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BOTANY 211: Changed Landscape of Wisconsin (Spring 2022) : Survey & Landownership Maps


About Survey and Landownership Maps

Landownership maps, or plat maps, are overviews of who owns the land within each township. They are primarily useful for rural areas where individual own larger plots of land. They are also useful to watch the growth of urban areas over time as city development takes over farms.

In Wisconsin, these maps are based on  the Surveyors' Field Notes and Plats of Wisconsin - a collection of thousands of maps and written observations recorded between 1833 and 1866, when Wisconsin land was sub-divided into parcels for purchase and settlement.

Handwritten notes about observations of the landscape in Township 9 North, Range 7 East (Picnic Point) in 1834
Sketch map of Dane County Township 7 North Range 9 East - Picnic Point, 1834

Left - An 1834 hand-drawn map showing Town 7 North, Range 9 East in Dane County, the area of Madison containing UW campus.
Right - The original field notes recording the landscape taken while surveying the land in 1834.

Find these and more of the original land survey maps and notes here:


Using Plat Maps

1873 Plat Map showing the UW campus area of Madison

In the map above, notice how the square sections match the squares on the 1834 hand-drawn map. These section lines were created during the original survey and are still used today in legal descriptions of land parcels. Also notice how the line between the urban city of Madison and the surrounding countryside can be seen when the grid of city blocks gives way to the large pieces of land with one owner's name on them.

More landownership maps