The area that now constitutes the state of Wisconsin was first surveyed by the federal government between the years 1833 and 1866. This survey was performed (as it was across the United States) to divide the public domain into salable-sized lots that could be sold or given away to both encourage settlement through this territory and raise monies for the federal government. While surveyors divided up these lands into townships and smaller units, they wrote a general description of what they observed during their time on the land. Fortunately for persons interested in landscape history and the original land survey information, these field notes from the Wisconsin Public Land Survey are now available online, courtesy of the University of Wisconsin Library and the Wisconsin Board of Commissioners of Public Lands. Currently, visitors to the site may access the original field notes by clicking on an interactive map of Wisconsin, then moving down to the appropriate area of interest by range and section. For the novice user, there is also a helpful background section relating the details of the land survey which will help them on their way.
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