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Plats of Nevada State Lands

Part III: Features of a Plat

Detailed information and method and color to indicate a feature (e.g. roads), differs according to area, date and source of map; the most common include:


Survey features

Sections which were completely surveyed are drawn with solid black ink lines delineating the section square with the section number in the center (e.g. Sec. 10) in light black ink. When sections were not actually surveyed the section is bordered by a dashed line or no lines at all. Example:

Image from: T 19 N R 21 E

Figure 6 - T 19 N R 21 E

In the section block, the acreage for each section or subsection is given and the total for the Section. Standard acreage covered would be 640 acres per section and this figure is often placed in a section not completely surveyed but assumed to be 640 acres. The acreage figure may not be indicated or may be other than 640 (e.g. 574.81). This happens when portions of the section are not included in the measurement given unsuitability to farm ("mountain land"), or the section may not be surveyed at all, or the section actually measures less or more than the standard 640 acres. Subsections may also be delineated with measurements noted within a box. 40, 80, 320. (Figure 6)

Compass bearing figures taken in the field by the surveyor are often found within the section. Note in Figure 7 the figure S89’ 53’W and, on Figure 10, S89’ 49’W.

On the side of the map, the total ("Aggregate") acreage of the township is usually cited (Figure 7) and often indicates portions of acreage of "mtn. land" not included in the measurement and estimates of acreage containing mineral land deposits or other use.

Image from: T 16 N R 21 E

Figure 7 - T 16 N R 21 E

The standard manmade features include roads often labeled "grades" and "toll roads" and indicated by a dashed or solid line or parallel lines on later maps for more substantial roads. Many are labeled: Humboldt Road and Road to Virginia City, Figure 6.

Also found are solid thin lines for man-made water features such as ditches. and irregular or saw-tooth lines for fences. Figure 8.

Black squares for buildings may be labeled house, with multiple blocks together for towns. Dayton, Figure 8. Individual houses may be labeled as to owner: Howes House, Figure 8.

Image from: T 16 N R 21 E

Figure 8 - T 16 N R 21 E

Cultivated fields may be indicated as a block with diagonal lines or just a patch with diagonal lines and labeled "field." Wheeler’s field, Figure 9.

Telegraph lines are indicated by dash-dot Lines. Figure 8

Businesses or other stand-alone commercial activity, are usually indicated by a black square for the structure and are often labeled: Birdsell Mill and Illinois Mill in Figure 8, Pacific Borax Co's Mill in Figure 10.

Image from: T 12 N R 20 E Sheet 2

Figure 9 - T 12 N R 20 E Sheet 2

Image from: T 1 S Range 36 E

Figure 10 - T 1 S Range 36 E


Mining claims may be listed in the margins and sometimes labeled on the map at the site:

Image from: T 23 N R 21 E Sheet 2

Figure 11 - T 23 N R 21 E Sheet 2

Image: Acceptance of survey by Warren T. Lockhart, June 8, 1867

Figure 12

Sections set aside for schools may be indicated, often in Section 16.

Details of the survey, by whom and when,  and dates of acceptance of the survey by the General  Land Office, Surveyor General and other official bodies, are given in the margins of the plats of the State Lands office (Figure 12).

Terrain Features

To aid in defining an area, minimal physical features are drawn on the map and more significant ones are labeled; e. g. field, streams, dry creeks, ditches, gulch, ravine, draw, dry wash, and deep rocky canyon, often with an arrow pointing down-slope. Figures 8 and 15. Larger water features may be colored: Carson River on Figure 9.

To indicate elevation gain prior to the use of contour lines, several techniques are found on these maps:

The technique of hachuring uses short lines to indicate direction of slope but does not give specific altitude information. Note the "High Peaks" on Figure 13 and the downslope hachures in Figure 14. Where hachures were used around section borders, they probably indicate overall mountainous or hilly terrain: Figure 17.

Probably the classic application of hachures used to depict the north-south trending mountain ranges of Nevada has been referred to by the 19th century geographer C. E. Dutton as "an army of caterpillars crawling toward Mexico" as depicted in Figure 14.

Shading, in Figures 13 and 16, would also be used to connote slope especially along a ridge or embankment.

Image from: T 16 N R 21 E (Dayton)

Figure 13 - T 16 N R 21 E (Dayton)


Image from: T 22N R 38 E

Figure 14 - T 22N R 38 E


Specific points or features may be named: Crystal Peak, West Fork of the Carson River; Massacre Creek; the names may have changed over time.

The nature of the land, often noting the suitability for farming or other use, may be indicated by descriptive labeling: Mountain Land unfit for Cultivation, Figure 6; Bottom Land, Figure 8; Volcanic Mts., Figure 16; Mineral Land, Figure 17.


Image from: T 42 N R 21 E – Sheet2

Figure 15 - T 42 N R 21 E – Sheet2


Image from: T 15 N R 21 E Sheet 2

Figure 16 - T 15 N R 21 E Sheet 2


Vegetation may be indicated especially if there is potential economic value: Yellow Pine and Rolling sage brush hills, Pine Juniper & Cedar Timber, Figure 17, and Sagebrush and Bunchgrass, Figure 18.


Image from: T 11N Range 21 E

Figure 17 - T 11N Range 21 E


Patent Record Numbers

Many of the maps in this set contain historic patent record numbers (the initial title deed received for federal government lands) usually within a red penciled box delineating the area of the patent. Note Patent # 7538 below, Figure 18.

Image from: T18 S R 50 E

Figure 18 - T18 S R 50 E

This number – 7538 - corresponds with the actual patent (deed) record filed in the Nevada Division of State Lands and now housed in the Nevada State Library and Archives. The black number(s) in the same box ( e. g. 16065) is usually the application number given when the claim was initially filed and not relevant in this presentation.

To locate actual patent records, use the patent number found on the maps and search the NV Division of State Lands Query Page:

Enter the patent number – e. g. 7538 – in the search box for the Patent # on the State Lands Patent Database Query Page. The Results Page indicates the Patentee, the person to whom the land was deeded, to be Mrs. Hulda Fiegley in 1913.


Image: Search Results Screenshot
*Volume and Page numbers refer to patent books at the Nevada State Library and Archives. For a copy of the original patent, please contact Archives and Records at (775) 684-3310.

For a copy of the original patent, contact the
Nevada State Library and Archives: (775) 684-3310.

NOTE: These maps are not all inclusive of patents filed in Nevada and many plats predate claims made at a later time. Additional sets of historic township survey plats and records of the Surveyor General of Nevada [Section 49.7] are held in the National Archives & Records Administration San Bruno, California office.

The Nevada division of the U. S. Bureau of Land Management provides a contemporary records searchable database: The Instructions / Helpful Hints page provides additional information on plat records.   Excellent descriptions of Cadastral Surveys and Public Land Records are also given on their site.



Part II. The Plats

Back to Introduction

Part IV. Locating Specific Plats