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Means of Expansion: An Early Ohio Surveyor’s Plat Map

Logan & Hardin Counties, Ohio. HOPKINS, Daniel [Bellefountaine, OH, c. 1823-1849]
Untitled Manuscript Plat Map. 20 ¼ x 16 inches
Brown ink, pencil & water colors on paper mounted on linen as issued, ms. Owner’s inscription in verso; folds with relatively minor wear & losses, normal staining & age-toning, yet nearly fully intact, overall quite good of its type.


An early Ohio surveyor’s plat map of parts of Logan and Hardin counties in Ohio, which is both a rich fund of local history and an artifact that was a vital tool for the expansion of the country. The map was owned by the surveyor, Daniel Hopkins (1800-1849), whose name appears both on the map and on the verso. It must have been his master record for the area, on which he noted the property owners in the county, the sizes of their holdings, and including updatings to these in both pencil and ink. The broad range of date given above for the map is due to the fact that the only date appearing on map is 1823, in reference to a property transfer, and Hopkins’ date of death in 1849. No doubt, further study of the map will yield internal evidence that would more tightly bracket the date. Prominent in the lower center of the map is "Solomon'stown," which is present-day Huntsville, and at upper left is "Roundheadstown," today Roundhead; somewhat ironically both were named after a Wyandot chief.
Although it seems we are looking at cartographic chaos when first viewing this map, it is nonetheless quite eloquent on the nature of the westward expansion and settlement of the United States. Most evident is the grid pattern on it, reflective of the General Land Office survey, as well as numerical designations given to each section on the national survey. Tellingly, just beyond the western border of the county in the far left of the map are lands of the reservations of the Shawnee and Seneca tribes. In a pattern repeated numerous times, Indians agreed by various means to accept lands to the west of those they previously occupied. In virtually all cases, these legally acquired lands of the Indians remained in their hands only until the next encroachment of white settlers and attendant surveying crews.
Another characteristic of this map that reflects a more general trend is that property lines were less regular in the west and northwest sections of a surveyed area. This was due to the fact that surveyors ran their meridians (the north-south lines) parallel for most of the area and did not correct for the curvature of the earth until surveying the western portions. Also, the original mandate called for the individual sections to be one mile square (640 acres) and for townships to consist of areas six miles square. On this map, the sections are primarily 1000 acres each, with many of them broken down into quite irregular parcels. We can see no indication of township lines.

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