Line Creek Land Grants and Ownership

NEW! Click here for a publication containing all the grant maps and information.

I have attempted to put together some maps of the land grants and some land purchases on Line Creek. The earliest is dated 1799, the latest 1889; most of the grants were issued in the 1830s and 1840s, with the most active period between 1845 and 1850.

There are six maps, the links are below. I've struggled with the best way to present this information and this is what I've done:

First, I arranged the maps by date, not by person or location. Second, each grant is clickable; that is, you can click on a tract and a new browser window will open giving the survey date, acreage, the property's history, and some other information. Of particular interest is the land's history. Be sure to read that information closely to find who owned and/or lived on the land at a particular time, since many times the person who had the survey performed was not the land's grantee or first owner. And third, I've added an index of sorts for each map, cross-referenced by grant letter. The indices contain a list of individuals who had some involvement with the land.

--Map, 1799 to 1825 / Map Index

--Map, 1826 to 1844 / Map Index

--Map, 1845 to 1850 / Map Index

--Map, 1851 to 1860 / Map Index

--Map, 1861 to 1889 / Map Index

--Map, James Cooper's land, 1890-1892

A discussion on surveying and the accuracy of both the surveys and my maps is appropriate here.

About the maps' errors: I feel confident the placements of the grants on the maps are correct to at least within 500 feet (and probably to about 350 feet) in a northwest-southeast direction, and within a hundred feet or so northeast-southwest. As I get GPS readings on more anchor points the uncertainty should decrease. A 500-foot error range is really not that bad, all things considered; we're dealing with an area 7 miles long.

The reason there is any error at all is related to surveying issues. In general the grant surveys are surprisingly (at least to me) good; they have an average circumference error of 0.86 percent or about 86 feet per survey. Also surprising was the fact that the later surveys (roughly after 1860) tended to be worse than the earlier ones.

The most accurate in terms of error, 0.08 percent, was one of the 1845 Isaacs' 50-acre surveys. The most impressive was Lewis Sowder's 1845 survey which encompassed 275 acres in an odd shape with 14 corners and few long lines. It had a circumference of more than three miles, but the error was less than 21 feet.

Making errors concerning acreage was much more common and worse, though also less important to us, than actual surveying mistakes. They just weren't very good at figuring the area of irregularly-shaped objects. Extreme examples include Silas Harper's 1854 80-acre survey which was actually 112 acres, and one of Alfred Warren's 1845 50-acre surveys which was really only 31 acres. Even the aforementioned Sowder survey was off by 37 percent in area. On average, the areas were miscalculated by about 12 percent.

Surveying during the 1800s was much different from the computerized, Global Positioning System-based method used today. A surveying crew typically consisted of four men, the surveyor, two chainmen, and one marker, who used a compass and a surveying chain to measure the angles and distances. The most common chain was four poles long, with 100 links (a pole is 16.5 feet; a link is 7.92 inches). So these chainmen stretched their 66-foot-long chain as straight as they could, down ravines, around trees, up hills. Along a quarter-mile line, the chain would be moved 19 times, with each move offering a chance to deviate ever so slightly from the correct line.

Apart from errors in the process, the tools had errors inherent in their use. The chains had an acceptable error of about one link per three to five chains, or about 0.2 to 0.3 percent. The compass was subject to the fluctuations of magnetic north over time and localized magnetic anomalies. A deviation of only a fraction of a degree at each corner could make a big difference in getting the survey to "close," or for the beginning and ending corners to be the same. The odds of getting a highly accurate survey were stacked against our surveying ancestors, so we're fortunate to have the good ones we have (and I haven't even mentioned the skill, or lack thereof, of many surveyors).

Unfortunately, the corners and lines of many of these good grants have long since disappeared or become ambiguous; after all how many "to a rock on the bank of the creek, thence to a white oak by the old fence" descriptions can be found 150 years later. So I've had to rely on landmarks which haven't changed and are readily identifiable today. The two most important landmarks I've used are the Harper Cemetery and the mouth of Laces Fork. I've learned one feature I had hoped to get a GPS from, called the "Ivy Rock House" and which was a corner to about five different surveys over several decades, was destroyed during strip mining activities several years ago. I'm beginning to believe strip mining may have caused us significant problems in both Pulaski and Rockcastle.

A few bad surveys can mess up a lot of things and there are some poor ones on Line Creek. And, as luck would have it, the most important set of surveys are among the worst.

Beginning in 1890 the Cooper heirs divided James Cooper's land, which was most of Line Creek, amongst themselves. It was subdivided and allotted to his children and his widow. But the surveys which were done on these new divisions, nine in all covering several thousand acres, not only don't match with some previous survey lines, they don't even match with each other in some critical areas. That has presented some problems.

I've tried to reconcile those later surveys with the original grants, using the original lines when possible.