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A Foundational Map of Oregon Territory--Establishing For The First Time The Primary Baseline and Merdian.

Fine example of the earliest US Government Survey map of Oregon Territory, west of the Cascade Mountains, prepared under the direction of John B. Preston, the first Surveyor General of Oregon Territory.

The map extends from the Gray's Harbor area in the north to just south of the Rogue River in the south.

Following the creation 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 to be conducted by the United States General Land Office.

John Preston, the first Surveyor General of Oregon Territory, arrived in Oregon 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's survey team surveyed the lands into squares of a grid, called sections, which were one mile square and included 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.

The map shows the progress of the survey up to October 1851, with notes showing the anticipated surveying work in 1852 (marked with a circle) and 1853 (marked with a plus sign).

Some recognizable places are already viable communities. In the edition locating the Willamette Baseline and Meridian, the map locates the primary rivers and early settlements in Oregon Territory. The following year, a significantly revised and expanded edition would be issued in very limited numbers, showing far more detail than the earlier version, adding topographical details, mountains, and far more towns and rivers than in 1851, as well as Ferrys, Mines, and an Indian Agency in the south, near Jacksonville.


This second enlarged version of the map, which is not extremely rare, was published on October 21st, 1852 (48.5 x 16.5 inches), extending to Mount Baker in the north and Smith's River and the Siskiou Mountains in the South, which includes significantly more detail and identifies:

  • Townships Subdivided in 1852
  • Townships Proposed to be Subdivided in 1853
  • Townships Proposed to be Subdivided in 1854

While the 1851 edition of the map appears on the market occasionally, the 1852 edition is extremely rare.

Preston would go on to later privately publish Preston's Sectional and County Map of Oregon and Washington West of the Cascade Mountains: compiled from United States surveys and other authentic sources, by J.W. Trutch and G.W. Hyde.

A foundational map for Oregon Collectors.