Traversing the LawI just read your interesting article in POB. There's one little tidbit you might be interested in. There may have been many center quarter corners set at midpoint on the east-west section center line. The 1856 Instructions to Deputy Surveyors of the United States for the District of Illinois and Missouri, in the Appendix on page 57, instructs that the center quarter corner is to be set at the midpoint of a line connecting the east and west quarter section corners. Then lines were to be run from that center corner north and south to the north and south quarter corners. In 1859, Abraham Lincoln wrote an opinion that the Act of Congress approved Feb. 11, 1805 [that] prescribes that the center of section must be established at the intersection of the lines connecting opposite quarter section corners. Perhaps Lincoln’s opinion was requested because of concerns over the 1856 instructions.
C. Albert White’s History of the Rectangular Survey System is a great reference for ferreting out these tidbits. The BLM national cadastral website Tools page has a download link to a 46 megabyte text-searchable PDF version of it at www.blm/gov/cadastral/Tools/tools.html.
I’m looking forward to your next installment.
Frank Fischer, PLS
I enjoy reading your column in POB. In your last article I wish the following would have been included [from The Court of Appeals of the state of Oregon located at www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/A121699.htm#N_18_#N_18_]:
“That leaves us looking for guidance.17 We have found it--in two places. The first is one of the foremost treatises on surveying, Clark on Surveying. That authority identifies precisely the problem that confronts us in this case--i.e, the problem of the center of a section, as it would be located by a correct survey, not conforming to the lines of occupation. Among the chief reasons for that happening, Clark explains, is the tendency of surveyors to “stub in” the center of the section using only one or two of the quarter-section corners or the mid-point of the north-south or east-west section center line. Clark on Surveying § 10.22 at 276. Clark then lists, in apparent order of preference, the generally endorsed solutions. The first is to deem the center of the section an original corner if it was first set by a county surveyor.18 Id. The second is to defer to long-standing local reliance on boundaries as reflected by the lines of occupation. Id. (“If the interested landowners have always relied on the location of the center of the section, albeit incorrectly located, it becomes the center of the section and no one should tamper with it.”). The final resolution, which apparently applies if no county survey has located the center and local reliance has not done so de facto, is to locate the center “in accordance with the federal statute” and to treat the ensuing disputes as ones of property rights, not survey law. Id.
Under the facts of this case, then, Clark would advocate treating Derrick’s center as an original corner and giving it the same dignity as a corner originally set by the federal government--that is, the same controlling status as if it had been set, however erroneously, in Mercer’s survey. That approach was taken by the court in Adams v. Hoover, 196 Mich App 646, 493 NW2d 280 (1993), which is factually on point and highly persuasive in its reasoning.
Looking forward to your next article.
[17. Although plaintiffs draw from authorities in other jurisdictions, none are helpful to us. For example, they rely heavily on Vaught v. McClymond, 116 Mont 542, 155 P2d 612 (1945). That case concerned whether either of two surveys sufficiently established the center line of a section. In Vaught, however, neither of the surveys used the quarter-section corners established in the original federal government survey to locate the section’s center line. Id. at 550, 155 P2d at 617. That failure to follow the section’s exterior boundaries and monuments as set on the ground by the original government survey differs from the problem that this case presents. Here, the evidence establishes to our satisfaction that Derrick did accurately retrace the original Mercer survey of the section’s exterior boundaries and monuments. His only error was in measuring to the center of the section, which was an interior measurement that Mercer never made.
18. The center of a section is often termed the “center corner” because it marks the interior corner of each of the four quarter sections.]
Jason M. Gustafson, PLS