General Land Office

General Land Office

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The General Land Office (GLO) was an independent agency of the United States government
Independent agencies of the United States government
Independent agencies of the United States federal government are those agencies that exist outside of the federal executive departments...

 responsible for public domain
Public domain (land)
Public domain is a term used to describe lands that were not under private or state ownership during the 18th and 19th centuries in the United States, as the country was expanding. These lands were obtained from the 13 original colonies, from Native American tribes, or from purchase from other...

 lands in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. It was created in 1812 to take over functions previously conducted by the United States Department of the Treasury
United States Department of the Treasury
The Department of the Treasury is an executive department and the treasury of the United States federal government. It was established by an Act of Congress in 1789 to manage government revenue...

. Starting with the passage of The Land Ordinance of 1785
Land Ordinance of 1785
The Land Ordinance of 1785 was adopted by the United States Congress on May 20, 1785. Under the Articles of Confederation, Congress did not have the power to raise revenue by direct taxation of the inhabitants of the United States...

, which created the Public Land Survey System
Public Land Survey System
The Public Land Survey System is a method used in the United States to survey and identify land parcels, particularly for titles and deeds of rural, wild or undeveloped land. Its basic units of area are the township and section. It is sometimes referred to as the rectangular survey system,...

, the Treasury Department had already overseen the survey of the "Northwest Territory" including what is now Ohio..

Placed into the Department of the Interior
United States Department of the Interior
The United States Department of the Interior is the United States federal executive department of the U.S. government responsible for the management and conservation of most federal land and natural resources, and the administration of programs relating to Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native...

 when that department was formed in 1849, it merged with the United States Grazing Service
United States Grazing Service
The United States Grazing Service was a part of the United States Department of the Interior that managed grazing lands and carried out the Taylor Grazing Act, which leased public land for grazing...

 (established in 1934) to become the Bureau of Land Management
Bureau of Land Management
The Bureau of Land Management is an agency within the United States Department of the Interior which administers America's public lands, totaling approximately , or one-eighth of the landmass of the country. The BLM also manages of subsurface mineral estate underlying federal, state and private...

 on July 16, 1946.

History


The GLO oversaw the surveying
Surveying
See Also: Public Land Survey SystemSurveying or land surveying is the technique, profession, and science of accurately determining the terrestrial or three-dimensional position of points and the distances and angles between them...

, platting and sale of the public lands in the Western United States
Western United States
.The Western United States, commonly referred to as the American West or simply "the West," traditionally refers to the region comprising the westernmost states of the United States. Because the U.S. expanded westward after its founding, the meaning of the West has evolved over time...

 and administered the Homestead Act
Homestead Act
A homestead act is one of three United States federal laws that gave an applicant freehold title to an area called a "homestead" – typically 160 acres of undeveloped federal land west of the Mississippi River....

 and the Preemption Act
Preemption Act of 1841
The Preemption Act of 1841, also known as the Distributive Preemption Act , was a federal law approved on September 4, 1841. It was designed to "appropriate the proceeds of the sales of public lands.....

 in disposal of public lands. The frantic pace of Public Land sales in the 19th century American west led to the idiomatic expression "Land Office business", meaning a thriving or high-volume trade.

The GLO was placed under the Secretary of the Interior
United States Secretary of the Interior
The United States Secretary of the Interior is the head of the United States Department of the Interior.The US Department of the Interior should not be confused with the concept of Ministries of the Interior as used in other countries...

 when the Department of the Interior was formed in 1849. Reacting to public concerns about forest conservation, Congress in 1891 authorized the president
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 to withdraw timber lands from disposal. Grover Cleveland
Grover Cleveland
Stephen Grover Cleveland was the 22nd and 24th president of the United States. Cleveland is the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms and therefore is the only individual to be counted twice in the numbering of the presidents...

 then created 17 forest reserves of nearly 18000000 acres (72,843.5 km²), which were initially managed by the General Land Office. In 1905, Congress transferred responsibility for these reserves to the newly created Forest Service
United States Forest Service
The United States Forest Service is an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture that administers the nation's 155 national forests and 20 national grasslands, which encompass...

, under the Department of Agriculture
United States Department of Agriculture
The United States Department of Agriculture is the United States federal executive department responsible for developing and executing U.S. federal government policy on farming, agriculture, and food...

.

From 1900, the GLO focused on conservation. Beginning in the early 20th century the GLO shifted from a primary function of land sales to issuing lease
Lease
A lease is a contractual arrangement calling for the lessee to pay the lessor for use of an asset. A rental agreement is a lease in which the asset is tangible property...

s and collecting fee
Fee
A fee is the price one pays as remuneration for services. Fees usually allow for overhead, wages, costs, and markup.Traditionally, professionals in Great Britain received a fee in contradistinction to a payment, salary, or wage, and would often use guineas rather than pounds as units of account...

s and royalties
Royalties
Royalties are usage-based payments made by one party to another for the right to ongoing use of an asset, sometimes an intellectual property...

 from mineral
Mineral
A mineral is a naturally occurring solid chemical substance formed through biogeochemical processes, having characteristic chemical composition, highly ordered atomic structure, and specific physical properties. By comparison, a rock is an aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids and does not...

s off lands recently withdrawn from disposal under the Withdrawal Act of 1910, and other custodial duties.

On July 16, 1946, the GLO was merged with the United States Grazing Service
United States Grazing Service
The United States Grazing Service was a part of the United States Department of the Interior that managed grazing lands and carried out the Taylor Grazing Act, which leased public land for grazing...

 (established in 1934 under the Taylor Grazing Act
Taylor Grazing Act
The Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 is a United States federal law that provides for the regulation of grazing on the public lands to improve rangeland conditions and regulate their use....

) to become the Bureau of Land Management
Bureau of Land Management
The Bureau of Land Management is an agency within the United States Department of the Interior which administers America's public lands, totaling approximately , or one-eighth of the landmass of the country. The BLM also manages of subsurface mineral estate underlying federal, state and private...

 (BLM), an agency of the Interior Department responsible for administering the remaining 264000000 acres (1,068,371 km²) of Public Lands still in federal ownership.

An early commissioner was John McLean
John McLean
John McLean was an American jurist and politician who served in the United States Congress, as U.S. Postmaster General, and as a justice on the Ohio and U.S...

, later an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States are the members of the Supreme Court of the United States other than the Chief Justice of the United States...

.

The BLM makes images of General Land Office records (Federal Land Patents and Survey Plats) issued between 1820 and 1908 publicly available on its website.
Since 1990 the BLM's Geographic Coordinates Database (GCDB) program has endeavored to generate coordinate values for each established PLSS
Public Land Survey System
The Public Land Survey System is a method used in the United States to survey and identify land parcels, particularly for titles and deeds of rural, wild or undeveloped land. Its basic units of area are the township and section. It is sometimes referred to as the rectangular survey system,...

 corner using the official survey records of the General Land Office and Bureau Of Land Management on a township basis. The GCDB data is available for download by the public in GIS shapefile format from the NILS GeoCommunicator Land Survey Information System website. The GCDB coordinates are also available to the public in the GCDB flat file and GCDB coverage formats via the National Operations Center (NOC) website.

See also

  • List of Commissioners of the General Land Office
  • Public Land Survey System
    Public Land Survey System
    The Public Land Survey System is a method used in the United States to survey and identify land parcels, particularly for titles and deeds of rural, wild or undeveloped land. Its basic units of area are the township and section. It is sometimes referred to as the rectangular survey system,...

  • Beginning Point of the U.S. Public Land Survey
    Beginning Point of the U.S. Public Land Survey
    The Beginning Point of the U.S. Public Land Survey is a monument at the border between the U.S. states of Ohio and Pennsylvania, on the north side of the Ohio River. It is near the three-way intersection of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and the northern tip of West Virginia, in both the Pittsburgh...

  • Beginning Point of the Louisiana Purchase Survey
  • National Irrigation Congress
    National Irrigation Congress
    The National Irrigation Congress was held periodically in the Western United States beginning in 1891 and ending in 1916, by which time the organization had changed its name to International Irrigation Congress. It was a "powerful pressure group."...


External links