Surveying in Ohio is said to be more complicated than conducting surveys in any other area of the United States. The history of surveying in the Ohio area dates back to a relatively early time in the history of American surveying, and in part because of this, there are several surveying systems in use throughout the state. In Ohio, surveyors must work among more than a dozen different surveying systems, depending on the area of the state; In many areas, two or more systems have previously been used to survey the same area of land.
The exploration of what is now Ohio began relatively early, by the French in 1669 and 1670. This area was contested between the French and the English until the French-Indian War, which ended in 1763, assigning the entire area to England. At this point, many large tracts in the area were allocated to pay debts to the Penn family, the Connecticut Colony, the Virginia Settlement, the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and others. The English knew little about these lands due to their remoteness; as a result, there was a lot of guesswork in these transactions. Because of this, many of the grants overlapped, causing legal problems almost from the start.
With the end of the Revolutionary War, the various colonies ceded certain areas to the newly formed government, and these lands would be sold to pay off the war debts. The new government needed a method to inventory and sell this land. Because Ohio was then on the edge of the western border, it was the testing ground for many different surveys, including nine major survey systems and 46 smaller ones. Major surveys in Ohio include Ohio River Survey (the First PLSS Survey), Virginia Military Survey, Connecticut Western Reserve Survey, Between the Miami Rivers Survey, Miami River Survey, United States Military Survey, South and East of the First Prime Meridian Survey , North and East from the First Major Meridian Survey and the Michigan Survey.
In the history of surveying, Ohio is perhaps best known as the birthplace of the Public Land Survey System, which is still used today. This system divided the public lands into municipalities of six by six miles. These would be divided into sections, each one square mile and 640 acres. The first area surveyed under the Public Land Survey System was in eastern Ohio, and work began in 1785 with the Start Point, or the intersection of the western boundary of Pennsylvania and the north bank of the Ohio River.
The Virginia Military Survey, which began in 1787, was a meter and boundary survey with ranges ranging from 100 to 15,000 acres; this land was awarded to veterans of the Revolutionary War depending on their rank. The landforms were not necessarily rectangular, but were drawn by the veteran himself to encompass the best land available. More than 16,000 different land plots surveyed by the Virginia Military Survey can be found in 23 countries across the state, and it is the only surveying system in Ohio that is not based on rectangular land plots.
Many other studies were carried out to sell the land in the Ohio area, both before and after Ohio became a state in 1803. As the area known as Ohio developed, many other study systems were used to divide the land over and over again. Other survey types included three-, four-, or six-mile square survey townships. To conduct a land survey in Ohio, one must be familiar with each of these surveys.