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These records include 3,395 plat maps created by the Surveyor General of Oregon from 1852 to 1854, the Surveyor General of Washington from 1854 to 1925, the General Land Office from 1925 to 1944, and the Bureau of Land Management from 1946 to 1980.
How to Search
To search these plats, locate the township and range of the area you are investigating (you can view a map of Washington townships and ranges here). Enter this into the keyword search box. For example, if searching for Township 18 North, Range 2 West, enter “18N 2W”. Plats are also searchable by county.
Surveying in Washington
By 1852 the United States General Land Office, under the Department of the Interior, had already begun surveying the territory of Washington by way of the Surveyor General of Oregon. When the first Washington Surveyor General’s Office was opened in Olympia on August 1, 1854, James Tilton was appointed Surveyor General of Washington Territory. The 1925 appropriations act for the Department of the Interior closed the offices of Surveyor General, and subsequently the Olympia office on July 1, 1925. Surveying responsibilities for Washington remained with the United States General Land Office until its abolition in 1946, when the Bureau of Land Management assumed surveying duties.
About the Township Plats
The Willamette Meridian was the principal meridian from which land surveying in the Pacific Northwest west of the Cascades began. It ran north to Puget Sound and south to the California border, and the baseline was established running east to the Idaho border and west to the Pacific Ocean. From these surveyed lines, the lands of the Northwest were divided into townships six miles square beginning at the Willamette Base Line numbering north or south and given a range beginning at The Willamette Meridian numbering east and west. Each full township is divided into 36 sections of land 1 mile square which are numbered starting at the northeast corner of each.
For each geographical township there is typically more than one plat, each having a different date of approval. This approval date indicates when the Surveyor General created the plat, which he constructed by consulting surveyors’ field notes and sketches housed in his office. Often, the plat reflects information gathered at varying dates by various surveyors, which are usually noted at the bottom of the plat.
Plats indicate various types of natural features and vegetation, such as timber, soil types, land formations, and bodies of water. For navigable watercourses, plats show surveys of bank meanders as well as islands, cascades, and waterfalls. Plats provide previously established names of natural features such as rivers, lakes, and mountains. Man-made features are occasionally included such as trails, roads, missions, towns, buildings, and farm fields. For militia, improvement, and ancient claims of land, the plats note boundaries, survey and claim numbers, and numbers of acres as well as boundaries of Indian reservations.
The 1796 legislation establishing the U.S. Surveyor General required the production of more than one copy of each plat. One copy remained in Washington State, and another copy was sent to the Washington D.C. office. The Washington State Department of Natural Resources eventually assumed responsibility for the plats kept in Washington State, and subsequently transferred these plats to the Washington State Archives during the normal course of records management.
All records are in English.
These records are open for research.
Digitized and indexed by the Washington State Archives.
Preferred Citation: [Title of plat], [date], [creator if known], Department of Natural Resources, Survey Plats of Washington, 1852-1980, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives, http://digitalarchives.wa.gov, [date accessed].
Source: Surveyor General, General Land Office, Survey Maps, 1852-1980, Washington State Archives.
For more information or to learn about related records, contact the Washington State Archives, at (360) 586-1492 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.