Georgia’s most well known example of land surveying was the Georgia Land Lotteries. Land surveyors were called in to measure and regulate the parcels of land that were to be sold off by lottery. Each time the land of the Creek and Cherokee people was ceded to the state, the land needed to be surveyed prior to being distributed by lottery.
In 1802, at Fort Wilkinson, two strips of land were ceded by the Creek tribe; one in the Southeast corner of present-day Georgia, and one just west of the Oconee River. The Land Lottery Act of May 1803 set out the process for the lottery. Three counties were created, and varying numbers of districts within those counties: five districts in Baldwin County, three districts in Wayne County, and five districts in Wilkinson County.
For each of the 13 districts, one surveyor was hired to map and segment the land into lots. Each surveyor was paid $2.75 per mile, which had to include all incidental costs, such as field notebooks and salaries for anyone who they hired to assist them. Once the survey of the district was complete, the surveyor would forward his records to the Georgia Surveyor General. The total lots surveyed for the first Land Lottery was 4,580 whole lots. Any fractional lots or islands less than 100 acres were held out of the 1805 auction and sold at public auction in 1806.
The surveys for the first Land Lottery set the precedent for how the rest of the counties in Georgia would be assessed and divided. Each of the districts was subdivided into numbered land lots; each one would start at one and proceed in numerical order. This attention to detail and exactness has caused some confusion to this day; unless you pay special attention to which district you are looking at on a map, you may read it wrong because the districts are all so similar, and many run almost parallel to each other. These districts and lots are in use to this day. Many of the country lines have shifted and changed over the years, but the original survey of lots has not. Properties in Georgia are still identified by land lot number, land district number and county; sometimes the original county name is listed as well.
The first 5 Land Lotteries (1805, 1807, 1820, 1821 and 1827) redistributed the Creek lands that had been ceded, in some cases forcibly, to the state. By the end of the 1827 Land Lottery, all Creek lands in Georgia had been taken away from them. The 6th and 7th Land Lotteries (both in 1832) gave away the land of the Cherokee Nation. Their forced exodus would be termed the “Trail of Tears”. The second 1832 Land Lottery also gave away land used during the Georgia Gold Rush, although the government did not guarantee that there was any gold left on the lots. The final Land Lottery was held in December 1833. It distributed lots and fractions not placed during any of the 1832 lotteries.
Over the course of a mere 24 years, most of the land that present-day Georgia occupies was ceded, surveyed and redistributed in lots with property boundaries that stand even today.