,200 per year plus expenses. Dodds 1943, p. 323
John M. Moore, the Principal Clerk of Surveys in the GLO, prepared Instructions to the Surveyor General of Oregon; Being a Manual for Field Operations Cazier 1977, p. 112
On April 23, copies of Moore's Manual were sent to George B. Sargent, Surveyor General at Dubuque. Sargent was instructed to use procedures described in the Manual to establish corners and run range lines north to correction lines. White 1983, p. 115
On October 5, George B. Sargent, Surveyor General at Dubuque, was instructed to resurvey T90N R3W (now the northeast corner of Delaware County), originally surveyed in November 1837 by A. Porter. The resurvey was ordered because many of the corners were missing and mounds were used in places where "timber abounds."  Most of the township had been sold, but the residents petitioned for a resurvey.  As part of the resurvey, all found corners were to be honored and held and all missing corners restored by "double proportion."  Sargent was to tie in all improvements and lines of occupancy as a basis for "an exchange of deeds" by the settlers, if they desired, where the resurvey found improvements on someone else's land. White 1983, p. 115
GLO resurveys were classified as either First Class (incomplete survey, now called a completion or dependent survey) or Second Class (fraudulent survey, now called independent resurvey).  A Surveyor General could hire an examiner of surveys on a per-diem basis. White 1983, p. 115-116
The last cession of Indian lands in Iowa Wessel 1995, Timeline
75 inches of rain recorded during the year, following two other wet years (59 inches in 1849 and 49 inches in 1850).  Few crops and many mosquitoes were grown those three years. Cole 1940, p. 211
1852 On April 12, Surveyor General George B. Sargent authorized Edwin James, Jr., to resurvey T90N R3W (now the northeast corner of Delaware County) at a rate of $3 per day, warning him that "the lines recognized by settlers and the lines of surveys hereby authorized will most probably conflict."  James was given copies of a diagram and notes by Major McKean, examining deputy. Dodds 1943, p. 331
In Hamilton County, settlers purchased or sold 514 parcels, of which 53% were 40 acres or less in size Johnson 1976, p. 67
Sioux Treaty Johnson 1976, p. 84
Captain Andrew Talcott completed surveying of the Iowa-Minnesota border at the Big Sioux River on July 21, at a cost of $32,000. Johnson 1976, p. 123-4; Dodds 1943, p. 533
Deputy surveyor Captain James M. Marsh used William Burt's solar compass to survey an exploratory line ahead of Andrew Talcott.  The line was 260 miles long and was "perfectly correct."  It cost $6,500 or $25 per mile. Dodds 1943, p. 531-533; Cazier 1977, p. 63
The Iowa-Minnesota border was established as a standard parallel for the rectangular net and an auxiliary base line for the Fifth Principal Meridian for surveys west of the Mississippi River in Minnesota.  This line was surveyed with astronomic stations every 48 miles to allow moving temporary section corners and quarter corners to a true parallel of latitude.  The astronomic stations would not have been necessary if the line made by James Marsh using Burt's Solar Compass had been used. White 1983, p. 116
Because the Iowa-Minnesota border functioned as a survey correction line, the townships on the south were smaller than average--they lacked sections 1 through 6.  This gave unscrupulous land speculators an opportunity to sell non-existent sections to unsuspecting land seekers. Johnson 1976, p. 124
Land Offices were opened in Chariton, Fort Des Moines, and Council Bluffs Sage 1974, p. 69
Deputy surveyors in Iowa were typically paid $3.75 per mile for township lines and $3.00 per mile for section lines.  At the same time in Wisconsin, the rate for heavily wooded, rolling land was 50% higher; 100% higher in the swamps of Louisiana. Stewart 1935, p. 62
Deputy surveyor Alex Anderson with his survey party near Sioux City recorded in his field notes, "Ivy Johnson, one of my men, was accidentally shot yesterday and died almost instantly" Cazier 1977, p. 62
Following three years of very little snow, over 50 inches were recorded in 1852 Fulton 1870, p. 86
John Wilson was appointed Commissioner of the General Land Office (September 16) White 1983, p. 194
1853 Railroad surveyors Peter A. Dey and Grenville M. Dodge finished surveying the railroad right-of-way from Davenport to Iowa City in 9 days (May 26) Sage 1974, p. 111
Railroad surveyor Grenville M. Dodge finished surveying the railroad right-of-way from Iowa City to Council Bluffs 79 days after beginning the survey (November 22) Sage 1974, p. 111
Iowa Senators George W. Jones and Augustus C. Dodge helped secure an extension of the Illinois Central Railroad from Galena to Dunlieth, Illinois (across the Mississippi River from Dubuque) Sage 1974, p. 114
Warner Lewis was appointed Surveyor General at the Surveyor General's office in Dubuque (April 23) White 1983, p. 205
Warner Lewis was Surveyor General in Dubuque June 6, 1853 to July 27, 1859 Dodds 1943, p. 364
On October 17, GLO Commissioner John Wilson instructed Surveyor General Warner Lewis in Dubuque to survey some islands in the Mississippi River and "other navigable streams" during the ensuing winter months, on the ice, for $6 per mile surveyed. White 1983, p. 116
On December 31, Commissioner John Wilson declared GLO policy that resurveys would be the responsibility of county surveyors, unless large amounts of public land were involved.  As a result, county surveyors tried to move corners to their "proper" positions, resulting in much confusion and litigation. White 1983, p. 117
Deputy surveyor Ira Cook and his survey party finished surveying ten townships in January just after they ran out of food.  They returned to find out that Franklin Pierce had been elected President the previous November. Cazier 1977, p. 61-62
Boundaries of Warren, Polk, and Dallas Counties were redefined.  Wahkaw [Wahkon], Risley, and Fox Counties were renamed.  Yell and Risley Counties were combined to create Webster County. Garver 1909, p. 442
Two more wet years followed those in 1849 through 1851.  In 1852, 59 inches of rain were recorded.  In 1853, 46 inches were recorded. Fulton 1870, p. 85
1854 Graduation Act lowered the minimum price per acre for land unsold after 10 years to $1.00, after 15 years to $0.75, after 20 years to $0.50, after 25 years to $0.25, after 30 years to $0.125  Johnson 1976, p. 64
Cyrus Clay Carpenter (later governor of Iowa, 1872-1876) arrived in Fort Dodge and was hired as a member of GLO surveying parties for 23 townships over a three-year period Throne 1974, p. 12-15
Rock Island Railroad reached the Mississippi River Johnson 1976, p. 15
Fairfield hosted the first state fair Wessel 1995, Timeline
1855 325 million acres of public land in Iowa were sold Johnson 1976, p. 20
Surveyor General at Dubuque remarked that Indian cessions 'have been obtained without any reference to the accommodation of the surveys" Johnson 1976, p. 72
Boundaries of Chickasaw, Howard, Mitchell, and Floyd Counties were redefined.  Kossuth and Webster Counties were enlarged by eliminating Bancroft and Humboldt Counties. Garver 1909, p. 442
Thomas A. Hendricks was appointed Commissioner of the General Land Office (August 6) White 1983, p. 194
Hendricks was the first GLO Commissioner without background or other qualifications for the job (such as surveying experience or knowledge of land laws).  He later was a US Senator, Governor of Indiana, and ran for President in 1868, 1876, 1880, and 1884.  He was elected Vice-President in 1884 and died in 1885. White 1983, p. 119
At the request of GLO Commissioner Thomas A. Hendricks, John M. Moore, the Principal Clerk of Surveys in the GLO, prepared A Manual of Surveying Instructions to Regulate the Field Operations of Deputy Surveyors, officially issued on February 22. Cazier 1977, p. 112; White 1983, p. 118
A Manual of Surveying Instructions to Regulate the Field Operations of Deputy Surveyors described the size, shape, markings, and installation of corner posts (wood or stone) as well as the planting of fruit tree seeds to produce a clump of trees Stewart 1935, p. 124
Instructions to the Surveyors General of the Public Lands required that township and subdivision lines were to be measured with a two-pole chain (33 feet), but that on uniform level ground, a four-pole chain (66 feet) could be used Johnson 1976, p. 76
Instructions to the Surveyors General of the Public Lands required that survey correction lines be at four township intervals, rather than ten township intervals Johnson 1976, p. 78
Land Office for Turkey River Land District was opened in Decorah (December 23) Johnson 1976, p. 128, 131
Land Offices were opened in Fort Dodge and Sioux City Sage 1974, p. 69
General C.H. Booth and others organized the Dubuque and Pacific Railroad Company to bridge the Mississippi River at Dubuque Sage 1974, p. 114
The state legislature established the State Land Office to assist in the administration of the state's land business.  These functions were transferred to the office of the Secretary of State in 1880. Wall 1987, p. 69
The General Assembly established the Iowa Geological Survey. Prof. James Hall of New York was appointed State Geologist. Fulton 1870, p. 21
Cyrus Clay Carpenter (later governor of Iowa, 1872-1876) was elected county surveyor in Webster County, a position he resigned in 1857 to run for the state legislature Throne 1974, p. 20
1856 Land Office in Decorah moved to Osage Johnson 1976, p. 131
Grass was scarce for grazing work animals along main roads  Johnson 1976, p. 153
Railroad grant from Congress to Iowa involving alternate sections of land up to six miles away from proposed rail lines, totaling about 4 million acres (slightly more than 10% of the state's area) (May 15) Sage 1974, p. 109-110
First railroad bridge completed across the Mississippi River into Iowa at Davenport Wessel 1995, Timeline
Hamilton County was created from part of Webster County. Garver 1909, p. 442
Mesquakie people purchased land in Tama County for privately owned settlement Wessel 1995, Timeline
Restoring lost section corners became a problem because most deputy surveyors did not run east random lines a full mile (80 chains); rather, they ran a "stub" for 40 chains and set the quarter corner on an east-west line, but returned field notes with the quarter corner at the midpoint of a true line. White 1983, p. 126
1857 Humboldt County was the 99th and last county to organize in the state Sage 1974, p. 96
Humboldt County was created from part of Webster County and Kossuth County. Garver 1909, p. 442
Spirit Lake Massacre Sage 1974, p. 107
Another national economic recession slows the flow of settlers into Iowa Wessel 1995, Timeline
State capitol was moved from Iowa City to Des Moines Wessel 1995, Timeline
1858 Speculation in public lands peaked again Johnson 1976, p. 19
All but 275,000 acres of Iowa had been surveyed by the end of the year Stewart 1935, p. 73
Records from the Land Office in Osage were moved to the State Land Office in Des Moines Johnson 1976, p. 134
Founding of the Iowa State Agricultural College and Model Farm in Ames Sage 1974, p. 106
Boundaries of Humboldt, Benton, and Tama Counties were redefined Garver 1909, p. 442
GLO commissioner Thomas A. Hendricks admonished Warner Lewis, Surveyor General at Dubuque, for having surveyed an island in the Mississippi River that was mostly swamp, even though the state paid for the survey.  Hendricks told Lewis that he had no authority to survey such lands because they would pass to the State under the provisions of the Swamp Land Act. White 1983, p. 114
On May 23, Charles L. Emerson became Surveyor General of Minnesota.  Records in the Surveyor General's office in Dubuque that pertained to Minnesota were transferred to the new office in St. Paul. White 1983, p. 126
1859 Samuel Jordan Kirkwood was elected governor Wessel 1995, Timeline
1822 Samuel A. Smith was appointed Commissioner of the General Land Office (October 13) White 1983, p. 194
1860 The "surveying machinery was in the process of being wound up" in Iowa, according to a report submitted to the Secretary of the Interior Johnson 1976, p. 127
Joseph S. Wilson was appointed Commissioner of the General Land Office (February 23) White 1983, p. 194
Commissioner of the General Land Office wrote that the minimum price of $1.25 per acre "received no complaint from the citizens.  The system is perfect, the price moderate, and the settler is secured in his improvements." Johnson 1976, p. 151
The Land Office in Des Moines was the only one still open in Iowa Johnson 1976, p. 134
Population of the State of Iowa was reported to be 674,913 Sage 1974, p. 92
Population density was 12.2 persons per square mile (based on an area  of 55,475 square miles) Sage 1974, p. 92
Number of farms was reported to be 61,136 Sage 1974, p. 92
1861 James H. Edmonds was appointed Commissioner of the General Land Office (March 16) White 1983, p. 194
Thomas J. Townsend was appointed Surveyor General at the Surveyor General's office in Dubuque (May 6) White 1983, p. 205
1862 Homestead Act allowed settlers to make improvements (such as a cabin and crop fields) and receive ownership of a quarter section.  However, fewer acres were obtained by settlers through the Homestead Act than through the railroads (at $4.00 per acre). Johnson 1976, p. 66
The Act of May 15 created the US Department of Agriculture, which took over management and surveying responsibilities of some western lands from the GLO. White 1983, p. 132
The Act of July 1 added another duty to those of hard-pressed Surveyors General:  administering a large railroad grant to subsidize the construction of the Union and Central Pacific Railroads from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean.  The grant included a right-of-way of 200 feet on each side of the track and all odd-numbered sections within 10 miles of the track (excepting mineral lands), resulting in a checkerboard pattern on maps. White 1983, p. 132
On October 8, Thomas J. Townsend, Surveyor General in Dubuque, suddenly died.  GLO Commissioner James Edmonds directed Chief Clerk Isaac N. Higbee to operate the office without having the status of "Acting Surveyor General."  This meant that Higbee could not approve survey returns or enter into surveying contracts. White 1983, p. 133
Buncombe County was renamed Lyon Garver 1909, p. 442
1863 Henry A. Wiltse was appointed Surveyor General at the Surveyor General's office in Dubuque (January 29) White 1983, p. 205
On March 24, GLO Commissioner James Edmonds replied to John Cross, County Surveyor of Page County, Iowa, on how to subdivide sections.  Edmonds stated that the center quarter corner should be at the intersection of centerlines run between original quarter section corners.  This was a departure from the instructions used since 1856 (that is, the midpoint of the east-west centerline). White 1983, p. 133
1864 President Lincoln signed a bill providing for a Commissioner of Immigration Fulton 1870, p. i
1865 James Harlan, U.S. Senator from Iowa, was appointed Secretary of the Interior Wessel 1995, Timeline
1866 Surveyor General's office in Dubuque closed (June 30) White 1983, p. 205
Act of July 28 provided that the Surveyor General's office for Iowa and Wisconsin at Dubuque be moved to Plattsmouth, Nebraska Wall 1987, p. 23
On June 19, Surveyor General Henry Wiltse at Dubuque was ordered to close his office by June 30 and turn over the Iowa survey records to William Johnson, the Custodian in Dubuque, for safe keeping.  After the State of Iowa passed the necessary legislation, the records were turned over to the State in March 1868.  Subsequent surveys in Iowa were executed under the Surveyor General of Nebraska until 1886. White 1983, p. 139
1867 The Cedar Rapids and Missouri Railroad was completed to Council Bluffs Sage 1974, p. 113
Act of March 2 granted pre-emption status to occupied towns Wall 1987, p. 23
1868 Act of July 27 provided that no more than 3 sections of land in each township could be entered by agricultural college scrip Wall 1987, p. 23
GLO survey records were transferred to the State of Iowa (March) White 1983, p. 205
1869 Iowa Board of Immigration was created with a $5,000 appropriation and Alexander R. Fulton as secretary Wessel 1995, Timeline; Fulton 1870, p. i
The Free Lands of  Iowa by Alexander R. Fulton Fulton 1870, p. ii
GLO Commissioner Joseph S. Wilson received many letters from people in Plains States west of the Mississippi River complaining that county surveyors and others were moving quarter section corners from their original locations to a position midpoint on a line between section corners.  Wilson replied that moving corners was objectionable and illegal, but local courts, not he, had jurisdiction in these cases. White 1983, p. 145
GLO Commissioner Joseph S. Wilson described the survey of an avulsion (channel change) of the Missouri River.  The centerline of an abandoned channel had been surveyed, then the land in the abandoned channel had been surveyed and platted. White 1983, p. 145
John Wesley Powell began surveys of western public lands.  His surveys and those of Ferdinand V. Hayden were the first of what would later become the U.S. Geological Survey. White 1983, p. 140
1870 Beginning of large scale agricultural drainage in the Middle West Johnson 1976, p. 191
Crocker County was created from part of  Kossuth County Garver 1909, p. 442
On May 21, GLO Commissioner Joseph S. Wilson replied to a letter from G.S.Lilliam, county surveyor at Fort Dodge, Iowa, about restoring lost meander corners White 1983, p. 145-146
On May 21, GLO Commissioner Joseph S. Wilson replied to a letter from Cyrus Clay Carpenter, Register of the Iowa Land Office in Des Moines (later governor 1872-1876), about the proper method for establishing quarter corners in Tier 100, the northern tier of townships in Iowa. White 1983, p. 146
The GLO Commissioner estimated Iowa's 1890 population would be 3,000,000. The actual population in 1890 was 1,912,297 Fulton 1870, p. iv
The Act of July 9 allowed county surveyors to subdivide public lands, although this had been happening since before 1830 and routine after 1853 White 1983, p. 147
The Act of July 9 also stipulated that "wastelands or useless lands" should not be part of the GLO survey, resulting in "piecemeal" township surveys, especially in western states White 1983, p. 147
1871 H.W.S. Cleveland decried rectangular streets and the "blind adherence to geometrical lines...sacrifices every feature of natural beauty and every opportunity for picturesque effect." Johnson 1976, p. 177
1872 Act of March 5 provided for the Commissioner of the General Land Office to act on the swamp land selections of several Iowa counties Wall 1987, p. 23
1873 Act of March 3 provided for commissioners to determine the extent and value of such lands north of the Raccoon Fork along the Des Moines River contained in adverse claims Wall 1987, p. 23
Another national economic recession slows the flow of settlers into Iowa Wessel 1995, Timeline
1874 Wooden pontoon bridge for railroad cars between Prairie du Chien and MacGregor Johnson 1976, p. 86
Belknap County was proposed, but never created Garver 1909, p. 442
1875 The Illustrated Historical Atlas of Iowa was published by A.T. Andreas of Chicago, made from copied and updated surveyors' plats Johnson 1976, p. 82
In his annual report, GLO Commissioner Samuel S. Burdett reported that the GLO had accumulated over 50,000 township plats and other special survey maps of public lands White 1983, p. 154
1876 Founding of the Iowa Normal School in Cedar Falls Sage 1974, p. 106
Grimes County was proposed, but never created Garver 1909, p. 442
1880 The state legislature passed legislation to abolish the State Land Office Wall 1987, p. 72
Alteration of boundaries between Polk, Story, and Boone Counties were proposed, but never implemented Garver 1909, p. 442
1881 The Commissioner's Office, rather than Surveyor General offices, were now responsible for examination of township plats and field notes.  The approval process consisted of comparison of field notes and plats so that any discrepancies could be corrected.  This was because, no matter how diligently the field notes and plats were checked in the office, there was no way to tell whether or not the actual lines surveyed and monuments established on the ground were as represented in the survey returns. Cazier 1977, p. 98
1882 On March 4, GLO Commissioner Noah C. McFarland replied to a letter from J.H. Davenport, county surveyor, Cherokee, Iowa, about restoring lost section corners by double proportion, a break with the previous "north-south proportion" policy described in the 1881 Manual. White 1983, p. 162
On May 23, GLO Commissioner Noah C. McFarland replied to a letter from J.D. Lonsdale, Dale City, Iowa, about magnetic variation and restoring the lost corner of sections 27/28/33/34 in T78N R30W using proportional measurement between the nearest corners north and south White 1983, p. 162
Fraudulent township surveys in Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, and the Dakotas were made using the "buggy wheel" method of chaining distances.  A handkerchief was tied to one spoke of wagon wheel and the wheel circumference was measured.  The wagon was driven along the line established by compass and and stopped when the number of revolutions equaled one-half mile.  Rocks were pushed off the wagon in a pile to mark each section corner and quarter corner. White 1983, p. 162
1883 The State Land Office was abolished and its functions were transferred to the office of the Secretary of State Wall 1987, p. 72
Thomas Donaldson, former Register of the Boise, Idaho, Land Office, revised The Public Domain, Its History, with Statistics, a report to Congress by the Public Lands Commission White 1983, p. 159
The Surveyor General's office in Olympia, Washington, was destroyed by fire started by a discarded cigar.  Some records were replaced by copying those already sent to the Commissioner's office in Washington, D.C.  The remaining field notes and maps of recent surveys had to be done over. White 1983, p. 169
1884 History of the Public Domain by Thomas Donaldson Johnson 1976, p. 222
1889 15 Surveyors General had been appointed by this time Cazier 1977, p. 60
On April 22, surveys of public land in the central part of Indian Territory had been completed and it was ready for homesteaders.  Thousand of people gathered along the state borders of Texas and Arkansas for the great Oklahoma Land Rush, a thundering stampede for choice land in the new territory.  Most of these people were from Kansas and Missouri.  Buglers were stationed at intervals around the perimeters of the region and they announced the opening of the new land at noon.  They found that many prime places were already occupied.  As many as nine out of ten of these settlers had jumped the gun, earning themselves the name "Sooners". Those who entered the territory legally would challenge these premature claims in court, but the government's officials claimed that all squatters had been chased out prior to the land rush. Cazier 1977, p. 95
1891 Act of March 3 repealed all previous pre-emption laws Wall 1987, p. 25
1893 Act of March 3 provided for the investigation of settler claims within the limits of the Des Moines River Grant Wall 1987, p. 25
1898 The last of the John A. Benson Syndicate fraud cases was closed, ending a 1873-1885 period of fictitious surveys, fictitious deputy surveyors, false oaths, and fraudulent payment of drafts in the U.S. Treasury.  The area involved was western states, primarily California and Colorado. Cazier 1977, p. 94; White 1983, p. 159
1901 Fort Des Moines #3 was established in Des Moines Wessel 1995, Timeline
1904 State highway department was established in Iowa.  Of 102, 448 miles of road (primarily along section lines),  1,403 miles were surfaced with gravel, and 241 miles were surfaced with stone. Johnson 1976, p. 172-3
1910 Act of February 15 abolished the land office at Des Moines, the last remaining in Iowa, and transferred to Iowa of certain Federal land records  Wall 1987, p. 25
On June 30, the contract system for surveys ended.  Under its replacement, the direct system, the GLO hired "staff" surveyors.  The change was made because conscientious deputy surveyors could not make an honest living under the contract system, especially in mountainous western states. Cazier 1977, p. 100
The pay rate for "staff" surveyors was limited by the Act of June 25 as "not to exceed $200 per month."  Most of the easy surveying had been done under the old contract system, so the Deputy surveyors were glad to see the change to the direct system. White 1983, p. 186
1911 52 land office registers and 52 land office receivers had been appointed by this time Cazier 1977, p. 60
1924 The state legislature authorized each county board of supervisors to hire a county engineer, who carried on some of the functions of the county surveyor, a required, elected position from 1838 to 1911 Wall 1987, p. 45
1927 A 5-year geodetic surveying project began that resulted in a system of primary horizontal control called North American Datum (NAD 27) Wall 1987, p. 82
1933-4 Iowa State College civil engineering professor John S. Dodds supervised the Iowa Local Control Survey (Federal Civil Works projects F41, S107, S158, and S-F2-1029)  Wall 1987, p. 83-84
1934 Iowa State College civil engineering professor John S. Dodds directed the Iowa Geodetic Survey, which included the Land Corner Restoration Project  (Works Progress Administration project 65-72-114) and others through the early 1940s Wall 1987, p. 84-85
1937 Secretary of State Dr. Robert E. O'Brian sponsored Works Progress Administration project 3320 to transcribe GLO manuscript field notes into typewritten form (typescript) Wall 1987, p. 85-86
1938 Secretary of State Mr. Earl G. Miller sponsored Works Progress Administration project 4210 to transcribe GLO manuscript field notes into typewritten form (typescript) Anderson 1996, p. 5
1941 18 volumes of Local Land Office Plats (second set of Iowa plats) were rebound by the GLO Office in Washington, D.C., and transferred to the national Archives Anderson 1996, p. 5
1946 General Land Office became part of the new Bureau of Land Management in the Department of the Interior Johnson 1976, p. 61
1959 Headquarters Office Plats (third set of Iowa plats) and copies of the original field notes were transferred from the GLO Office in Washington, D.C., to the national Archives Anderson 1996, p. 5
1979 WPA typescript of GLO surveyors' field notes was microfilmed at the State Historical Society of Iowa Anderson 1996, p. 5
1992 Researchers at Iowa State University began digitizing historic vegetation from GLO township maps Anderson 1996, p. 2
1996 Researchers at Iowa State University began digitizing GLO surveyors' field notes Anderson 1996, p. 38

Sources:

Anderson, Paul F.  1996.  GIS Research to Digitize Maps of Iowa 1832-1859 Vegetation from General Land Office Township Plat Maps.  Des Moines: Iowa Department of Natural Resources, State Preserves Advisory Board; and Ames: Department of Landscape Architecture, Iowa State University.  [QK63 G57x, 1997]

Cazier, Lola. 1977.  Surveys and surveyors of the public domain 1785-1975.  Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior.  228 p.  [GA59 .C38]

Cole, Cyrenus. 1940.  Iowa through the years.  Iowa City: State Historical Society of Iowa.  547 p.  [F621 C674io]

Dodds,  J.S.  1943. Original instructions governing public land surveys of Iowa.  Ames: Iowa Engineering Society.  565 p.  [TA522 I8 D6o]

Fulton, Alexander R.  1870.  Iowa: the home for immigrants.  Des Moines: Iowa Board of Immigration.  96 p. (with historical introduction by William J. Petersen, 1970, State Historical Society of Iowa) [F622 .Io9i]

Garver, Frank H.  1909.  A critical study of the definition and alteration of county boundaries in Iowa and of the laws by which they were established.  Iowa Journal of History and Politics 7:441-442. [F616 .IO8]

Johnson, Hildegard Binder.  1976.  Order upon the land: the U.S. rectangular survey and the Upper Mississippi Country.  New York: Oxford University Press.  268 p.  [HD210 M53 J63]

Lokken, Roscoe L.  1942.  Iowa public land disposal.  Iowa City: State Historical Society of Iowa.  318 p. [HD243 .I8 L836i]

Lucke, Susan K.  2002.  The Bellevue war:  mandate of justice or murder by mob?  Ames, Iowa: McMillen Publishing. 414 p.

Petersen, William J.  1952.  The story of Iowa.  New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company.  [F621 .P442s]

Sage, Leland L.  1974.  A history of Iowa.  Ames: Iowa State University Press.  376 p. [F621 .S15]

Schwieder, Dorothy.  1996.  Iowa: the middle land.  Ames: Iowa State University Press. 381 p.  [F621 .S38 1996]

Stewart, Lowell O.  1935.  Public land surveys: history, instructions, methods.  Ames: Collegiate Press. 202 p.   [TA622 .St49p]

Stilgoe, John R.  1982.  Common landscape of America 1580 to 1845.  New Haven: Yale University Press.  429 p. [E169.1 .S85 1982]

Throne, Mildred.  1974.  Cyrus Clay Carpenter and Iowa Politics 1854-1898.  Iowa City: State Historical Society of Iowa.  302 p. [F621.C252 T45]

Wessel, Lynda J.  1995.  Prairie voices:  an Iowa heritage curriculum.  Iowa City: State Historical Society of Iowa.

White, C. Albert.  1983.  A history of the rectangular survey system.  Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Land Management.  774 p. [TA 521 W47 1983]

Wall, Donald K.  1987.  Iowa public land records and geodetic surveys as a foundation for a land information system.  Ames: Society of Land Surveyors of Iowa.  98 p. [ISU 1987 W154]


Last update:  18 November 2004