Clark County, Ohio

History and Genealogy

Original Land Surveys

From The History of Clark County, Ohio
Chicago: W.H. Beers & Co., 1881 - Page 234

In October, 1778, John Cleves Symmes, in behalf of himself and his associates, contracted with the "Board of the Treasury" for 1,000,000 acres of land lying on the Ohio River, and between the Great and Little Miami Rivers, on the east and west, and to extend far enough north to include the above quantity of land; but Symmes failed to pay for this amount, and another agreement was made, whereby he became possessor of only about one-fourth part of the original territory, while the remainder reverted to the Government, and in due time was surveyed into townships and sections, and sold to whoever desired to possess it. The greater part of what is now Clark County, was a part of the original tract bargained for by Symmes, and which went back to the Government in the year 1794. In 1789, Col. Israel Ludlow, a surveyor and part owner of the tract of land where Cincinnati now stands, laid out the first plat of that city. In 1795, Ludlow laid out the city of Dayton, in which he was also an interested partner. During the period from 1795 to 1803 or 1804, Col. Ludlow appears to have been engaged principally in land surveying for the General Government and for various private land companies and individuals. The records of the United States Land Office show that the public lands of this county were surveyed by Israel Ludlow in 1802, and by Stephen and Maxfield Ludlow in 1805. The system adopted in surveying these lands, was the same as that followed by Symmes, in the laying off of the "Symmes Purchase" proper, and is unlike the Government system, used both then and now is this: The ranges in the Government system are rows of townships numbered from right to left, or from left to right, according as they are on the right or left of a primary line, called the "Principal Meridian," while in the "Symmes Purchase" the ranges are numbered from south to north, and the townships are numbered from west to east. Each range begins at the Great Miami River and extends eastward, and the first town on the west end of a range is No. 1, so that the same numbers do not stand over one another from north to south.

Each whole township is divided into thirty-six sections, commencing at the southeast corner of each township, the first section is No. 1, the next north is 2 and so on; No. 7 is next west of No. 1, and is the beginning of the next tier of sections, etc.

Israel Ludlow located the range, township, and each alternate section line before, or during the year 1802. In running the exterior lines of a township, a stake was planted every two miles; these were called "block corners," because the inclosed quantity contained a "block" of four square miles or sections. After the death of Israel Ludlow, which occurred in 1804, Stephen and Maxfield Ludlow completed the surveys in 1805, by running the remaining section lines half way between each block line mentioned above.

A part of the lands in this county were what was known as "Virginia Military Lands," and were never divided by any system of surveys; any person holding a warrant for a given number of acres selected the quantity named in the warrant, any place he desired and with no regard to the points of the compass, length, breadth, "or any other creature," so long as the lands did not encroach upon lands selected by others, and even that limit was often overstepped.

The dividing line between the Virginia Military Lands and the Symmes Purchase, or Congress Lands, is known as "Ludlow's Line;" this line begins at the head-waters of the Little Miami, in this county, and runs north, 20° west, to the head-waters of the Scioto, crossing the head-waters of the Great Miami, near Belle Center, in Logan County. A part of this line is opened and used as a public road, and is called the Ludlow Road.

The "Roberts Line" was a line run by one Roberts, and while it was in a general way intended for a boundary between the same tracts of land, an agreement, or compromise between the United States Government and the State of Virginia was made, by which the line was expunged, and the Ludlow line established.

The surveyed townships are not identical with the civil townships; for instance, the civil township of Springfield is composed of thirty-six sections (one entire township), known as "Town 5, Range 9," and fourteen whole and three fractional sections in Town 4, Range 9.

"Pre-emption" lots are small parcels of land scattered here and there through the entire tract known as the Symmes Purchase. The history of these lots seem to be this: During the time the surveyors were running out the public lands, if any member of hte party, for himself or his principal, desired to select and secure a choice lot of land, he did so, and the lines and corners were immediately established by the surveyors in the field, and the "field notes" of these special surveys were incorporated with the notes of the general survey, thus enabling the would-be owner to locate and describe his chosen tract at the Government Land Office. Nearly all of the old pre-emption lines and corners have disappeared, and are known only to the professional surveyor, who prizes them as monuments and reference data.

Col. Thomas Kizer, the veteran surveyor, has in his possession a compass made by Dean of Philadelphia; this instrument was owned and used by his father, David Kizer, who obtained it from John Dougherty about 1813; Dougherty got it from Jonathan Donnel. This relic is marked: I. Ludlow, 1791; Henry Donnel, 1794; J. Donnel, 1796; John Dougherty, 1799; these marks are rudely scratched upon the cover of the instrument, and bear every evidence of being genuine; there is no doubt but that this old compass was used in making the first surveys in this county, or that it is the identical instrument used by John Dougherty, in laying off Demint's first plat of Springfield, and by Jonathan Donnel on the survey of "New Boston."