Dependent Resurveys in Antebellum Alabama
The first congressional ordinances prescribing rules for the Public Land Survey System (PLSS) did not require copies of field notes to be archived. Field notes are the record of the survey that shows the distances, witness trees, stream crossings, and other items of interest. Plats showing the survey results were created using the field notes. When a fire destroyed the office of the surveyor general of Alabama in 1827, all of the original land records for the state were lost. Plats and field notes of surveys in the northern district of Alabama were recovered, but the only copy of field notes for about 250 townships in the southern district were lost and could not be recovered. To reconstruct the field notes so that the original township and section corners could be located in the field, retracement surveys were executed under the direction of James H. Weakley, surveyor general of Alabama. Territorial papers of the United States, congressional records, state archives, and maps prepared by Weakley were among the sources used to examine how this situation developed, as well as how the retracement surveys were conducted.
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