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Alabama Land Records


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When was Isaac Briggs appointed Surveyor of Lands of the U.S. South of the State of Tennessee?
Isaac Briggs was appointed Surveyor of Lands of the U.S. South of the State of Tennessee in 1798.
What meridian was Briggs authorized to survey?
In instructions contained in letter from Albert Gallatin, Secretary of U.S. Treasury, Briggs was authorized to establish the St. Stephens meridian
Who replaced Briggs and when?
A letter from Gallatin to Pease in March, 1807 indicates that Seth Pease has replaced Briggs.
In 1807, what line was used as the basis for public surveys in Alabama?
March, 1807 Gallatin advises that the latitude line forming the southern boundary of Tennessee be run and used as a basis for public lands surveyed below this line. Gallatin suggested that a meridian be drawn through this basis line which would be convenient for laying off ranges to east and west, and townships to south.
When was Thomas Freeman hired to survey the Tennessee-Mississippi Territoy boundary?
Pease advises Gallatin in June, 1807, that he daily expects the arrival of Thomas Freeman in Natchez and that he will talk with him concerning the Tennessee-Mississippi Territory boundary.
In what year did Thomas Freeman take over the office of Surveyor of Lands South of Tennesse? On what date did this become official?
In a letter from Freeman to Gallatin in August, 1810, Freeman indicates that he has taken over the office of Surveyor of Lands South of Tennessee. Pease was apparently moved or promoted to another position. Freeman received a temporary appointment to this position from Gallatin in September, 1810. He received his permanent appointment by the U. S. Senate on January 22, 1811.
Who did Freeman appoint as District Surveyor of Madison County?
In October of 1810, Freeman recommended to Gallatin the appointment of Alexander Donaldson as District Surveyor for Madison County.
When was Freeman advised of the formation of the General Land Office?
Freeman was advised in June, 1812, of the formation of the General Land Office in Washington, D.C., under the Treasury Department. All returns were to be made to this new agency thereafter.
In what year did congress pass a law dividing the Mississippi Territory into two parts, and Coffee become appointed Surveyor General of the Northern Surveying District?
In March, 1817, Congress passed a law dividing the Mississippi Territory into two almost equal parts. John Coffee was appointed surveyor general of the northern surveying district thus formed and immediately began the survey of fifty townships in the regions between the Tennessee River and the southern boundary of the State of Tennessee, beginning at the western boundary of Madison County. On the southern side of the Tennessee River fifty townships also were to be laid off.
In what year did Congress create the Alabama territory, and in what year was it actually divided from the Mississippi territory?
In 1817 by Act of Congress, the Alabama Territory was created from the Mississippi Territory although it was actually divided from the Mississippi Territory in 1820.
Who worked along side Coffee on much of the surveying in Alabama?
Freeman continued as Surveyor General of Lands South of Tennessee, and worked along with Coffee on much of the surveying in Alabama.
In what year was Coffee appointed Surveyor General of all public lands in the Alabama Territory? He held this position until his death in what year?
in April, 1818, was made surveyor general of all public lands in the Alabama Territory. In this position Coffee was in complete charge and control of surveying in Alabama. He was re-appointed at regular intervals as Surveyor General of Alabama until his death in 1833.
In what year did Freeman die, and who replaced him?
Upon FreemanÂ’s death in Huntsville in 1821, Levin Wales was appointed to his position of Surveyor General and served for two years.
Who replaced Levin Whales as Surveyor General for Lands South of Tennesse, and for what years?
George Davis was then Surveyor General for Lands South of Tennessee from 1824 to 1831.
Who succeded Davis, and in what year?
Gideon Fitz succeeded Davis in 1831.
What were Whales instructions to Gideon Fitz for surveying townships?
“Surveyed into Townships 6 miles square by lines run north and south and others crossing them as right angles, and divide the townships into thirty-six square sections, 640 acres each, made of numbering beginning with NO. 1 in the NE corner proceeding west and east alternately. Sections of fractional townships shall be numbered in the same manner. Fractional sections, in the meaning of the law, are not occasioned by the section containing more or less than 640 acres, but by Indian boundaries, District boundaries, State boundaries, navigable water courses, and private claims.”
What instructions were given for marking section corners in the field?
“Deputy survey shall cause to be marked on a tree near each corner of each section, and within such section, the number of such section, and over it the numbers of the Township, and to note carefully in their respective field books, the names of the corner trees marked, and the numbers so made.”
What were the surveyors told to note in their field books?
“That every surveyor shall note in his field book the true situation of all mines, salt lakes, salt springs and mill seats which shall come to his knowledge; all water courses, over which the line he runs shall pass, and also the quality of the land.”
What act required the marking of quarter section corners?
Act 8, February 11, 1805
“This act provided that the quarter section corners shall be set equidistant from the section corners of the same line. The quarter section corners therefore cannot always be just half a mile from either of the section corners on the same line, but must be governed by the length of the sections lines on which they stand, whether on the N-S or E-W lines.”
What instructions were given regarding measurements?
“The measurements must be made in a horizontal manner as much as possible, by holding up the hind end of the chain over the pin, in going up hills and the fore end in going down hills letting the pins drop from the end of the chain to the ground or by taking the angle of elevation or depression of rising grounds, and make the proper allowance, which would be more correct.”
What instructions were given in regards to the chains used for measuring?
“The surveyors shall have a spare chain, by which to adjust the other and compare them every morning. If the spare chain cannot be had, then he must have two sticks each 3 feet in length, and measure the chain by stretching it on the smooth ground, a log, or cut down a small tree for this purposed, holding one stick fast which the other is carried forward alternately. The sticks should be square on ends, and use with ease. They must agree with standard measure.”
Prior to 1818 where were the land records for the Mississippi Territory sent to?
Prior to 1818 the land records for the Mississippi Territory were sent to Washington, with a copy being retained in the surveying field office in Pearl River, St. Stephens, or Huntsville.
After 1818, where was the land office located?
After 1818, when the Alabama Territory was out from the Mississippi Territory, the land office was in Huntsville under Coffee.
What did the 1902 Manual for the Survey of Public Lands say with regards to Alabama surveys? In what year was Alabama admitted to the union?
The 1902 Manual for the Survey of Public Lands in U.S. states that when the state of Alabama was admitted to the union in 1819 the “Surveys were practically completed and original records transferred to the Secretary of State Montgomery”
Coffee owned a business where all the land office records were kept. What was the business, and on what date did a fire destroy all those records?
On December 14, 1827, a fire swept the Cypress Lumber Company destroying all the land office papers.
Not all of the land records were destroyed. Where were they?
Many of the land records, however, were not destroyed. Many were in hands of various surveyors, just completed or in process of completion. Copies of most surveys had been sent to Washington, D.C. as the surveys were completed, and so were not destroyed.
What map did W.J. Stone prepare, and when?
A map entitled “A Diagram of the State of Alabama” by W. J. Stone prepared in the surveyor’s office in Florence, Alabama on January 25, 1840, under James H. Weakley shows just what land records in Alabama are available at that date.

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