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U.S. Surveyor General's Records for Illinois - RG 953 | Illinois State Archives

Name: U.S. Surveyor General's Records for Illinois - RG 953

Historical Note:

Federal land surveys in what is now the State of Illinois first were authorized by an act of Congress of March 26, 1804. Under this act the U.S. Surveyor General, whose office had been created by an act of Congress of May 18, 1796, was given jurisdiction over all public land north of the Ohio and east of the Mississippi Rivers. Surveys began in the western part of the Vincennes Tract in 1804 and in what is now the extreme southern part of Illinois in 1806. From there the surveys worked northward; and by 1831 much of the state had been covered, with the exception of the northernmost portions.

When surveys were started in the Illinois region the U.S. Surveyor General was an independent officer under the direct supervision of the President. By an act of Congress of July 4, 1836, however, the office was placed under the control of the U.S. General Land Office where it remained until well after the Illinois surveys were completed.

By an act approved June 12, 1840 Congress authorized the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury to take all measures necessary to complete surveys in the various districts. When the surveys were completed the Surveyor General of each district was required by the same act to deliver all surveys, field notes, maps, records, and other papers to the state they dealt with. An act approved January 22, 1853, however, prohibited such transfer until the state had satisfactorily provided for their safekeeping.

The surveys in Illinois were deemed complete in 1855 and it appeared that the survey records would be deposited with the Auditor of Public Accounts. The General Assembly, however, failed until 1861 to enact the legislation required by Congress. Provision then was made for acceptance of the records by the Secretary of State (L. 1861, p. 207). They were transferred to the Governor's supervision in 1865 and placed under the control of the Custodian of the U.S. Surveys for the State of Illinois (L. 1865, p. 90). In 1883 the survey materials again were transferred, this time to the Auditor of Public Accounts, an appropriate choice because he had similarly received custody of the U.S. General Land Office records for Illinois in 1879 (L. 1883, p. 44). They remained in that office until transferred to the Secretary of State in 1957 for deposit at the State Archives (L. 1957, p. 1711). Field notes and plats for surveys conducted by the federal government between 1855 and 1970 on previously unsurveyed Illinois land were prepared and forwarded during that time to the appropriate custodian for the State of Illinois.

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