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Description

Detailed map of the surveyed portion of the Oregon Territory as of October 21, 1852. It was prepared by John B. Preston, first surveyor general of Oregon.

The map preceded Preston's legendarily rare privately issued map of the same title, issued the following year.

With the establishment of the Oregon Territory on August 14, 1848, all grants of claims of land in the territory were nullified. It was not until the passage of the Donation Land Act on September 27, 1850, that new provisions were made for acquiring unclaimed land, to be based upon government surveys. John B. Preston was appointed first surveyor general of Oregon, where he arrived on April 20, 1851. On June 7, 1851, Preston drove the "starting stake" for the base surveys of the territory at what is today known as the Willamette Stone. The east-west Willamette Base Line and the north-south Willamette Meridian still define surveying and legal land descriptions in Oregon and Washington state.

Preston and his crew were able to carry out their surveying and mapping to the extent depicted on this map in just over one year. Each square of the grid, termed a section, is one mile on each side and includes 640 acres of land-the maximum acreage allowed for a married couple making a claim under the Donation Land Act; a single man could claim up to 320 acres. Thirty-six sections make up a township.

The surveyors took careful note of waterways, hills, prairies, and roads. Some recognizable places are already viable communities, such as Salem and Lafayette; other communities of the period-Champoeg, Fairfield, Cincinnati, for example-have vanished as meaningful places. All three of those were river landings that were affected by floods, channel changes, and the eventual disappearance of river transportation. Notably absent from the map is Mission Bottom or Mission Landing, the by-then-abandoned site of the Methodist mission of the 1830s, and St. Paul on French Prairie. The roads that are mapped include ancient routes such as the California-Oregon Trail, which had sections that paralleled both sides of the valley, as well as newer roads established in recent years. The roads converging on Salem from the outlying farming districts, for instance, reflect its recent importance as a mill town, powered by the waters of Mill Creek.

General Land Office Biography

The General Land Office (GLO) refers to the independent agency in the United States that was in charge of public domain lands. Created in 1812, it assumed the responsibilities for public domain lands from the United States Department of the Treasury. The Treasury had overseen the survey of the Northwest Territory, but as more area was added to the United States, a new agency was necessary to survey the new lands.

Eventually, the GLO would be responsible for the surveying, platting, and sale of the majority of the land west of the Mississippi, with the exception of Texas. When the Secretary of the Interior was created in 1849, the GLO was placed under its authority. Until the creation of the Forest Service in 1905, the GLO also managed forest lands that had been removed from public domain. In additional to managing the fees and sales of land, the GLO produced maps and plans of the areas and plots they surveyed. In 1946, the GLO merged with the United States Grazing Service to become the Bureau of Land Management.