Earth Partnership for Schools

WOODLAND RESTORATION INTERACTIVE WORKSHOP > HOW TO RESTORE WOODLAND AT YOUR SCHOOL > STUDY THE SITE > LAND SURVEYS

 

Materials:

Public Library, Historical Society.


Activity:

In the early 1800's, much of the value of the United State's Treasury was its land resources. However, little was known about what land really belonged to the new country. From 1830-1879 a massive national effort was launched by the US General Land Office to employ surveyors to survey and map all the land in the Union. Information from the land surveys done in the 1800's often lends valuable insights into what was on the land at that time. This information may be available from your local library and the State Commissioner of Public Lands and, for Wisconsin, the Wisconsin State Historical Society at 816 State St., Madison, Wisconsin, 53703. The following list of resources is available from the Wisconsin State Historical Society.

  • General Land Office Survey Plats (Series 698)
    A product of the original land surveys, these maps of individual townships include basic topography and some cultural features such as roads, trails, Native American sites, mines, dams and cultivated areas.
  • General Land Office Surveyors' Notes (Series 701)
    The General Land Office Surveyors' were required to make notes about the soil, vegetation and cultural features they observed as they carried out the surveys. These notes are in the form of small notebooks arranged by township. They are generally available on microfilm.
  • United States Geological Survey Topographical Maps
    The Geological Survey mapped land from the late 1890's through the mid-1980's. The first two series of surveys cover only a portion of the state while the last, done from the late 1940's to the present, covers the entire state. They are extremely detailed and accurate topographical maps which include contours, elevations, place names, and vegetation and civil boundaries.