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|A SECTION is a square unit of land, one mile on each side, composing 640 acres. This is the basic unit of measure. Each section has a unique identifier, which we will learn about in a forthcoming topic.|
|A TOWNSHIP is
a square grouping of 36 sections, six sections
on each side. Since a section is one square mile, we can
also say that this is an area of thirty-six square miles.
Each of the 36 sections within the township is given a number according to a certain scheme: beginning at the upper right with number 1, proceed left numbering each in order until 6, go down a row and number that section 7, proceed right numbering each in order until 12, go down and number that section 13, etc.
Each township has a unique two part identifier.
|The first part of the identifier is the TOWNSHIP, which is
the north-south township location reference, determined by
counting townships from an east-west line called the "base line".
Notation T45N indicates the forty-fifth township north of the
The RANGE is a number assigned to each township, in order, measured from a north-south line called a principal meridian. Notation R10E indicates the tenth township east of the principal meridian.
Now you have both a north-south (TOWNSHIP) and east-west (RANGE) part of the identifier and can uniquely identify each township within the scope of that principal meridian and baseline. The phrase "T46N R11E" shouldn't intimidate you any more.
Do not confuse the property description TOWNSHIP with the political TOWNSHIP representation. Political lines have been redrawn and names changed over time. These property definitions have not.
|How is a section divided?
We don't normally own property by the section. Our title is typically for a fractional portion.
First, you must think in terms of quarters.
Divide the section into four equal sized squares each containing 160 acres. The north-west quarter is known as NW, the north-east quarter as NE, etc.
Then divide each of these quarters into four equal squares, each containing forty acres, giving them same notations.
This sounds confusing, but we'll separate these like terms with "of the" which will indicate a precedence and make it all clear. It is important to note that we are still thinking in terms of quarters, and not sixteenths, as you might imagine.
When describing less than 40 acres, we will find the property measured from a corner of this quarter of a quarter section.
Measurements may be expressed in rather strange terms:
Though a bit long-winded, this is a rigorous and well defined system. Other property description methods use trees, streams, and fences for description.
What is the description of the property indicated?
You need to know
Answer: SE 1/4 of the NE 1/4 of Section 1 Township 45 North Range 11 East
Now, just to confuse you, we must tell you that there are always exceptions.
Some of the sections around Millburn are more than 640 acres and are not one mile square. They are slightly larger. Generally, the rules hold.
Do not confuse political representative townships with these real property definitions. The political lines have been redrawn, while these property lines have not. It is a common mistake, since they are both called townships. They are NOT the same.