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The vast majority of America’s western land is divided into a lattice-work of farms, towns and forests. This grid pattern was first proposed by Thomas Jefferson shortly after the American Revolutionary War, when the federal government came into possession of large areas of land. Before this newly acquired land could be sold, distributed and settled, it needed to be surveyed.

Before the Land Ordinance of 1785 was adopted, colonies were surveyed using the British system of “metes and bounds,” where property boundaries were defined by local geography and topography. A typical description for a parcel of land might read: "From the point on the north bank of Muddy Creek one mile above the junction of Muddy and Indian Creeks, north for 400 yards, then northwest to the large standing rock, west to the large oak tree, south to Muddy Creek, then down the center of the creek to the starting point."

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