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Land Survey Plats and Tract Books

Creator: United States. Bureau of Land Management

Date: 1854B-2006

Level of Description: Series

Material Type: Map, Manuscript

Call Number: Land Survey files

Unit ID: 195108

Space Required/Quantity: 12.00 cubic feet

Title (Main title): Land Survey Plats and Tract Books

Titles (Other):

  • Kansas tract books ; plats ; plat and field note index
  • Kansas : official plat record (cadastral survey)
  • Kansas supplemental roll #1 (maps)
  • Kansas tract books
  • Plat and field note index to the state of Kansas
  • United States Department of the Interior ... Bureau of Land Management
  • Plat and field note index
  • Tract books ; plats ; plat and field note index
  • Tract books : Kansas
  • Tract books and plat maps
  • United States Bureau of Land Management tract books and plat maps
  • Bureau of Land Management microfilm ; 202-176-09

Administrative History

Administrative History:

The Federal Government inherited a substantial public domain from its predecessor, the government under the Articles of Confederation. By Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2 of the Constitution, Congress was empowered "to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States." In the act establishing the Treasury Department (1 Stat. 65), September 2, 1789, the Secretary of the Treasury was authorized "to execute such services relative to the sale of the lands belonging to the United States, as may be by law required of him," and the Office of the Register of the Treasury was designated the agency for the collection and dispersal of Treasury revenues. The Secretary of War, in the act establishing the War Department (1 Stat. 50), August 7, 1789, was made responsible for granting military bounty lands (lands to which veterans of the Revolutionary War were entitled by virtue of their military service). Treasury responsibility for administering the public lands was defined initially in the Land Act of 1796 (1 Stat. 464), May 18, 1796, which provided for the orderly survey and sale of lands northwest of the Ohio River. This responsibility was extended geographically and amended procedurally by additional land laws of 1800, 1803, and 1804. The act of 1796 required the Secretary of State to record and issue patents (titles) to public land. The General Land Office Act (2 Stat. 716), April 25, 1812, created the General Land Office (GLO) in the Department of the Treasury to "superintend, execute, and perform, all such acts and things, touching or respecting the public lands of the United States," including those functions formerly vested in the Secretaries of War and State. GLO transferred to the newly created Department of the Interior under provisions of its establishing act (9 Stat. 395), March 3, 1849. GLO and Grazing Service consolidated to form Bureau of Land Management, 1946.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act, passed May 30, 1854, created the twin territories of Kansas and Nebraska from Unorganized Territory. Kansas Territory encompassing 126,283 square miles was bounded on the east by Missouri, on the south by Indian Territory and the Territory of New Mexico, on the west by the Territory of Utah (along the summit of the Rocky Mountains), and on the north by the 40th parallel separating it from Nebraska. “Popular Sovereignty” allowing the inhabitants of Kansas to determine the status of slavery in the Territory, resulted in the almost immediate illegal settlement by “Free State” and “Pro Slavery” factions of Kansas Territory from Missouri west along the Kaw River.

By an Act of Congress of July 22, 1854, the Territory of Kansas was designated as a “land district” with land offices authorized at Lecompton, Doniphan, Fort Scott and Ogden.

John Calhoun was commissioned Surveyor-General of the Kansas-Nebraska Territory on August 4, 1854, and served as Ex-officio Register. The first land office was opened at Lecompton (the temporary seat of government, 1856-61), in May 1856 to serve the Pawnee District, comprising most of the public lands opened for settlement in north eastern Kansas. Thomas C. Shoemaker was appointed the first Receiver and Ely Moore served as Register. The Lecompton office handled all public land activities for the Territory until additional offices were established in 1857. This office continued to operate throughout the territorial period, closing September 10, 1861, when it was relocated to Topeka.

On March 9, 1857, additional land offices were authorized at Doniphan, Fort Scott and Ogden. The Doniphan office, situation in north eastern Kansas along the Missouri River, opened October 15, 1857, and after operating for less than three months was removed to Kickapoo adjacent to the Fort Leavenworth Military Reservation. Fort Scott, in the south eastern portion of the territory, was selected as the site for the headquarters of the Osage District, opening in July 1857. From March 3, 1857 until October of that year an office was located in Ogden on the Fort Leavenworth-Fort Riley Military Road in central Kansas. On October 6, 1859, the office was moved to Junction City, just outside the Fort Riley Military Reservation. Each of these three original land offices functioned continually throughout the territorial period.

Kansas was admitted as the 34th state on January 29, 1861, with its capital in Topeka. The Wyandotte Constitution establishing the state had reduced the size of the state to 82,276 square miles by relocating the western boundary of the Territory from the summit of the Rocky Mountains eastward to 102 degrees 03´ 02.3ʺ west longitude (the current Colorado-Kansas boundary). In addition to the four land offices operating during the territorial period, an office was established in Topeka on September 10, 1861.

The previous territorial office at Kickapoo was removed to Atchison on September 4, 1861, where it remained until being consolidated with Topeka on December 26, 1863. The removal of the Lecompton office and the consolidation of the Atchison office with Topeka proved to be examples of continuing accepted practice. As public lands were settled and the land offices serving those areas were removed, terminated, or consolidated, their records and functions were eventually transferred to Topeka. The Topeka office functioned as a local land office, successor to terminated offices, and depository for land office records until April 30, 1925, when disposal of public lands in Kansas was concluded and the records transferred to the General Land Office in Washington, D.C. A fire in November or December 1869, destroyed the Topeka land office and all the records deposited there including those originating with the Lecompton office.

On September 16, 1861, the headquarters of the Osage District was relocated from Fort Scott to Humboldt with activities commencing September 23, 1861. Guerrilla activities associated with border clashes between Confederate and Union sympathizers prior to and during the Civil War culminating in a raid on the Humboldt office resulted in its removal to Mapleton November 1, 1861. As hostilities subsided the office was returned to Humboldt in May 1862. Settlement in the Osage District moved south and west with the land office moving first to Neodesha on December 8, 1871 and then to Independence on March 26, 1872. Land disposal within the south eastern portion of the state continued throughout the 1870-80’s with the Independence office serving the area until February 28, 1889, when it was removed to Topeka.

In central Kansas the Junction City office, dating from the territorial period, was moved westward to Salina on May 1, 1871, to more adequately serve the needs of settlers. Salina, often considered the dividing line between central and western Kansas, remained in operation until December 21, 1893.

A land office to serve south central Kansas was established on July 7, 1870, in Augusta. As settlement moved westward the office was relocated to Wichita which was emerging as the principal urban area within south central Kansas. The Wichita office, established February 20, 1872, remained in operation until February 28, 1889, when it was deactivated and its records transferred to Topeka.

The Republican District, encompassing the public lands within the Republican River basin, was served by the Concordia Land Office. Established July 7, 1870 this office continued to act as headquarters for the district without interruption until February 28, 1889, when it was discontinued and its records removed to Topeka.

The majority of the settlement of public lands in Kansas occurred during the 1870’s and 1880’s. The large scale disposal of federal lands during this period saw the number of land offices increase from the 5 operating at the time of statehood to 8 and then 9 by 1889. Generally settlement moved westerly in advance of the opening of the land offices. This western expansion is reflected in the establishment and termination of the various local offices. Although the establishment was often convulsive, reflecting political, economic and geographical considerations, office closings generally occurred as disposal of public lands within an area was accomplished. Between February 28, 1889 and December 21, 1893, all land offices serving the eastern and central portions of the state were closed and their records and functions transferred to Topeka.

Settlement of western Kansas continued to be active until well into the first decade of the 20th Century, however, the numbers of settlers and the amount of land distributed diminished significantly. The gradual decrease in land disposal is reflected in the shrinking number of offices needed to process claims; from 5 in 1890 the number dropped to 3 in 1900 and to merely one, in Dodge City, by 1910.

The western land offices were not created independently but evolved from locations in the central region. The key transitional office was Cawker City, in central Kansas, established May 28, 1872, opening June 23, 1872. On January 4, 1875, this office was removed to Kirwin, on the frontier of western settlement. The Kirwin office was consolidated with the Oberlin office on September 11, 1893, contrary to the trend to consolidate all activities in Topeka. Oberlin had been designated as a land office to serve the extreme northwestern portion of the state in May 1881. By February 5, 1894, an office had been opened in Colby, assuming the duties of the Oberlin, Kirwin and Cawker City offices. Colby continued to be active until April 1, 1909, when it was closed and its records removed to Topeka. The consolidating of the predecessor office’s records and functions in Colby prior to its deactivation was chiefly a practical decision, as travel to and from Topeka from extreme western Kansas was burdensome and inconvenient for both settlers and land office officials.

On June 20, 1874, an office was opened in Hays City close to the Military Post in west central Kansas. The Hays City office was relocated westward to Wakeeney on October 20, 1879, where it remained until November 28, 1904, and its records retired to Colby.

In South central Kansas, within the Arkansas River drainage system, the Arkansas Valley district was established on June 20, 1874, at Larned in close proximity to Fort Larned. This office continued in operation for approximately 20 years until it was temporarily consolidated with the Garden City office. Garden City, headquarters of the vast south-western district, had been established in May 1883, opening for business October 1, 1883. On February 10, 1894, the records of the Garden City and Larned land offices were transferred to Dodge City, the last land office to be established in Kansas. The closing of the Dodge City office on September 1, 1919, signaled the virtual end to the disposal of public lands in Kansas. Limited activities continued to be performed by the Topeka office until the transfer to the archives to the General Land Office April 30, 1925.

Scope and Content

Scope and content: Hand-colored plat maps of Kansas from original surveys, showing significant geographical landmarks such as rivers and other waterways, as well as man-made features such as roads and trails, boundaries of Native American reservations, and other landmarks. Later plat maps from (re)surveys under the Bureau of Land Management have been interfiled with these original survey plats; also includes copies of plats on various media (e.g. photostat, film, etc). See series 194481 for microfilmed copies of original plat maps from 1854-1884.

Portions of Collection Separately Described:


Locator Contents
046-01-03-01 to 046-01-06-02  R1-25E, R1-21W: T1-35S 
046-02-05-01 to 046-02-06-02  R22-43W: T1-35S 


  • MS 321: Kansas tract books 1855-1887
  • MS 322:
  • MS 323:
  • MS 324:
  • MS 325:
  • MS 326:
  • MS 327:
  • MS 328:
  • MS 329:
  • MS 330:
  • MS 331:
  • MS 332:
  • MS 333:
  • MS 334:
  • MS 335:
  • MS 336:
  • MS 337:
  • MS 338:
  • MS 339:
  • MS 340:
Complete microfilm list

Index Terms


    United States. Bureau of Land Management -- Records and correspondence
    United States. General Land Office
    United States. Surveyor General of Kansas and Nebraska
    Field notes
    Measured drawings
    Kansas -- Maps
    Kansas -- Surveys
    Kansas -- Surveys -- Indexes
    Surveying -- Kansas
    Real property -- Kansas -- Maps
    Topographical surveying -- Kansas
    Land grants -- Kansas
    Land tenure -- Kansas
    Land titles -- Registration and transfer -- Kansas
    Land use -- Kansas
    Public land sales -- Kansas
    Public lands -- Kansas
    Real property -- Kansas -- Maps -- Indexes

Creators and Contributors

Agency Classification:

    Federal Agencies. U.S. Department of the Interior. Bureau of Land Management.
    Federal Agencies. U.S. Department of the Interior. U.S. Surveyor General of Kansas & Nebraska.
    Federal Agencies. U.S. Department of the Interior. Bureau of Land Management. General Land Office.

Additional Information for Researchers

Action note: Administrative History of Kansas land offices written by R. Reed Whitaker, Federal Archives & Records Center, Kansas City, Mo.