Skip to main content

Nevada In Maps: Plats of Nevada State Lands (1867 - 1927)

Plats of Nevada State Lands

Click here to access the Nevada Plat Maps in the GENERAL LAND OFFICE MAPS digital Collection. 

Introduction

A plat is a map, drawn to scale, indicating boundaries of tracts of land. The survey plats of the Nevada Division of State Lands presented on this site, date from 1867 to 1927. This collection of over 3000 maps is composed of the index plats found at the Division of State Lands and a few other plats from other sources. In addition to patent record numbers, a great deal of detailed historical information is found on these maps. This set covers the state of Nevada with only a few gaps in townships.

This digital collection was generated when the maps were scanned by the Division of State Lands in 2000-2002 and we gratefully acknowledge their generosity in allowing us to present this collection.

  • Part I. Public Land Surveys
  • Part II. The Plats
  • Part III. Features of a Plat Including Patent Record Numbers
  • Part IV. References, Acknowledgement and Permission for Use

Part I. Public Land Surveys 

Surveys of Federal lands have been conducted since the Congressionally approved mandate in 1785. Nevada evolved as a "public land" state with a federally-appointed state Surveyor General under the General Land Office which was replaced by the US Bureau of Land Management in 1946. Each plat was "approved," accepted and signed by the state Surveyor General. The Nevada Division of State Lands was originally the Nevada State Land Register, and then as the Nevada State Lands Office prior to becoming the Nevada Division of State Lands. 

Figure 1 - Map of  T 18 S R 50 E 

Nevada, largely formed from Utah Territory, gained statehood in 1864 and additional territory on the eastern border from Utah in 1866. The western border was disputed with California even before statehood. Eventually accepted as what is now known as the 120th Meridian north of Lake Tahoe with a diagonal line "in a northwesterly direction" (according to the statehood enabling act of 1864) running from the 37th Parallel to the 39th Parallel at the point intersecting with the 120th Meridian. At the time of statehood, meridians were based on the Washington Prime Meridian. With the addition of land from the Arizona Territory in 1867, the diagonal line was extended to the 35th parallel at the Colorado River. 

This oblique border with California was first surveyed in 1860 and again, in more detail, by Von Schmidt, U.S. Deputy Surveyor in 1873. In the 1890’s the border south of Lake Tahoe was again surveyed and, at times, differed by over a mile. Hence the use of the San Bernardino Meridian in Nevada. (Figure 1) For additional information on survey history, procedures and description, consult the References listed below.

Public Land Survey Subdivisions

The division of "townships" began in New England in the 17th century and was officially accepted by Congress in 1785. Subdivisions using the current numbering system for sections (from the northeast corner westward) in a 6-mile township square were accepted in 1796 with modifications over time. 

A legal land description of a section includes the State, Principal Meridian name, Township and Range designations with directions, and the section number: 

Nebraska, Sixth Principal Meridian, T7N, R2W, sec.5.

The Public Land Survey System. Nationalatlas.gov 

 

Diagram showing the breakout of a township grid subdivided into township and range which is divided into sections.

Figure 2 - The National Atlas

 

A typical township is six miles square and contains thirty-six square miles; these thirty-six segments are called sections and begin numbering from upper right to left (Figure 2). The sections may be further subdivided in the manner shown. Only a few of the major subdivisions of the section are shown; many other combinations are possible in describing small parcels of land. 

Surveys initiate from the point of intersection of a principal meridian ( a north-south line) and the baseline, drawn east-west. (Figure 2) From these points, township grids are defined. The maps offered on this site are based on townships specific to a given Range. Townships number north-south; Ranges number east-west.

Figure 3 - U. S. Bureau of Land management. General Land Office Records 

Principal Meridians and Base Lines affecting Nevada

Figure 4 - Map of "Principal U. S. baselines and meridians"

Nevada surveys are largely determined from the Mount Diablo Meridian drawn in California just east of the 122nd West Longitude (dissecting Mt. Diablo in California) and the Mount Diablo Base Line was drawn just below the 38th Parallel. Nine Standard Parallels are drawn above this baseline and seven below. Secondary meridians in Nevada include Humboldt River Guide Meridian just east of 118 W Longitude; the Reese River Guide Meridian west of 117 W. Longitude, and the Ruby Valley Guide Meridian east of 116 Longitude.

The southwest edge of the state is surveyed based on the San Bernardino Meridian (north-south just east of the 117 W Longitude) and the San Bernardino Base Line (just north of the 34th Parallel North). The San Bernardino Meridian and Base Line affect Nevada as a result of historic surveys and resurveys. (Figure 5) 

Figure 5 - Map of "Nevada and California Principal Meridians and Baselines" U. S. Bureau of Land Management, California 

 

Part II. The Plats 

The maps on this site each represent a single township. The scale of most of the maps in this collection is 2 inches = 1 mile with some exceptions for detail areas. The maps themselves measure approximately 17 x 21 inches, outside edge. The originals were scanned by the Nevada Division of State Lands, Carson City, Nevada, where they are held. 

The plat resulting from the land surveys often includes some general description of the land such as acreage of tillable land and timber to be found (or not). 

Survey plats were used to indicate land patents. 

What is a land patent? 

Land patents document the transfer of land ownership from the federal government to individuals. Our land patent records include the information recorded when ownership was transferred. 

U. S. Bureau of Land Management General Land Office, Frequently Asked Questions

A few other plats, acquired elsewhere and made for other purposes than to indicate patents, are in this collection. Those not including the patent numbers will, consequently, look "cleaner" than the maps from the State Lands Office which have claim numbers written on the maps. These other editions may have additional/different information, particularly notations (e.g. Welches House) and should be reviewed along with the State Lands Office edition. Early maps were hand-drawn but the more recent maps are more formally printed with standardized documentation and lines for appropriate signatures and dates. 

Coverage 

From the Mt. Diablo Meridian, plat coverage is from Range 17E to 71 E and include Townships 1 - 47 N and Township 1 - 33 S. There are some gaps. 

From the San Bernardino Meridian, plats for Range 7 East include Townships 24 / 25 / 26 North, and from Range 8 East, Townships 23 North and 23 and 25 South are included. Multiple sets of maps were produced and not all in this set indicate patents. Other copies of original township survey plats are also housed with the National Archives in San Bruno, California.

Part III: Features of a Plat 

Detailed information and method and color to indicate a feature (e.g. roads), differs according to area, date and source of map; the most common include: 

  • Survey features
  • Terrain features
  • Patent Records 

 

Survey features 

Sections which were completely surveyed are drawn with solid black ink lines delineating the section square with the section number in the center (e.g. Sec. 10) in light black ink. When sections were not actually surveyed the section is bordered by a dashed line or no lines at all. Example: 

Figure 6 - T 19 N R 21 E 

In the section block, the acreage for each section or subsection is given and the total for the Section. Standard acreage covered would be 640 acres per section and this figure is often placed in a section not completely surveyed but assumed to be 640 acres. The acreage figure may not be indicated or may be other than 640 (e.g. 574.81). This happens when portions of the section are not included in the measurement given unsuitability to farm ("mountain land"), or the section may not be surveyed at all, or the section actually measures less or more than the standard 640 acres. Subsections may also be delineated with measurements noted within a box. 40, 80, 320. (Figure 6) 

Compass bearing figures taken in the field by the surveyor are often found within the section. Note in Figure 7 the figure S89’ 53’W and, on Figure 10, S89’ 49’W. 

On the side of the map, the total ("Aggregate") acreage of the township is usually cited (Figure 7) and often indicates portions of acreage of "mtn. land" not included in the measurement and estimates of acreage containing mineral land deposits or other use. 

Figure 7-  T 16 N R 21 E 

The standard manmade features include roads often labeled "grades" and "toll roads" and indicated by a dashed or solid line or parallel lines on later maps for more substantial roads. Many are labeled: Humboldt Road and Road to Virginia City, Figure 6. 

Also found are solid thin lines for man-made water features such as ditches. and irregular or saw-tooth lines for fences. Figure 8. 

Black squares for buildings may be labeled house, with multiple blocks together for towns. Dayton, Figure 8. Individual houses may be labeled as to owner: Howes House, Figure 8. 

Figure 8 - T 16 N R 21 E

Cultivated fields may be indicated as a block with diagonal lines or just a patch with diagonal lines and labeled "field." Wheeler’s field, Figure 9. 

Telegraph lines are indicated by dash-dot Lines. Figure 8

Businesses or other stand-alone commercial activity, are usually indicated by a black square for the structure and are often labeled: Birdsell Mill and Illinois Mill in Figure 8, Pacific Borax Co's Mill in Figure 10. 

Figure 9 - T 12 N R 20 E Sheet 2 

Figure 10 -  T 1 S Range 36 E 

Mining claims may be listed in the margins and sometimes labeled on the map at the site: 

Figure 11 - T 23 N R 21 E Sheet 2

Figure 12 

Sections set aside for schools may be indicated, often in Section 16. 

Details of the survey, by whom and when, and dates of acceptance of the survey by the General Land Office, Surveyor General and other official bodies, are given in the margins of the plats of the State Lands office (Figure 12). 

Terrain Features 

To aid in defining an area, minimal physical features are drawn on the map and more significant ones are labeled; e. g. field, streams, dry creeks, ditches, gulch, ravine, draw, dry wash, and deep rocky canyon, often with an arrow pointing down-slope. Figures 8 and 15. Larger water features may be colored: Carson River on Figure 9. 

To indicate elevation gain prior to the use of contour lines, several techniques are found on these maps: 

The technique of hachuring uses short lines to indicate direction of slope but does not give specific altitude information. Note the "High Peaks" on Figure 13 and the downslope hachures in Figure 14. Where hachures were used around section borders, they probably indicate overall mountainous or hilly terrain: Figure 17. 

Probably the classic application of hachures used to depict the north-south trending mountain ranges of Nevada has been referred to by the 19th-century geographer C. E. Dutton as "an army of caterpillars crawling toward Mexico" as depicted in Figure 14.

Shading, in Figures 13 and 16, would also be used to connote slope, especially along a ridge or embankment. 

Figure 13 - T 16 N R 21 E (Dayton)

Figure 14 - T 22N R 38 E 

Specific points or features may be named: Crystal Peak, West Fork of the Carson River; Massacre Creek; the names may have changed over time. 

The nature of the land, often noting the suitability for farming or other use, may be indicated by descriptive labeling: Mountain Land unfit for Cultivation, Figure 6; Bottom Land, Figure 8; Volcanic Mts., Figure 16; Mineral Land, Figure 17. 

Figure 15 - T 42 N R 21 E – Sheet2

Figure 16 - T 15 N R 21 E Sheet 2 

Vegetation may be indicated especially if there is potential economic value: Yellow Pine and Rolling sagebrush hills, Pine Juniper & Cedar Timber, Figure 17, and Sagebrush and Bunchgrass, Figure 18. 

Figure 17 - T 11N Range 21 E

Patent Record Numbers 

Many of the maps in this set contain historic patent record numbers (the initial title deed received for federal government lands) usually within a red-penciled box delineating the area of the patent. Note Patent # 7538 below, Figure 18.

Figure 18 - T18 S R 50 E 

This number – 7538 - corresponds with the actual patent (deed) record filed in the Nevada Division of State Lands and now housed in the Nevada State Library and Archives. The black number(s) in the same box ( e. g. 16065) is usually the application number given when the claim was initially filed and not relevant in this presentation. 

To locate actual patent records, use the patent number found on the maps and search the http://lands.nv.gov/patent-search-tool:                                                                                                                                                                                 Enter the patent number – e. g. 7538 – in the search box for the Patent # on the State Lands Patent Database Query Page. The Results Page indicates the Patentee, the person to whom the land was deeded, to be Mrs. Hulda Fiegley in 1913.

*Volume and Page numbers refer to patent books at the Nevada State Library and Archives. For a copy of the original patent, please contact Archives and Records at (775) 684-3310. 

For a copy of the original patent, contact the Nevada State Library and Archives: (775) 684-3310.

NOTE: These maps are not all inclusive of patents filed in Nevada and many plats predate claims made at a later time. Additional sets of historic township survey plats and records of the Surveyor General of Nevada [Section 49.7] are held in the National Archives & Records Administration San Bruno, California office

The Nevada division of the U. S. Bureau of Land Management provides a contemporary records searchable database: The Instructions / Helpful Hints page provides additional information on plat records. Excellent descriptions of Cadastral Surveys and Public Land Records are also given on their site. 

Part V: References, Acknowledgement, and Permissions

References 

Dutton, C. E. 1880. Geology of the High Plateau of Utah. U. S. Geographical and Geological Survey Rocky Mountain Region. 

Glossary of the Mapping Sciences. 1994. New York, NY, American Society of Civil Engineers; Bethesda, Md. : American Congress on Surveying and Mapping: American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, 581p. 

The National Archives and Records Administration.

Nevada Map Atlas. 2005. NV. Dept. of Transportation. The latest edition may be found in several locations on the UNR campus including the DeLaMare Library: G1520 .N4 and online from the NV Dept. of Transportation http://www.nevadadot.com/traveler/maps/

 

Public Land Information System. National Atlas.

Rectangular Survey System. U. S. Bureau of Land Management. 

Thompson, Morris M. 1988. Maps for America. U. S. Geological Survey, 265 p. DeLaMare Library: I 19.2: M32/12/987 

U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Nevada. Programs \.

Wilusz, John P. "Part 1 The colorful history of the California/Nevada state boundary." Professional Surveyor, V. 22, no. 1 (2002), p. 6-12. 

Wilusz, John P. "Part 2 The California/Nevada state boundary." Professional Surveyor, v. 22, no. 2 (2002), p. 22- 28. 

Van Zandt, Franklin K. 1976. Boundaries of the United States and the Several States. U. S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 909, 191 p.  

 

Acknowledgment

The University of Nevada, Reno gratefully acknowledges the generosity of the office of the Nevada Division of State Lands for allowing their collection to be presented on this site.

 

Permissions 

Personal, including educational and academic use of this material, is without restriction but the acknowledgment of the Nevada Division of State Lands and the DeLaMare Library, UNR, is requested whether the use is oral, web or in print. 

Commercial use of any portion of this material requires permission from the Nevada Division of State Lands, Carson City, Nevada.