How Thomas Jefferson Created Sheboygan

Here’s one that’s been rattling around in the Chock Full 'O Nuts:

I had a very reputable Civil War professor who, in passing, mentioned in his melodramatic way that after the finalization of the Louisiana Purchase Thomas Jefferson sat down himself and devised a grid pattern that allowed for all lots within the Purchase to be subdivided into infinitely divisible squares. As a result, virtually all cities of the midwest retain a N-S, E-W grid shape, as do most farms in that region of the United States.

First: is this bullshit?

Second: all right, so what if it ain’t? What’s the dimensions of a city block in Your Fair City? Let’s see if they square up. Maybe it’s not infinitely divisible.

Third: What is the lattitude that this particular system is based upon, and does it take into account the very slight centripetal forces that make the earth slightly less than spherical?

I was under the assumption that the survey method adopted in the territories started much earlier with the Northwest Ordinance.

Most U.S. cities that I have visited are set up with nice grids. The exceptions are usually the very old cities in their oldest sections, like Lower Manhattan or the older parts of Boston.

Los Angeles was laid out by the Spanish as a collection of ranchos. Once the US took over, the government commissioned a guy named Ord to survey the city and lay out streets and such. He put the major streets into a grid pattern.

Because of its size, Los Angeles is a series of grids connected by some squiggly lines that go through mountains.

As for Louisiana, how thoroughly surveyed was the area before Lewis and Clark made their expedition?

Sheboygan was not part of the Louisiana Purchase. Neither was Cheboygan.

From Elementary Surverying 8th edition by Wolf and Brinker says

The plan came into use before Jefferson was elected president.

The 19 states that are not public-lands survey states are the original 13 colonies, Texas, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Vermont, and Maine. Ohio is a special case. Three distinct regions (areas around Cincinnati, Athens, and Cleveland ) do not follow this plan, but the rest of the state does. Wisconsin is a public-lands survey state.

Jefferson was involved in setting up the system, but it was about 17 years before he became president and 19 years before the Louisiana purchase. According to Illinois surveying

For more about how the sections are divided into smaller units, see Surveying and Federal land sales. There’s no prohibition against subdividing land into less regular shapes than squares and rectangles, but it isn’t usually done.

I’m not sure about Athens and Cincinnati, but the system is used (sort of) around Cleveland. The distinction for Cleveland would be that the original survey of the Western Reserve from the Pennsylvania border to the north-flowing segment of the Cuyahoga River is laid out in 5 mile square townships rather than the later (and far more prevalent) 6 mile square townships. Since the Western Reserve survey occurred in 1796, I am not sure why the first survey did not follow it. (Weak Federal government, probably. < eg > )

This is a site that discusses several aspects of the Ohio surveys (it takes a while to finish loading):

Tomndeb-- Are you two Clevelanders? Well met! What part of the city?

As far as whether city blocks fit into the plan, there’s no reason to expect them to, even in the grant states.

I live in Seattle, and it is one of those towns that seems to have been laid out in multiple grids. Plus, there are certain streets that don’t follow the grid at all, cutting diagonally across it. There is a simple reason for this, and I expect it applies elsewhere.

The entire area was claimed by one man. I think he originally owned at least 3 townships up here before any other white Americans came to the shores of Puget Sound. Once the land was in his name, he divided it up to suit his own purposes, rather than continuing the government’s subdivision plan. So the diagonal streets were often the first ones, put there as logging roads to get the cut trees into the bay to float down to Henry Yesler’s mill (Yesler Way, the original ‘Skid Road’ is such a street). They were laid out for ease of moving logs before anyone thought about setting up subdivisions. Then the other grids were overlaid on that system, sometimes overlapping each other as well.

Sorry to go on so long. My point is that within a single grant-system claim, the system wasn’t necessarily followed.

So TJ did have a hand in it, but it seems to have been a system far before any of the founders attempted to regulate it, and it wasn’t strictly followed anyhow.

And, you spell the county differently depending on if you are in Wisconsin or Michigan. I thought this might be an exaggeration, seeing as this particular paramount historian used to read his lectures out of other historians’ books.

Naturally, I’d like to ask more questions, but perhaps I should remain silent until reason strikes me.

Well, don’t let that slow you down. This question was pretty good and rationality does not seem to be the driving force behind a lot of posters.
Chronos, I’m out in the wilds of Geauga. pldennison and orangescakes/peaches? (she likes to change sigs periodically) are each from Lakewood (although Phil’s moving to DC in June), Mr Scott is, I believe, a Clevelander (although I have not seen him post recently) and several others hail from Medina, Canton, and similar sattelite towns. I’m actually a Michigander who lives here for employment, but my kids are genuine Buckeyes.