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A township, at least in the flatter parts of the United States, is a six mile by six mile square block of land. Townships were sub-divided multiple times, beginning with 36 sections, each a one mile square. Square mile sections (640 acres) were subdivided further into quarter Figure 3-31: Ross County, Ohio. The region west of the Scioto River is the Virginia Military District, and uses metes and bounds. East of the river, surveyors used the township and range system. Note the stark difference in pattern. Think about the implications these patterns have upon the culture, politics and economics of each region. Data courtesy of Ross County GIS (Greg Rouse)
P E O P L E A N D L A N D S C A P E S 65 sections (160 acres) and quarter-quarter sections of forty acres. Homesteaders on the frontier generally purchased quarter sections, but as drier lands further west were settled, larger parcels were distributed for ranching. The grid system dominates the American landscape. It’s hard to overstate the impact of this system. Roads, farmlands, houses, property lines, telephone poles are just but a few items on the landscape locked onto “the grid”. Even the room you’re in now, along with your desk, couch or chest of drawers is positioned with reference to Jefferson’s grid. The brilliant landscape essayist JB Jackson argues that the grid is a grand symbol of Enlightenment thinking on the landscape, but it also has affected the culture of the regions in varied way – imparting a sense of order and conformity to communities on the grid (even the people are “squares”?) At the same time, the old communal agricultural communities centered on village greens, gave way to robust individualism encouraged by the grid. The implications are profound in terms of the political and economic philosophies that guide the US today. See the discussion comparing individualism and progressive moralism in the chapter on political geography. Jefferson’s cultural and political goals have been mostly realized. Democracy did indeed flourish, and to this day, the region of the country with the most even distribution of wealth is in the places where township and range created a vast number of farmsteads of roughly equal size and equal quality. In fact, the Gini coefficient, a measure of income equality, is generally lowest in the grid-dominated states of the Midwest. Perhaps the only disadvantage to the grid system is that it seems to encourage farmers to plow their fields in straight lines, which increases erosion and water loss, especially compared to the more eco-friendly contour plowingpracticed by more frequently by farmers in the metes and bounds regions of the East. Long Lots Colonists from other parts of Europe, especially the French, introduced yet another cadastral system, called among other things Long Lots. Derived from the seigneurial land tenure system used by the French in their colonial holdings (mostly in what is now Canada), it was replicated in elsewhere in North America where French settlement occurred, most notably Louisiana, but it is evident in other French settlements like St. Louis, Detroit and