An Ordinance for ascertaining the mode of disposing of Lands in the Western Territory.
Be it ordained by the United States in Congress assembled, that the territory ceded by individual States to the United States, which has been purchased of the Indian inhabitants, shall be disposed of in the following manner: . . .
The Surveyors, as they are respectively qualified, shall proceed to divide the said territory into townships of six miles square, by lines running due north and south, and others crossing these at right angles, as near as may be . . .
The lines shall be measured with a chain; shall be plainly marked by chaps on the trees and exactly described on a plat; whereon shall be noted by the surveyor, at their proper distances, all mines, salt springs, salt licks and mill seats, that shall come to his knowledge, and all water courses, mountains and other remarkable and permanent things, over and near which such lines shall pass, and also the quality of the lands . . .
The board of treasury shall transmit a copy of the original plats, previously noting thereon, the townships, and fractional parts of townships, which shall have fallen to the several states, by the distribution aforesaid, to the Commissioners of the loan office of the several states, who, after giving notice of not less than two nor more than six months by causing advertisements to be posted up at the court houses, or other noted places in every county, and to be inserted in one newspaper, published in the states of their residence respectively, shall proceed to sell the townships, or fractional parts of townships, at public venue . . .
Done by the United States in Congress assembled, the 20th day of May, in the year of our Lord 1785, and of our sovereignty and independence the ninth.
Charles Thomson, Secretary.
Richard H. Lee, President.
The exterior lines of the townships, the east-west township lines and the north-south range lines, were surveyed first to establish outlines of the townships. When this work was completed, a different crew of surveyors would do the work of running the section lines, or interior lines to subdivide the township into thirty-six sections. It would be convenient to think of all of the exterior township and range lines for the entire state being completed and then the interior subdivision lines were run. In reality, the exterior lines in a specific area were often completed only weeks or months before the interior lines were run.
The exterior township and range lines were run in a seemingly random fashion other than that they would complete the square outline of a township. The interior section lines, however, were run in a strict order that was rarely changed. This subdivision of a township began along the southern boundary of the township one mile west of the southeast corner of the township.
Source: Wisconsin Public Land Survey Records http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/SurveyNotes/SurveyInfo.html