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200 Years of a Land Office Business: A  GLO Timeline


1776 
United States citizens declared independence after the Revolutionary War.
 
1783 
Treaty of Paris was signed. This gave the United States over 270 million acres of lands East of the Mississippi, not including the original 13 colonies. These lands were to be used as payment for soldiers who had fought in the Revolutionary War. 
 
1785 
The Land Ordinance was created to handle the land growth. Public domain lands northwest of the Ohio River were to be surveyed into 36-square mile townships, and sold at no less than $1 per acre in tracts no smaller than 640 acres.

The Ordinance also reserved Section 16 of each township for the maintenance of schools; set aside lands for Continental Army bounties (changed in 1796); established the minimum price per acre; and minimum land quantity which could be bought.

The Ordinance further established that legal sale and settlement of the public land could not occur until the land had been surveyed and the survey accepted by the Federal Government.
  
1787 
Sale of first public lands directed by Congress as soon as four of 'The Seven Ranges' in the Northwest Territory had been surveyed. At irregular, but well-advertised periods, at the office of the Board of Treasury in New York City, lands indicated on plats were offered for sale to highest bidders over the minimum price of $1 per acre.
 
1788 
First patent issued to John Martin on March 4th for 640 acres in what is now Belmont County, Ohio.
 
1793 
Eli Whitney's cotton gin helped in the settlement of the States of Alabama, Mississippi, and parts of Louisiana and Arkansas.
 
1793-1823 
Land size continued to grow and people moved west. Homesteaders, miners, and new towns began to take over lands they wanted, surveyors trekked through unexplored territories to measure and describe what they saw.
 
1800 
The Credit Act of May 10th authorized the sale of land for no less than $2 per acre and could be paid in four installments. The buyer would deposit 5% of the purchase price plus survey fees, at the time of sale. Within 40 days he had to pay an additional 20 percent of the purchase money. Additional payments of 25 percent of the purchase price were to be made within two, three, and four years after the date of the sale. For the last three payments he was charged 6 percent interest per year.
 
1803 
Louisiana Purchase from France doubled the size of the nation, adding the region drained by the Mississippi River's western tributaries.
 
1812 
The General Land Office was created as part of the Treasury Department to handle and dispose of public lands. All the land records were now in one place. The British burned Washington, D.C. during the War of 1812. The General Land Office records were moved to a more fireproof building.
At District Land Offices, tracts of surveyed public lands were sold at auctions to the highest bidder - at or above the minimum price set by Congress. Auctions were held irregularly and sometimes lasted two weeks - if enough prospective bidders attended. After auction, unsold lands were available indefinitely at over-the-counter sales at minimum price.
  
1818 
Red River Valley of the North added to the United States by the Convention of 1818, which set the boundary with British Canada between Lake Superior and the Rocky Mountains at the 49th Parallel.
 
1819 
Florida acquired by treaty with Spain, redrawing the western border of the Louisiana Purchase.
 
1820 

Public land sales boomed. The Act of April 20, 1820, authorized land to be sold for a minimum of $1.25 per acre and tracts as small as 80 acres. Public lands initially offered for sale by District Land Offices were sold at pre-announced, scheduled public auction. If any land remained unsold, the parcels would be available for purchase at the minimum price on a first-come-first-served basis. This replaced the credit system.

The President of the United States signed land patents, giving people title to the land. Hundreds, then thousands of Americans gave up their American nationality and chose to go under Mexican rule in order to get land in Texas for growing cotton.
 

1825 
The Erie Canal opened. This canal connected the Hudson River in New York with the Great Lakes and provided a water route all the way to Wisconsin. This lured many New Englanders and New Yorkers westward.
 
1840 
"Oregon Fever" struck in the Mississippi Valley. Thousands of families sold good farms "for a song without a tune" to join the trek to Oregon. Many people from Missouri moved westward for new farms in California.
The Mormons left New York, first to Ohio and Missouri, and then moved on to settle in Utah. Their first leader, Joseph Smith, was killed during a religious uprising. Brigham Young then led the group to the Wasatch Mountains in Utah.
 
1845 
Texas became a State but did not give unoccupied lands to the United States. There are no Federal public lands in Texas.
 
1846 
Oregon Compromise with Great Britain ended joint occupation of the Oregon Country by dividing the region along the 49th Parallel.
 
1848 
Discovery of gold in California.
Mexico gave up a vast territory in the Southwest, providing the U.S. with 338 million acres of public lands - now California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and parts of New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming.
 
  
Mexico gave up a vast territory in the Southwest, providing the U.S. with 338 million acres of public lands - now California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and parts of New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming.
 

1849

 
U.S. Department of the Interior was formed.
 
1850 
The United States purchased 75 million acres of land from Texas, part of what is now Arizona and New Mexico.
 
1853 
The United States purchased 19 million acres of land from Mexico with the Gadsden Purchase. This became part of New Mexico and Arizona.
 

1862

 
Homestead Act Enacted. The act allowed settlement of public lands and required only residence and improvement and cultivation of the land. Any person, a citizen or person intending to become a citizen, 21 years of age or older, and the head of a household could make application. With five years residence and improvements/cultivation, only a $15.00 fee was required to get 160 acres. Repealed in 1976.
 
1865 
Petroleum reported on public lands at the land office for Humboldt, California. The first reservation of petroleum on public land.
 
1866 
The Mining Act declared all mineral lands of public domain free and open to exploration and occupancy. The GLO established mineral survey districts. Prospectors could file a claim on mineral vein or load at GLO for $5.00 per acre.
 
1867 
Alaska purchased from Russia, adding 365 million acres of public lands to the United States.
 
1870 
Placer Mining Act. Permitted survey and sale of placer mining lands for $2.50 per acre.
 
1872 
General Mining Law passed. This identified mineral lands as a distinct class of public lands subject to exploration, occupation and purchase under certain conditions.
First National Park established - Yellowstone.
 
1877 
Timber Culture Act passed granting tracts of public lands to settlers who planted and cared for trees on the plains. Repealed in 1891.
 
1877 
Desert Land Act passed permitting disposal of 640-acre tracts of arid public lands at $1.25 per acre to homesteaders if they proved reclamation of the land by irrigation.
 
1887 
General Land Office had 113 district land offices in operation.
 
1890 
Peak number of 123 district land offices in operation.
 
1898 
Annexation of Hawaiian Islands by the United States. Since Hawaii had been an independent nation, no public lands were involved.
Principal of public land laws extended to the Territory of Alaska.
 
1924 
Only 84 district land offices remained operating under the GLO.
 
1925 
District land offices reduced to 44.
 
1928 
District land offices further reduced to 29, involving about 700 personnel.
 
1934 
Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Taylor Grazing Act into law. There was a need to regulate the overuse of public lands due to overgrazing of livestock. This Act came under the Secretary of the Interior who then created the Division of Grazing to manage the grazing districts. Farrington Carpenter was the first director, and he relied on the local ranchers for advice.
 
1935 
The Taylor Grazing Act placed 80 million acres of public land, mostly for livestock use, into grazing districts. The first grazing district was created in Wyoming. Thirty-three more districts were created in nine other Western States.
 

1946

 

U.S. Grazing Service and General Land Office merged to form the Bureau of Land Management.
 

1959 
Alaska formally admitted to the Union as the last public land state.
Hawaii formally became the 50th state. Because most of the Hawaiian islands were in private ownership, Hawaii was not a public land State.
 
1962 
Sesquicentennial of the General Land Office.
 
1976 
The Federal Land Policy and Management Act passed by Congress. This is a comprehensive act relating to the management of public lands. It directs the way the Bureau of Land Management does business.
 
1989 
General Land Office Records Automation Project started in September. The Project will preserve the documents by scanning them and creating an optical image. Each document will be indexed to create a searchable database. Researchers have the ability to search by state, patentee's name, county, and legal land description. Original documents are removed from usage and customer copies are generated from the optical images.
 
1996 
Fiftieth Anniversary of the Bureau of Land Management.
 
1998 
GLO data and images for millions of land patent records begin to arrive on the Internet.
 
1999 
Automation of post-1908 GLO patents begins, including Eastern and Western records.
 
2003 
Automation of GLO Survey records begins, with the primary focus on survey plats.
 
2006 
GLO data and images for thousands of survey plats begin to be added to the Internet.
 

2012

 200th Anniversary of the General Land Office