Dividing the Land: Early American Beginnings of Our Private Property Mosaic, Issue 238
Many property lines drawn in early America still survive today and continue to shape the landscape and character of the United States. Surprisingly, though, no one until now has thoroughly examined the process by which land was divided into private property and distributed to settlers from the beginning of colonization to early nationhood.
In this unprecedented study, Edward T. Price covers most areas of the United States in which the initial division of land was controlled by colonial governments—the original thirteen colonies, and Maine, Vermont, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Texas. By examining different land policies and the irregular pattern of property that resulted from them, Price chronicles the many ways colonies managed land to promote settlement, develop agriculture, defend frontiers, and attract investment. His analysis reveals as much about land planning techiniques carried to America from Europe as innovations spurred by the unique circumstances of the new world.
Price’s analysis draws on his thorough survey of property records from the first land plans in Virginia in 1607 to empresario grants in Texas in the 1820s. This breadth of data allows him to identify regional differences in allocating land, assess the impact of land planning by historical figures like William Penn of Pennsylvania and Lord Baltimore of Maryland, and trace changes in patterns of land division and ownership through transfers of power among Britain, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Mexico, and the Republic of Texas.
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Framework of the Land
Diffusion of Townships
Commercially Founded Towns
Control and Disposition of Land
SeventeenthCentury Land Division
EighteenthCentury Colonial Land Division
Land Division in New Jersey and on
The Penn Proprietorship
Land Division Initiated
The Many Templates of Texas Land Division
Summary Conclusion Aftermath
Surveying and Property Boundaries
Size Distribution Samples of Land Grants
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acreage acres American arpents baronies Berkeley Hundred boundaries cadastral claims colonists common Company Connecticut County Delaware developed distribution divided Dutch early east eastern eighteenth century empresario England England towns English estates farmers farms feudal fifty acres French frontage frontier Georgia governor grid half Hampshire headrights History holdings house lots Howard County Indians indiscriminate location individual irregular Jersey Kentucky laid land division land grant map land lot land survey landholdings large grants large tracts later league longlots Louisiana manors Maryland Massachusetts miles North Northern Neck original owners ownership parcels patents patroonships patterns Pennsylvania Piedmont plantations Plymouth policies property lines proprietors purchase quadrangles quitrents Rapho Township rectangular Rensselaerswyck residents River roads settled settlement settlers sold South Carolina Spanish speculators square squatters strips subdivision Sumter National Forest surveyors tenants tenure Texas tion town townships University Press village Virginia Ware Neck West Jersey western York
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