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Ordinance by the Continental Congress concerning land grants in the Western territories
United States. Continental Congress
May 20, 1785
Volume 17, Pages 451-458

AN ORDINANCE OF CONGRESS ASCERTAINING THE MODE OF DISPOSING OF LANDS IN THE WESTERN TERRITORY.
[From Executive Letter Book.]

May 20th, 1785.

An Ordinance for ascertaining the mode of disposing of Lands in the Western Territory.

Be it ordained by the United States in Congress Assembled, That the Territory ceded by Individual States, to the United States, which has been purchased of the Indian Inhabitants shall be disposed of in the following manner:

A Surveyor from each State shall be apppointed by Congress or a Committee of the States, who shall take an oath for the faithful discharge of his duty before the Geographer of the United States who is hereby impowered and directed to administer the same; and the like oath shall be administered to each Chain carrier, by the Surveyor under whom he acts.

The Geographer under whose direction the Surveyors shall act, shall occasionally form such Regulations for their Conduct, as he shall deem necessary and shall have authority to suspend them for misconduct in office, and shall make report of the same to Congress

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or to the Committee of the States; and he shall make report in case of sickness, death or resignation of any Surveyor.

The Surveyors, as they are respectively qualified, shall proceed to divide the said Territory in Townships of six Miles square, by lines running due North and South, and others crossing these at right Angles, as near as may be, unless where the Boundaries of the late Indian purchases may render the same impracticable, and then they shall depart from this rule no farther than such particular circumstances may require: And each Surveyor shall be allowed and paid at the rate of Two Dollars for every Mile in length he shall run including the wages of Chain-carriers, Markers and every other expense attending the same.

The first line running North and South as aforesaid shall begin on the River Ohio at a point that shall be found to be due North from the Western termination of a line that has been run as the Southern Boundary of the State of Pennsylvania: & the first line running East and West shall begin at the same point and shall extend throughout the whole territory; provided that nothing herein, shall be construed as being the western Boundary of the State of Pennsylvania. The Geographer shall designate the Townships or fractional parts of Townships, by numbers progressively from North to South, always beginning each range with No. 1; and the ranges shall be distinguished by their progressive numbers to the westward. The first range extending from the Ohio to the lake Erie being marked No. 1. The Geographer shall personally attend to the running of the first East and West lines; and shall take the Latitudes of the extremes of the first North and South line, and of the Mouths of the principal Rivers.

The lines shall be measured with a Chain; shall be plainly marked by chaps on the Trees, and exactly described on a plot; whereon shall be noted by the Surveyor, at their proper distances, all mines, Salt Springs, salt licks and Mill seats, that shall come to his knowledge, and all Water courses, mountains and other remarkable and prominent things over or near which such lines shall pass and also the quality of the Lands.

The Plots of the Townships respectively, shall be marked by subdivisions into Lots of one mile square or 640 Acres, in the same direction as the external lines and numbered from 1 to 36; Always

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beginning the succeeding range of the Lots with the number next to that with which the preceding one concluded, and where from the causes before mentioned, only a fractional part of a Township shall be surveyed the Lots protracted thereon shall bear the same numbers as if the Township had been entire. And the Surveyors in running the external lines of the Townships shall at the Interval of every Mile mark Corners for the Lots which are adjacent always designating the same in a different manner from those of the Townships.

The Geographer and Surveyors shall pay the utmost attention to the variation of the magnetic needle; and shall run and note all lines by the true meridian, certifying with every plot what was the variation at the times of running the lines thereon noted.

As soon as seven ranges of Townships and fractional parts of Townships, in the direction from South to North, shall have been surveyed, the Geographer shall transmit plots thereof to the Board of Treasury who shall record the same with Report in well bound Books to be kept for that purpose, and the Goographer shall make similar returns from Time to Time of every seven Ranges as they may be surveyed. The Secretary at War shall have recourse thereto, and shall take by Lot therefrom a number of Townships and fractional parts of Townships as well from those to be sold entire, as from those to be sold in Lots, as will be equal to one seventh part of the whole of such seven ranges as nearly as may be for the use of the late Continental Army; and he shall make a similar draught from Time to Time until a sufficient quantity is drawn to satisfy the same, to be applied in manner hereinafter directed. The Board of Treasury shall from Time to Time cause the remaining numbers as well those to be sold entire, as those to be sold in Lots, to be drawn for, in the name of the Southern States respectively according to the quotas in the last preceding requisition on all the States; provided that in case more Land than its proportion is alloted for sale in any State at any distribution, a deduction be made therefor at the next.

The Board of Treasury shall transmit a Copy of the original plots, previously noted thereon, the Townships and fractional parts of Townships, which shall have fallen to the several States by distribution aforesaid to the Commissioners of the Loan office of the several

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States, who after giving notice of not less than two nor more than six months by causing advertisements to be posted up at the Court House or other noted places in every County, and to be inserted in one Newspaper published in the States of their residence respectively, shall proceed to sell the Townships or fractional parts of Townships at public vendue in the following manner, viz.: the Township or fractional part of a Township No. 1 in the first range shall be sold entire; and No. 2 in the same range by Lots; and thus in alternate order through the whole of the first range. The Township or fractional part of a Township No. 1 in the second range shall be sold by Lots; and No. 2 in the same range entire; and so in alternate order through the second range; and the third Range shall be sold in the same manner as the first and the fourth in the same manner as the second, and thus alternately through all the ranges; provided that none of the Lands within the said Territory be sold under the price of one Dollar the Acre, to be paid in specie or Loan office Certificates, reduced to Specie value by the scale of depreciation, or Certificates of liquidated debts of the United States including Interest, besides the expence of the survey and other Charges thereon which are hereby rated at thirty six dollars the Township, in Specie or Certificates as aforesaid and so in the same proportion for a fractional part of a Township or of a Lot, to be paid at the Time of Sales, on failure of which payment, the said Lands shall again be offered for sale.

There shall be reserved for the United States out of every Township the four Lots, being numbered 8, 11, 26, 29 and out of every fractional part of a Township so many Lots of the same vouchers as shall be found thereon for future sale. There shall be reserved the Lot No. 16 of any Township for the maintenance of public schools within the said Township, also one third part of gold, silver, lead and copper mines to be sold or otherwise disposed of as Congress shall hereafter direct.

When any Township or fractional part of a Township shall have been sold as aforesaid and the money or Certificates received therefor, the Loan officer shall deliver a Deed in the following terms:

The United States of America, to all to whom these presents shall come, greeting:

Know ye, that for the consideration of       dollars, we have

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Granted and hereby do grant and Confirm unto the       Township, or fractional part of the Township (as the case may be) numbered      in the      range excepting therefrom, and reserving one third part of all Gold, Silver, lead and Copper mines within the same; and the Lots No. 6, 11, 26 & 29 for future sale or disposition and the Lot No.16 for the maintenance of Public Schools. To have and to hold to the said    his heirs and assigns for ever (or if more than one purchaser to the said    and their heirs and Assigns forever as tenants in Common). In Witness whereof A. B., Commissioner of the Loan office in the State of      has in conformity to the ordinance passed by the United States in Congress Assembled the day of      in the year of our Lord      , hereunto set his hand and affixed his seal this      day of      in the year of our Lord     and of the Independence of the United States of America the—.

And when any Township or fractional part of a Township shall be sold by Lots as aforesaid the Commissioner of the Loan office shall deliver a deed therefor in the following terms:

The United States of America, to all to whom these presents shall come, greeting:

Know ye, that for the Consideration of      dollars we have Granted & hereby do grant & Confirm unto      the Lot or Lots (as the case may be) numbered    in the Township (or fractional part of the Township (as the Case may be) numbered in the range    excepting and reserving one-third part of the Gold, Silver, Lead and Copper mines within the same for future Sale or disposition. To have and to hold to the said    his heirs and Assigns for ever (or if more than one purchaser to the said    their heirs and Assigns for ever as Tenants in Common.) In witness    whereof A. B., Commissioner of the Loan office in the State of      hath in conformity to the ordinance passed by the United States in Congress Assembled the     day of     in the year of our Lord      hereunto set his hand and affixed his    seal this    day of    in the year of our Lord    and of the Independence of the United States of America the—.

Which Deeds shall be recorded in proper Books by the Commissioners of the Loan office and shall be Certified to have been Recorded, previous to their being delivered to the purchaser, and shall be good and valid to convey the Lands in the same described.

The Commissioners of the Loan office respectively shall transmit

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to the Board of Treasury every three months, an account of the Townships, fractional parts of Townships, and Lots committed to their charge specifying therein names of the persons to whom sold; and the sums of money or Certificates received for the same; and shall Cause all Certificates received by them to be struck through with a Circular punch, and they shall be duly charged in the Books of the Treasury with the amount of the Monies or Certificates distinguishing the same, by them received as aforesaid.

If any Township or fractional part of a Township or Lot, remains unsold for Eighteen months after the plot shall have been received by the Commissioner of the Loan office the same shall be returned to the Board of Treasury and shall be sold in such manner as Congress may hereafter direct.

And whereas Congress by their Resolutions of September 16th & 18th in the year 1776 and the 12th of August, 1780, stipulated Grants of Land to certain officers and Soldiers of the late Continental Army, and by the Resolution of the 2d Sept., 1780, stipulated Grant of Lands to certain officers of the Hospital Department in the late Continental Army, for complying therefore with such engagements, be it ordained that the Secretary at War, from the returns in his office or such other sufficient evidence as the nature of the case may admit, shall determine who are the objects of the above Resolution and engagements and the quantity of Land to which such persons or their Representatives are respectively entitled, and cause the Townships or fractional parts of Townships herein before reserved for the use of the late Continental Army, to be drawn for in such manner as he shall deem expedient, to answer the purpose of an impartial distribution. He shall from time to time transmit Certificates, to the Commissioners of the Loan offices of the different States, to the lines of which the Military Claimants have respectively belonged, specifying the name and rank of the party, the Terms of his engagement, and time of his service; and the division, Brigade, Regiment, or Company to which he belonged, the quantity of Land he is entitled to and the Township or fractional part of a Township and range out of which his portion is to be taken. The Commissioners of the Loan offices shall execute Deeds for such undivided proportions in manner and form herein before mentioned varying only in such a degree as to make the same conformable to the Certificate from the Secretary at War.

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Where any Military Claimants of bounty in Lands shall not have belonged to the line of any particular State, similar Certificates shall be sent to the Board of Treasury who shall execute Deeds to the parties for the same.

The Secretary at War, from the proper returns shall transmit to the Board of Treasury a Certificate specifying the name and rank of the several Claimants of the Hospital department of the late Continental Army together with the quantity of Land each Claimant is intitled to and the Township or fractional part of a Township and range out of which his portion is to be taken; and thereupon the Board of Treasury shall proceed to execute Deeds to such Claimants.

The Board of Treasury and Commissioners of Loan offices in the State shall within Eighteen months return receipts to the Secretary at War for all Deeds which have been delivered, as also all the original Deeds which remain in their hands for want of applicants, having been first recorded; which Deeds so returned shall be preserved in the office, until the parties or their representatives require the same.

And be it further Ordained, That three Townships adjacent to Lake Erie be reserved to be hereafter disposed of by Congress for the use of the officers, men and others, refugees from Canada, and the Refugees from Nova Scotia, who are or may be entitled to Grants of Land under Resolutions of Congress now existing or which may hereafter be made respecting them and for such other purposes as Congress may hereafter direct.

And be it further Ordained, That the Towns of Guadenhutten, Schornbrun and Salem, and the Muskingum, and so much of the Lands adjoining to the said Towns with the Buildings and improvements thereon, shall be reserved for the sole use of the Christian Indians who were formerly settled there, or the remains of their Society, as may, in the Judgment of the Geographer, be sufficient for them to Cultivate.

Saving and reserving always, to all officers and Soldiers entitled to Lands on the North west side of the Ohio, by donation or bounty from the Commonwealth of Virginia and to all persons claiming under them all rights to which they are so entitled under the Deed of Cession executed by the Delegates for the State of Virginia on the

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first day of March, 1784, and the Act of Congress accepting the same; and to the end that the said rights may be fully and effectually secured according to the true intent and meaning of the said deed of Cession and Act aforesaid, Be it ordained that no part of the Land included between the Rivers called Little Miami and Scioto on the North west side of the River Ohio, be sold, or in any manner alienated, until there shall first have been laid off and appropriated for the said officers and Soldiers and persons Claiming under them the Lands they are entitled to agreeably to the said Deed of Cession and Act of Congress accepting the same.

Done by the United States in Congress Assembled the 20th day of May in the year of our Lord, 1785, and of our sovereignty and independence the ninth.

RICHARD HENRY LEE, P.
CHAS. THOMSON, Secy.