A proposed plan for the improvement of surveys and maps in Virginia

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute


The history or the human race is replete with accounts of conflicts that originated in disputes over the ownership of land. Some of these disputes have been between nations, some have been between political subdivisions within nations, and others have been between individual landowners. It is to the latter of these that this writing is directed.

In some nations most of the land is owned by a few wealthy people, and it is rented to those in the lower economic group for an annual stipend in agricultural products, money, or some other form of compensation. America is a nation of home owners and landowners which makes the question of adequate property descriptions one of common interest. When the country was first settled this problem was not serious as there was more then enough land for everyone, but as the population density and land values increased, so did the number of disputes over property boundaries. These arguments result in expensive litigation, ill-feeling between neighbors, and, sometimes, murder.

People derive a peculiar satisfaction and joy in knowing that "that certain parcel of land" is really their own, and they fight any encroachment, real or imaginary, with dogged determination. In most boundary disputes each person is convinced that he is right, and that the other fellow is the thief. The unfortunate part of it is that the dividing line ie so poorly described that a surveyor has a very difficult time in locating it. Sometimes the evidence is so meager that arbitration is the only alternative. Those intimately acquainted with existing conditions are fully aware of the inadequacies of boundary surveys.

Even though land represents a very large percent of the national wealth, it is probably the poorest described and the least negotiable of all forms of wealth. The difficulties involved in the transfer of real estate are out of all proportion to the difficulties involved tn the transfer of other types of property. This situation can be, and should be, corrected. It seems that the logical and intelligent approach would be to determine first wherein the difficulties lie, and then take appropriate and adequate steps to eliminate them. This means, of course, that action will have to replace inertia in order to resolve a tremendous conglomeration of pyramided faults into an intelligible and logical form.