Territorial Land Survey

Surveyors’ Field Notes

In 1871, the internal format of Oklahoma, then the Indian Territory, began to take shape. Based on Thomas Jefferson’s standard United States public land survey system of townships, ranges, sections and quarter sections, an Initial Point was selected and a grid work of north-south and east-west lines was established.

From this “bearing point,” situated one mile south of Fort Arbuckle and eight miles west of present day Davis, the entire Indian Territory was surveyed.

The field notes kept by these surveyors are on deposit in the state’s Archives and consist of 235 volumes and nearly 8,000 microfiche.

These field notes offer detailed descriptions of vegetation, bodies of water, soil types, and markers established during survey operations. From these notes, cartographers were able to construct a plat for each township surveyed. There are approximately 2,000 plats on file.

These visual reproductions of surveying data show government lots, topographical details, railroad routes, trails, Indian and military reservations and some existing buildings.

Plats and field notes are also available online through the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.